PHOTOS: Blackburn shock United, Spurs and Chelsea slip
Manchester United wasted the chance to start the New Year at the top of the Premier League when they suffered a shock 3-2 home defeat by struggling Blackburn Rovers on Saturday.
With leaders Manchester City not playing until Sunday, United went 2-0 down after two goals by Yakubu Aiyegbeni. Dimitar Berbatov scored twice to bring the champions level before Grant Hanley's 80th-minute winner stunned Old Trafford.
City were the day's big winners as the chasing pack dropped points, Chelsea losing 3-1 at home to Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur conceding a late goal to draw 1-1 at Swansea City.
Arsenal jumped above Chelsea into fourth place after Robin van Persie netted his 35th league goal of the calendar year in a 1-0 win at home to Queens Park Rangers.
United have 45 points from 19 games and trail City on goal difference before Roberto Mancini's side travel to Sunderland. Spurs are third with 39 points, having played one game fewer than United, while Arsenal have 36 and Chelsea 34.
Image: Blackburn Rovers' Grant Hanley beats Manchester United's David de Gea to score
'We never expected that'
"Obviously it's a disappointment ... we never expected that," United manager Alex Ferguson told ESPN television. "We lost two terrible goals, you can't do that in games like this."
There had been a party atmosphere in the day's early match at Old Trafford as the crowd sang "Happy Birthday" to the 70-year-old Ferguson but the mood soured in the 16th minute when Berbatov grabbed Rovers defender Chris Samba's shirt and pulled him down.
Referee Mike Dean pointed to the spot and Yakubu sent keeper David de Gea the wrong way.
As if to prove it was no fluke Yakubu extended Blackburn's lead six minutes after the break when he shrugged off challenges by Phil Jones and makeshift centre back Michael Carrick to shoot past De Gea.
Blackburn fans were still celebrating the goal when Berbatov headed in Rafael's mis-hit shot to raise hopes of a United comeback.
Image: Blackburn Rovers' Grant Hanley heads the ball to score against Manchester United
The Bulgarian striker, who hit five goals in this fixture last season, found the net again just after the hour when he turned in an Antonio Valencia cross.
United, fielding a below-strength side due to injuries but welcoming back fit-again midfielder Anderson, continued to press forward before a blunder by De Gea destroyed his team's revival.
The Spanish keeper came out to meet a Morten Gamst Pedersen corner but Hanley beat him to it and the 20-year-old defender headed in to lift Blackburn off the bottom of the table to 19th.
Image: Manchester United's Dimitar Berbatov walks off dejected after losing 3-2
Photographs: Getty Images
Drogba's goal's goes in vain as Chelsea lose
With news of United's defeat known before the other games kicked off, Spurs and Chelsea had every incentive to capitalise on the slip-up by Ferguson's team.
Spurs went ahead at Swansea through Rafael van der Vaart's 44th-minute effort before visiting keeper Brad Friedel failed to hold Angel Rangel's cross and Scott Sinclair equalised in the 84th.
Chelsea also went in front at Stamford Bridge, striker Didier Drogba notching his 150th goal for the club with a 23rd-minute penalty, but Villa equalised five minutes later through Stephen Ireland.
Substitute Fernando Torres hit the bar for the Londoners before Villa struck twice in three minutes through Stilian Petrov and Darren Bent late in the match to inflict a fifth league defeat of the season on Chelsea.
"We ended up paying a high price for a couple of mistakes," said Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas.
Image: Didier Drogba celebrates after scoring against Aston Villa
Photographs: Getty Images
Unstoppable Van Persie
The defeat allowed Arsenal to jump into the top four as the league's leading scorer Van Persie netted his 17th goal of the season with a low shot on the hour against QPR.
The Dutchman thereby broke Frenchman Thierry Henry's Arsenal record of 34 goals in a calendar year.
"It is absolutely outstanding, Robin has had an exceptional season," said manager Arsene Wenger.
Image: Arsenal's Robin van Persie scores against QPR
Henry watched from the stands
New York Red Bulls striker Henry was watching from the stands while he waits for paperwork to be completed before he can start a two-month loan deal with his former club.
"I don't know insurance-wise if the deal is done or not but we have to wait as well for international clearance so he will certainly not be available at Fulham (on Monday) but maybe has a chance to be available against Leeds in the FA Cup on January 9," Wenger said.
Elsewhere, Stoke City drew 2-2 at home to Wigan Athletic, Norwich City scored in stoppage time to draw 1-1 with Fulham and bottom club Bolton Wanderers were held 1-1 at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Image: Thierry Henry watches the English Premier League match between Arsenal and Queens Park Rangers in London