United slump to yet another loss
After 2-1 defeat by Stoke, title-holders have huge task to finish in the Champions League positions
Agencies in London
Manchester United slumped to a 2-1 loss at Stoke in the Premier League on Saturday to puncture the optimism generated by Juan Mata's arrival and leave the reigning champions with a huge task to finish in the Champions League positions.
United's eighth defeat of a wretched campaign means Liverpool, who currently occupy the fourth and final Champions League place, could go nine points clear of their fierce rivals by beating West Bromwich Albion on Sunday.
Charlie Adam scored both of Stoke's goals at Britannia Stadium either side of Robin van Persie's equaliser, with a miserable day for United capped by first-half injuries to centre halves Jonny Evans and Phil Jones that forced them off.
Everton beat Aston Villa 2-1 to climb to fifth above Tottenham, who drew 1-1 at Hull. Cardiff edged Norwich 2-1 while Fulham slumped to a 3-0 loss at home to Southampton.
League Cup finalists Sunderland enjoyed a 3-0 success at bitter rivals Newcastle United, while West Ham weathered the dismissal of striker Andy Carroll to overcome Swansea City 2-0 at Upton Park.
Carroll got his marching orders in the 59th minute after jumping with Chico Flores in an aerial challenge. As the pair untangled following their collision, Carroll caught Flores with a flailing arm and, with the Swansea defender falling theatrically to the turf, referee Howard Webb showed him the red card.
West Ham manager Sam Allardyce said they would look to have Carroll's dismissal overturned. "We will appeal it, yes," Allardyce said. "Hopefully we don't lose Andy for three games.
"He's gutted. He's absolutely beside himself. If we're going to red card people for that, then we might as well stop playing and I might as well retire. The game's all about physical contact - there's two challenges gone in and there's nothing happened of any major incident."
It was only West Ham's fifth league victory this season thanks to two first-half goals from Kevin Nolan.
Nolan scored his first after Carroll rose to cushion a header into his path and he then drove a low shot past Swansea goalkeeper Gerhard Tremmel.
Then a Stewart Downing corner picked out Carroll, who headed back across goal to Nolan, who glanced his header past Tremmel from close range.
At St James' Park, Adam Johnson continued his rich run of form as Sunderland claimed their second successive 3-0 away win over their Tyne-Wear derby foes in the Premier League.
Sunderland took control with two goals in the space of four minutes midway through the first half. The opening goal came from the penalty spot in controversial circumstances, after Vurnon Anita was harshly adjudged to have brought down Phil Bardsley in the area as the defender chased a pass from Johnson.
Fabio Borini found the top-left corner to score for the second time against Newcastle this season.
Soon after, Johnson poked home to score his sixth goal in his last four league games and Jack Colback scored with a rising drive in the 80th minute.
Agence France-Presse, Associated Press