London, Dec 11: Manchester United delivered an emphatic response to its humiliating exit from the Champions League, rediscovering its scoring touch to thrash Wolverhampton Wanderers 4-1 and keep the pressure on Premier League leader Manchester City.
Portugal winger Nani and England striker Wayne Rooney—with his first goals since mid-September—both scored twice in a romp at Old Trafford to leave United two points behind City, which visits fellow title rival Chelsea on Monday.
In-form Netherlands striker Robin van Persie took his league-high goal tally to 15 with Arsenal's winner in the 1-0 victory over Everton, smashing home an unstoppable volley in the 70th minute to lift his team provisionally into the top four.
Liverpool edged past Queens Park Rangers 1-0 thanks to Luis Suarez's first goal in more than two months to move into sixth above Newcastle, whose freefall continued by losing 4-2 to Norwich for a third defeat in four matches.
Wigan climbed off the bottom by beating West Bromwich Albion 2-1 to be replaced by Bolton, which slumped to a fourth straight defeat by losing 2-1 at home to struggling Aston Villa.
Swansea kept up its impressive home record by beating Fulham 2-0, with Clint Dempsey deflecting a shot by Scott Sinclair into his own net before missing a penalty at the other end.
United's embarrassing 2-1 defeat to FC Basel on Wednesday meant Alex Ferguson's side failed to qualify from the group stage of the Champions League for only the third time in 17 years.
United's growing band of critics have suddenly been questioning the team's durability in the title race, coming a week after a shock League Cup quarterfinal loss to Crystal Palace and with captain Nemanja Vidic ruled out for the rest of the season due to a knee injury.
United—which had won four of its last five league matches 1-0 -- responded in the best way possible, overwhelming Wolves with Nani and Rooney both scoring a goal in each half to end lengthy scoring droughts.
The goals were Rooney's first since a 3-1 win over Chelsea on Sept. 18.
“Sometimes strikers go in bursts and hopefully that is Wayne on a spurt of goals now to take us up to New Year,” Ferguson said. “I always say December is an important month; if we get to the New Year still in the frame, we have a great chance.”
Nani gave the hosts the lead in the 17th, and Rooney made it 2-0 with a low drive 10 minutes later.
Steven Fletcher pulled one back for Wolves just after halftime but Nani then added United's third in the 56th before Rooney clinched the win six minutes later, drilling home a volley from Antonio Valencia's cross.
City will be under slight pressure to maintain its unbeaten record when it travels to Chelsea, which will go into Monday's match in fifth place after Arsenal's sixth win in eight games kept up the London team's resurgence.
Arsenal's reliance on Van Persie continued, the Dutchman grabbing his 12th goal in eight league matches by meeting Alex Song's floated pass with a stunning angled volley.
It was the perfect way to celebrate the club's 125-year anniversary festivities, which included honoring three of Arsenal's greatest players—Herbert Chapman, Tony Adams and Thierry Henry—with statues outside the Emirates. Henry was in the crowd on Saturday.
“We had a very bad start (to the season) but now we are consistent,” Wenger said. “The spirit is very good, we're very focused.”
Liverpool ended a run of four successive league draws at Anfield by squeezing past QPR, with Suarez heading home Charlie Adam's cross from the left in the 47th minute.
The Reds leapfrogged Newcastle, whose bright start to the season is a fading memory with the heavy loss at Norwich continuing a poor run of results over the past month.
Newcastle forward Demba Ba scored his 10th and 11th goals of the season but his brace was matched by Norwich forward Grant Holt, with Wes Hoolahan and Steve Morison also netting for the hosts at Carrow Road.
“We're still aiming for a top-seven or eight finish if we can,” Newcastle manager Alan Pardew said.
Jordi Gomez converted a 57th-minute penalty as Wigan rallied for victory at the Hawthorns.
Steven Reid, who gave away the penalty, put the hosts ahead in the 33rd with a sublime free kick before Victor Moses equalized four minutes later.
Bolton is now bottom by a point after failing to recover from conceding first-half goals to Marc Albrighton and Stiliyan Petrov. Ivan Klasnic grabbed Bolton's consolation.
Danny Graham was Swansea's other scorer against Fulham which will rue Dempsey's penalty miss in the 86th, when the visitors were losing 1-0.
On Sunday, Sunderland and Blackburn—two teams who make up the bottom three—meet at the Stadium of Light while third-place Tottenham visits Stoke.