Two of United's main challengers failed to take full advantage of the champions' absence from league action this weekend.
Liverpool and Chelsea were both held to draws on Sunday, thus ruining the only 100 per cent records still remaining in the Barclays Premier League.
Liverpool fired blanks at Aston Villa but manager Rafael Benitez insisted he was happy with the 0-0 scoreline. Luis Felipe Scolari made similar noises after his Chelsea side drew 1-1 at home to Tottenham Hotspur, despite throwing away a lead created by Juliano Belletti. Darren Bent equalised on the brink of half-time to bag Spurs' first point of the season.
Arsenal were the only team from the so-called 'big four' to win this weekend but they did so in style, overwhelming Newcastle 3-0. The Gunners lie fourth, just behind Mark Hughes' Manchester City who also won 3-0, at Roy Keane's Sunderland.
United are ninth but can now leapfrog Liverpool by beating them away on 13 September.