United had seen their advantage at the summit cut after champions Manchester City won by the same scoreline at Newcastle United in the lunchtime kick-off. However, Sir Alex Ferguson’s side produced a convincing response with Robin van Persie and Tom Cleverley netting inside the opening 20 minutes.
Van Persie then brilliantly set up Wayne Rooney on the hour to seal a fifth consecutive league win. Substitute Fraizer Campbell grabbed a consolation for the Black Cats on 72 minutes.
City had earlier bounced back to winning ways after last weekend’s derby defeat. Sergio Aguero and Javi Garcia netted before half-time and, while Demba Ba continued his scoring streak after 51 minutes, Yaya Toure made the points safe for the visitors late on.
QPR hauled themselves off the foot of the table with a belated first win of the season – 2-1 over Fulham. Adel Taarabt’s quickfire double in the second half finally secured victory after 17 games and lifted Harry Redknapp’s side above Reading, who host Arsenal on Monday night.
Mladen Petric pulled a goal back two minutes from time but it served only to make QPR sweat for a win that the home fans celebrated at the final whistle.
Aston Villa produced the shock of the day as they thumped Liverpool 3-1 at Anfield. Christian Benteke struck twice, either side of an Andreas Weimann goal, to inflict a first home loss on the Reds in six. Steven Gerrard curled in a late goal but by then a majority of the home fans had left.
Elsewhere, Kenwyne Jones scored his first league goal in more than a year as Stoke City battled back to draw 1-1 at home to Everton. Ryan Shawcross gifted the Toffees a first-half lead when he headed over his own goalkeeper but Jones levelled when he outjumped Phil Jagielka to head in on 52 minutes.
Wes Hoolahan marked his new Norwich contract with the match-winner in a 2-1 success over Wigan Athletic. The Canaries announced just before kick-off that Hoolahan had penned a new deal until 2015 and the Republic of Ireland midfielder took centre stage.
He robbed a defender to set up Anthony Pilkington’s opener and, after Shaun Maloney equalised, Hoolahan secured a third successive league win in the 64th minute.