United ride on Rooney brace

Chelsea held by lowly Reading

Wayne Rooney maintained Manchester United's handy knack of overturning deficits with two goals as the leaders beat Southampton 2-1 at Old Trafford to move seven points clear in the Premier League on Wednesday.

Champions Manchester City’s 0-0 draw at bottom club Queens Park Rangers 24 hours earlier paved the way for United to widen the gap but Jay Rodriguez silenced the home crowd after three minutes before Rooney's double restored order before halftime.

Apart from Everton, the clubs battling for top-four finishes and Champions League qualification suffered frustration, none more so than third-placed Chelsea who threw away a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 at struggling Reading for whom substitute Adam Le Fondre struck twice in the closing stages.

Chelsea remain four points clear of Tottenham Hotspur who needed a superb Gareth Bale equaliser in a 1-1 draw at Norwich City while sixth-placed Arsenal drew 2-2 at home to Liverpool having trailed 2-0 with half an hour remaining.

Luis Suarez gave Liverpool an early lead and Jordan Henderson made it 2-0 on the hour after some terrible Arsenal defending but Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott earned the Gunners a deserved point from an entertaining clash.

Fifth-placed Everton cashed in on the dropped points of those around them in the table with a 2-1 home victory over West Bromwich Albion to move one point behind Tottenham, three clear of Arsenal and six ahead of Liverpool.

In a London derby alongside the River Thames Fulham beat West Ham United 3-1. Eight of United's previous 18 league wins this season had come from losing positions and they needed to dig in again after Rodriquez punished a poor Michael Carrick back pass to give Southampton a dream start at a ground where they had lost on 15 of their last 16 visits. United were stunned into life though and were level five minutes later when Shinji Kagawa's defence-splitting pass was finished stylishly by Rooney.

The England striker then tapped in from close range after 27 minutes but the expected United domination failed to materialise as Southampton made it an awkward night for the leaders.

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