Manchester City F.C. climbed to within one point of third-placed neighbours United with a comfortable 2-0 Premier League victory over West Ham United on Sunday to end a difficult week on a high.
James Collins’s freak own goal and Sergio Aguero’s 20th league strike of the season secured a routine win and the only surprise was that City failed to add to their lead after the Argentine’s 36th-minute effort.
The victory came after a bad week in which City were beaten 4-2 by United in the Manchester derby, prompting speculation about the future of manager Manuel Pellegrini and a number of leading players.
City playmaker David Silva was carried off on a stretcher in the second half with a head injury after he was caught by the elbow of Cheikhou Kouyate.
Champions City have 64 points, one behind United who lost 1-0 at Chelsea on Saturday, and two adrift of second-placed Arsenal who have a game in hand.
West Ham, who climbed as high as fourth in the table in December, remained 10th having won just one of their last 11 league matches.
“When we loose we have a lot of criticism and that is part of football,” Yaya Toure told Sky Sports.
“Today we showed great team spirit and it was very important to get the three points today. We will continue to fight until the end.”
City’s Old Trafford defeat had prompted talk of the realignment of the balance of power in Manchester so the visit of a sliding West Ham side was timely.
The hosts fashioned a number of early chances with their slick passing but their breakthrough in the 18th minute came from an unlikely source.
The marauding Jesus Navas burst down the right flank and his low cross careered off defender Collins before looping over goalkeeper Adrian and deflecting in off the crossbar.
The second goal, however, was more eye-catching.
After intercepting a stray West Ham pass the hosts broke with searing pace and after exchanging passes with Navas, Aguero fired under Adrian.
Straight after halftime Aguero had an effort blocked by Karl Jenkinson and Aleksander Kolarov blazed wide.
In the 67th minute Silva was caught by Kouyate and, following an eight-minute delay, the Spaniard was carried from the field receiving oxygen.
West Ham defended resiliently to restrict the damage and had late chances to set up a tense finish but Stewart Downing had a shot blocked by Eliaquim Mangala and Kevin Nolan was denied by Joe Hart.
Newcastle United host Tottenham Hotspur later on Sunday.