LONDON - Manchester City assured themselves of direct entry into next season's Champions League group stage on Sunday as Arsenal stayed on course for a top-three finish as well. City won 4-2 away to Swansea City before third-placed Arsenal moved two points clear of Manchester United after coming from behind to earn a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford.

Ander Herrera's volley gave United, fourth in the table, the lead on the half-hour mark. But the Gunners equalised eight minutes from time when Theo Walcott's cross diverted off defender Tyler Blackett and, with David de Gea off injured, past wrong-footed substitute goalkeeper Victor Valdes, who was making his United debut.

The match may have been de Gea's last at Old Trafford, amid reports the Spaniard could be joining Real Madrid. Only the top three sides in England at the end of the season -- which include already crowned champions Chelsea and City -- are guaranteed a place in the group stage of European football's elite club competition, with the Premier League's fourth-placed team having to enter a qualifying round instead. And United now have it all to do to overtake Arsenal. The Gunners, who have a superior goal difference, can take six points from their remaining two matches, at home to Sunderland and West Bromwich Albion on Wednesday and Sunday respectively, while only three are available to United when they travel to Hull City on the final day of the season next weekend.

"We have not yet qualified for the Champions League (proper)," United manager Louis van Gaal told Sky Sports. "It (the qualifying round) is always stressful as you can meet an opponent who is half-way through a season already. It is not so easy."

However, United will be in the top four come what may in van Gaal's first season in charge and the Dutchman said: "I am satisfied we have set our goal and reached that...Next year we will fight for more." Meanwhile, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said: "We are feeling like we are making progress and want to clinch third place." Earlier, three goals came before half-time at the Liberty Stadium.

Yaya Toure, assisted by an error from Swansea goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski, and James Milner put Manchester City 2-0 up before Gylfi Sigurdsson pulled a goal back for Swansea on the stroke of half-time. French striker Bafetimbi Gomis equalised for the Swans midway through the second half before Toure, with Fabianski out of position, made it 3-2 to City.

Former Swansea forward Wilfried Bony completed the scoring in stoppage time with only his second goal since he moved in the mid-season transfer window. Before Bony put the result beyond doubt City, last season's Premier League title winners, were indebted to a couple of superb saves from Joe Hart.Toure's future at City -- fuelled by some provocative comments from his agent -- has been the subject of intense speculation, with many observers feeling he hasn't hit the same heights as he did when the club won the English title last season. But City manager Manuel Pellegrini said he had never lost faith in the 32-year-old Ivory Coast midfielder.

"I didn't have any doubt about Yaya," the manager insisted. "Maybe the media started with him after his birthday. After that he went to the Africa Cup (of Nations) and we couldn't win (the Premier League). Maybe an important player has more criticism, but I never had doubts." Despite this defeat, Swansea will finish the season in an impressive eighth position and manager Garry Monk said: "I am disappointed with the result but once again the players' character and commitment was there to see."