Manchester United defeated Liverpool 2-1 at Old Trafford, in a performance that embodies the word “efficient”. United took a two-goal lead into half-time, courtesy of a Marcus Rashford brace, and while Liverpool managed to get one back through a boneheaded own goal by Eric Bailly midway through the second half, they never really threatened United’s goal. The Red Devils shackled Liverpool’s front three brilliantly, and Mohamed Salah in particular was extremely quiet, barely getting a sniff at goal. This win takes United five points clear of Liverpool in the race for second place, who dropped to fourth after Spurs won on Sunday, and it should almost certainly secure their place as the “best of the rest” behind Manchester City.
The current champions, Chelsea, had a morale-boosting 2-1 win over Crystal Palace, although they remain four points adrift in the race for a Champions League spot. Willian’s strike and a Martin Kelly own goal seemed to have secured the points for Chelsea, who also hit the woodwork through Olivier Giroud. However, Patrick van Aanholt’s late goal to halve the deficit induced some jitters; nevertheless, Chelsea held on, while Palace remain precariously perched in the relegation zone, one point from safety. Arsenal came back to winning ways as well, with a 3-0 victory over Watford at the Emirates halting a run of four games in the league without so much as a point. Shkodran Mustafi was the unlikely scorer of a brace, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang providing the other strike, in a game where Petr Cech became the first goalkeeper to keep 200 clean sheets in the Premier League. This was achieved via a penalty save from Watford captain Troy Deeney, in what would have felt like sweet revenge for Arsenal fans following his comments after their defeat at Vicarage Road earlier this season.
Tottenham had a decidedly bittersweet win over Bournemouth at Wembley; the 4-1 scoreline being overshadowed by a potentially serious injury to Harry Kane. The Cherries actually took a shock early lead through Junior Stanislas, who had hit the crossbar moments earlier, but Spurs came roaring back despite Kane’s injury soon after. Delle Alli got the equalizer ten minutes before half-time, and Son Heung-min’s brace along with Serge Aurier’s first goal since joining in January sealed the points for Tottenham. Mauricio Pochettino was cautious regarding Kane’s injury, preferring to wait for scans before making any judgements; however, given that the injury is to the same ankle where a previous knock had sidelined Kane for close to three months last season, there are growing fears that England’s talisman may well miss their World Cup campaign.
West Ham sunk deeper into trouble after a 3-0 submission at home to Burnley, in a game which was marred by crowd trouble and pitch invasions. Ashley Barnes superb opener in the second half was the catalyst for supporter frustrations to boil over, with Hammers captain Mark Noble physically tackling one pitch invader to the ground, while Wood’s goal four minutes later caused fans to turn on the West Ham owners. A Joe Hart error gave Wood another goal, causing yet more unrest. Burnley’s first away win since November moved them five points behind Arsenal, while West Ham are now only three points above the relegation zone. Newcastle, however, had a day to savour, with a 3-0 win over Southampton boosting their hopes of staying up. Jonjo Shelvey was imperious throughout the game, orchestrating play and getting two assists in the bargain, as Kenedy scored a brace and Matt Ritchie got a goal as well. Newcastle moved five points clear of the drop zone, while Southampton are only a point and a place above it.
Everton fans had something to cheer, with a 2-0 defeat of Brighton providing some relief after a winless run. Cenk Tosun scored for the second successive game, while Gaetan Bong unfortunately scored at the wrong end, to snap Brighton’s five-game unbeaten run. Nevertheless, both teams remain well clear of any relegation trouble. The same cannot be said of the league’s bottom side, West Brom, who sunk to a 4-1 defeat by Leicester City at home. Salomon Rondon had put the Baggies in front in the 8th minute, sparking hopes of an unlikely but welcome win, but those hopes were soon dashed, as Jamie Vardy scored a gorgeous equalizer soon after, and the Foxes ran rampant in the second half, through Riyad Mahrez, Kelechi Iheanacho and Vicente Iborra. West Brom remain seven points adrift, and Alan Pardew’s short-lived tenure looks to be coming to an end. Huddersfield and Swansea played out a goalless draw at the John Smith’s Stadium, with an 11th minute red card for Jordan Ayew the earliest of the season so far. Both sides moved four points clear of relegation with this result, however. The one remaining fixture for this round sees champions-elect Manchester City travel to 19th placed Stoke City on Monday night.
A win over Liverpool is always welcome, and United look to have sealed second place with that result. While catching City this season is out of the question, this result will provide an important boost in what is a vital week for the club, with home fixtures in the Champions League against Sevilla, and in the FA Cup against Brighton. Negotiate those games successfully, and United have a good chance of some silverware this season.