Manchester clubs grab much-needed wins
Manchester City finally rediscovered the kind of football that made them English Premier League (EPL) champions, just in time for this week's crucial top-of-the-table clash with Liverpool.
Paul Pogba and Manchester United are finally looking like their old selves, too, although whether there is still time to launch a challenge for the UEFA Champions League spots remains to be seen.
City beat Southampton 3-1 yesterday to end a run of two straight losses - and three defeats in four matches - while United overpowered Bournemouth 4-1 to continue their resurgence under caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Chelsea also held on for a 1-0 win at Crystal Palace to strengthen their grip on fourth place, while Burnley ended a three-match losing streak with a 2-0 home victory over West Ham.
City's title defence had looked in danger of collapsing completely during the busy festive period after surprising losses to Palace and Leicester, but Pep Guardiola's team found its attacking verve at Southampton thanks to two quick goals just before half-time. David Silva and Sergio Aguero scored for the visitors, who also benefited from a fortunate own goal by James Ward-Prowse.
The win puts City back into second place, two points ahead of Tottenham, but still seven behind leaders Liverpool ahead of the Reds' highly anticipated visit to the Etihad on Thursday.
And according to Guardiola, the title race could be over after that game unless City wins.
"With the position of Liverpool, if we drop points, then it is over, it is finished. It would be almost impossible," Guardiola said. "We are not here to send a message. Liverpool know what they have to do, we know what we have to do on Thursday."
For Pogba and United, the race for a top-four spot is only now starting to build up some steam.
Pogba scored two goals and added an assist as United put in another impressive attacking display under Solskjaer, who now have three straight wins since taking over from the fired JosÈ Mourinho - with the team netting 12 goals in that span.
"Obviously, it's different," Pogba said. "It's just a different style of play we are more offensive, I would say, so we create more chances, and a bit higher as well. ... That's how we want to play. We want to attack, the manager wants to attack, and that's what we do on the pitch."
The French World Cup winner, who had been relegated to the bench during the final weeks of JosÈ Mourinho's reign after falling out with the Portuguese manager, put United 2-0 up after 33 minutes before Marcus Rashford and Romelu Lukaku added a goal apiece at Old Trafford. Nathan Ake had given Bournemouth some hope by pulling a goal back for 3-1 just before the half-time break.
Yesterday's EPL results:
- Crystal Palace 0-1 Chelsea
- Burnley 2-0 West Ham
- Southampton 1-3 Man City
- Man United 4-1 Bournemouth