Carlos Tevez got back into the swing of things as Man City hit six, but Man Utd remain out in front.
Man City hit six on the road, but Man Utd respond to maintain lead
Carlos Tevez got back into the swing of things, quite literally, as Manchester City hit six on the road at Norwich, but Manchester United remain out in front after offering the perfect response in a home date with Aston Villa.
Swansea made a welcome return to winning ways against relegation-haunted Blackburn and West Brom broke through the 40-point barrier with a narrow victory over struggling Queens Park Rangers.
Elsewhere, on a weekend which saw the Premier League schedule disrupted by the FA Cup semi-finals, Wolves slipped ever closer to the top-flight trapdoor after playing out a stalemate at Sunderland.
got the weekend up and running, and did so in some style
as they left Carrow Road with three points and six goals safely tucked away. A 6-1 victory suggests the Blues are far from out of the title picture this season, despite repeated claims from Roberto Mancini that his side are facing mission impossible. The Blues survived a couple of early scares against Norwich
before opening the floodgates on 18 minutes. Carlos Tevez, back from a self-imposed exile and back in the starting line-up, broke the deadlock with a rasping effort from the edge of the box that dipped and swerved its way past John Ruddy. Tevez then combined with his fellow Argentine frontman Sergio Aguero for City's second, with the latter crashing the ball into the top corner after being teed up by a delicate back-heel. Andrew Surman pulled one back for the Canaries inside six minutes of the re-start, but City's South American strike force continued to share the away goals between them, with two efforts in the space of two minutes seeing Tevez nod home number three and Aguero bend number four spectacularly into the bottom corner. Tevez wrapped up his hat-trick after latching onto a poor back-pass - leading to a tongue-in-cheek golf swing celebration - and Adam Johnson rounded off the scoring in stoppage-time.
A marker had been put down to Manchester United
ahead of their home date with Aston Villa
on Sunday, with City having closed to within two points of the table-topping Red Devils by the time they took the field. Any suggestion that Sir Alex Ferguson's side may be feeling the heat following a shock midweek reversal at lowly Wigan was blown out of the water
inside seven minutes at Old Trafford. Ashley Young went to a ground a little too easily as he brushed past Ciaran Clark inside the Villa box, but Mark Halsey pointed to the spot and Wayne Rooney made no mistake from 12 yards. With nerves settled, United went on to dominate proceedings. Shay Given did his best to keep the Red Devils at bay, but Danny Welbeck bundled in a second for the hosts two minutes before half-time. Any hope Villa had of finding a route back into the game was extinguished on 73 minutes when Rooney poked home his second of the afternoon, and Nani stepped off the bench to put the seal on a convincing 4-0 victory in time added on.
remain very much in the hunt for a top-half finish after bouncing back from a four-match losing sequence with a commanding 3-0 victory
over basement-dwelling Blackburn
. Man of the moment Gyfli Sigurdsson added a few more pounds to his price tag with a wonderful opening goal, which arched over Paul Robinson, and the Swans may struggle to retain their loan star's services for next season. Sigurdsson's opener was added to before the interval at the Liberty Stadium by the lively Nathan Dyer, providing the hosts with the breathing space they craved after a recent wobble. Blackburn came close to offering a response but the only goal they managed on the day came courtesy of Scott Dann, who put through his own net just after the hour mark to compound a miserable day for the visitors.
may not be mathematically safe, but having moved onto 42 points for the season
and 13 points clear of the drop zone, it would take something special for them to slip into trouble. Roy Hodgson will instead by looking to secure a top-10 finish, with a 1-0 victory over Queens Park Rangers
on Saturday keeping the Baggies in the mix. A QPR side desperate for points in their bid to preserve their top-flight status offered plenty of fight at The Hawthorns, but they were out of luck and ended the afternoon empty-handed. A stunning effort from Graham Dorrans put them to the sword, with the Scotland international crashing a 25-yard piledriver past Paddy Kenny to tip the balance in favour of the hosts.
There were to be no such heroics at the Stadium of Light as Sunderland played out a goalless draw
. The Black Cats will take another point in their efforts to remain inside the top-half of the table, but the outlook is looking increasingly bleak for the men from Molineux. Wolves are now firmly rooted to the foot of the table, eight points from safety with just 12 left to play for.