London:Owen Hargreaves' free kick gave Manchester United a 2-1 victory over Arsenal on Sunday, putting his team closer to the Premier League title while moving Arsenal virtually out of contention.
The Red Devils had to come from behind at Old Trafford after Emmanuel Adebayor turned home a cross by Robin van Persie from close range in the 48th minute with what looked suspiciously like his hand.
But Cristiano Ronaldo scored on a twice-taken penalty kick six minutes later after a hand ball by Arsenal defender William Gallas. And Hargreaves produced a curling free kick worthy of former United star David Beckham for a 72nd-minute winner. It cleared the Arsenal wall and went inside the near post with no movement from Gunners goalkeeper Jens Lehmann.
United's 25th victory gave the club 80 points from 34 games and a six-point advantage over Chelsea, which hosts Wigan on Monday. Arsenal is nine points behind, and manager Arsene Wenger admits his team's title chances are over.
"Yes, we are out," he said. "The least we can say is that for the two months we have not been very lucky. You can see that again today. It's difficult to find an obvious reason but, with the quality of our performance, it's difficult to blame anybody."
Because it has a far superior goal difference, United will now capture its second straight league title and 10th in 16 seasons by winning its next two games at Blackburn and Chelsea.
Manager Alex Ferguson praised Ronaldo for the way he scored his 38th goal of the season, 28th in the league. The Portuguese star had already beaten Lehmann from the penalty spot but had to take it again because players had run into the area before he shot.
"That was some pressure wasn't it," Ferguson said. "That was a fantastic second penalty to take."
In Sunday's other game, Liverpool beat Blackburn 3-1 to strengthen its hold on fourth place, which means another shot at next season's Champions League.
Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres and Andriy Voronin netted at Anfield for the Reds who have also reached this season's Champions League semifinal and must play Chelsea for a place in the May 21 final in Moscow.
Liverpool's successes on the field are in stark contrast to what's happening behind the scenes. Co-owners Tim Hicks and George Gillett Jr., who bought the club just over a year ago, are bickering over the future ownership of the Reds and whether to fire chief executive Rick Parry.