Dimitar Berbatov’s five-goal burst enabled Manchester United to claim the provisional Premier League lead with a 7-1 demolition of Blackburn on Saturday, while Arsenal’s title charge was reignited with a 4-2 win at Aston Villa.
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Berbatov took just two minutes to end a 10-match goal drought stretching back to September.
"I have scored that many before but it was a long time ago back home in Bulgaria," Berbatov said. "The first goal was the most important. It gives you the confidence to play. As a striker, people do tend only to look at the goals you score. I am more concerned with how I play but today was all about goals for me."
But while Nani and Park Ji-sung also found the net against Blackburn, Wayne Rooney couldn’t find his first goal from open play since March for United.
Arsenal climbed up to second – two points behind United – after withstanding a second-half Villa fightback to end a two-match losing streak in all competitions.
But champion Chelsea will return to the top if it wins at Newcastle on Sunday.
Manchester City stayed fourth despite being held 1-1 at Stoke – a third draw in four for the league’s biggest spenders.
There were wins for the bottom teams, with West Ham beating Wigan 3-1 and Wolverhampton defeating Sunderland 3-2.
In Saturday’s other matches, Bolton fought back from two goals down to draw 2-2 with Blackpool, West Browmich won 4-1 at Everton and Birmingham drew 1-1 at Fulham.
Manchester United’s emphatic victory helped to set a Premier League record for the number of goals scored on a single day – 36 – according to Sky Sports.
The first came after 72 seconds when poor Blackburn defending allowed Nani to cross from the left, Rooney to flick on with a header and Berbatov to convert from six meters (yards).
Rooney also had a hand in the second goal, setting up Park before Berbatov capitalized on Pascal Chimbonda’s poor back pass five minutes later.
Berbatov’s third came two minutes into the second half after Nani cut in from the right and sent the ball back from the byline.
Nani quickly made it 5-0 after latching onto Anderson’s pass. Berbatov swept in his fourth before Anderson set him up for a fifth.
Blackburn’s consolation came in the 83rd when Christopher Samba rose to head in Josh Morris’s cross from six meters.
"The rhythm and tempo were not good enough in the last few weeks, but it was today," United manager Alex Ferguson said. "It was a fantastic achievement by Berbatov and in my time I’ve only seen Andy Cole achieve that here. It was important he got off the mark early because he hadn’t scored in 10 games. He combined with Wayne well and they interchanged brilliantly."
There were six goals from the lunchtime kickoff at Villa Park. Andrey Arshavin scored one and set up Samir Nasri’s volley as Arsenal led 2-0 at half time.
But Ciaran Clark put Villa back into the game in the 52nd and then headed in another after Marouane Chamakh scored a third for Arsenal.
The Gunners made sure of the victory in stoppage time when Jack Wilshere scored his first league goal for the north London club.
Villa has collected one point from its last three league matches.
At Stoke, midfielder Matthew Etherington stunned Manchester City with an injury-time equalizer, striking past Joe Hart after receiving a backheel from Tuncay Sanli.
Micah Richards thought he had scored an 81st-minute winner for City when he latched on to a ball from James Milner and sent a shot into the corner.
"We deserved to win," City manager Roberto Mancini said. "We tried to play football. If we continue to play like this we will win games."
Wins have proved more elusive for West Ham, which ended a two-month run without a victory at Upton Park on Saturday.
Valon Behrami put the Hammers ahead when he nipped in to take advantage of some hesitation in the Wigan defense.
Victor Obinna added another and Scott Parker netted West Ham’s third before Tom Cleverley’s consolation.
It was not enough to lift West Ham off the bottom of the standings as Sylvan Ebanks-Blake produced an 89th-minute winner for Wolverhampton at home to Sunderland.
Kevin Foley put Wolves ahead five minutes into the second half, but Darren Bent and Danny Welbeck scored to swing the contest in Sunderland’s favor. Stephen Hunt leveled from close range before Ebanks-Blake’s winner.
Bolton stayed fifth thanks to late goals from Martin Petrov and Mark Davies, who began and finished the move which involved exchanges with several teammates before the midfielder scored from close range.
Ian Evatt and Luke Varney had given Blackpool a 2-0 lead.
West Brom had just one point in its previous five league matches before winning at Everton through strikes from Paul Scharner, Chris Brunt and Somen Tchoyi before an own goal from Everton’s Sylvain Distin.
Tim Cahill scored Everton’s goal, while the home side had captain Mikel Arteta sent off in the 59th for stamping on Gonzalo Jara, and West Brom’s Youssouf Mulumbu was also dismissed in the 89th.
At Craven Cottage, Clint Dempsey headed home in the 53rd minute to cancel out Sebastian Larsson’s first-half strike for Birmingham.