Manchester United v Chelsea: match report

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Jose Mourinho produced a tactical masterclass. His side were smarter, sharper and more ruthless than their opponents in every department and showed fans and critics alike what he can do when the big matches roll round. The game in question here, though, was Chelsea’s 3-1 destruction of Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United almost 12 years ago. On that day Mourinho enhanced his reputation further as Chelsea marched towards a record-breaking triumph in the Premier League.

 

12 years is a lifetime in football and this time, Mourinho seems like he is rebuilding his once unquestionable reputation. The Portuguese managed his best Man United game yet as he got the better of rival Antonio Conte in a feisty encounter. Marcus Rashford and Ander Herrera got the goals in what turned out to be a convincing 2-0 victory at Old Trafford and perhaps gives new life to their top four ambitions as well as the title race.

 

The Special One sprung surprises on Easter Sunday choosing to leave star man Zlatan Ibrahimovic on the bench and lining up in a 4-2-2 set-up with Rashford and Jese Lingard up front. Ander Herrera was tasked with marrying himself to Eden Hazard – flashbacks of the F.A. Cup tie where the Spaniard was given his marching orders after a late challenge on the Belgian may have had Man United fans worried. Not so this time as the tenacious midfielder stuck to his task diligently and frustrated the Chelsea talisman in an all-action man of the match performance.

 

Mourinho’s men flew out of the traps at Old Trafford with the pace and understanding between Rashford and Lingard causing problems for the Chelsea back three. The game was not even ten minutes old when Herrera stole possession – questionably as big shouts for handball appeared to be justified – before sliding an excellent ball in behind for Rashford to chance and calmly finish. A goal move unable to materialise, perhaps, if Ibrahimovic was spearheading the attack.

 

Diego Costa, often the subject of many subplots throughout Mourinho’s time at Chelsea, yet has seemed more measured under Conte, showed his unsavoury side yet again. The brutish Spanish striker found himself embroiled in battles with United’s defensive duo Marcus Rojo and Eric Bailly. His frustrations earned him a yellow card after a late challenge on Pogba.

 

Chelsea looked unusually unfocused, drawn into Manchester United’s clever mind games and acts of street-smarts. The focus was so much lacking that Gary Cahill was more attentive in hauling Lingard up from the ground during the build up to Herrera doubling United’s advantage.

 

It took Chelsea 45 minutes to muster their first effort on goal albeit a frustrated lash from Costa.

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Whatever Conte’s half time message was to his flat Chelsea side at the forefront of it must have been not to concede another goal early in the second half. However, some three minutes into the second period they found themselves further behind. Chelsea failed to clear their lines once more and Ashley Young, who was given the captain’s armband for the occasion, drove into the Chelsea penalty area before another failed clearance fell to Herrera. The Spaniard, the beneficiary of two slices of good fortune after his alleged handball in the first half for his assist for Rashford’s goal, arrowed his shot through a crowd of players which ricocheted off player’s in blue shirts on its way past Asmir Begovic in the Chelsea goal.

 

Before the hour mark Conte attempted to turn the tide in this giant game of chess. Cesc Fabregas came on to offer much needed creativity in place of Victor Moses, asked to operate out of the other full-back position after a pre-game injury to Marcos Alonso.

 

Mourinho countered with a tactical change of his own, sacrificing pace for control, as he brought on Michael Carrick for Lingard. The switch left Rashford isolated but that did not stop the young England centre forward from hustling and bustling his was up front and making life uncomfortable for the Chelsea defenders.

 

N’golo Kante failed to get his usual grip in midfield, partly due to the excellence of Mauroane Fellaini and Herrera in midfield scurrying around refusing to give the Chelsea key players a moments rest. Matteo Darmian found himself handcuffed to Pedro on the other side of the field refusing to let the former Barcelona wide man find space to operate in.

 

Mourinho’s side could have filled their boots in truth, Rashford smashed an effort into the side netting and Young spurned two excellent chances from the edge of the area to inflict more misery onto Conte’s men. England manager Gareth Southgate was in the stands and will have been impressed with what he saw from the Manchester United English trio – especially in a new tactical set-up.

 

Rashford was brought off with just two minutes of time remaining to a standing ovation and allowed Ibrahimovic to get on in a cameo appearance.

 

Conte pleaded with his side to push forward in the closing stages but by that point United had become water tight, refusing to give an inch.

 

The final whistle brought with it a rapturous ovation, it was perhaps the most complete United performance since the days of Ferguson, and certainly the best day so far in Mourinho’s time as Man United manager. The former Chelsea boss could not have asked for much more in a week where his side have a vital away goal in the Europa League quarter-final against Anderlecht capped off by a monumental league victory over what many believe to be the champions elect. Mourinho was at his meticulous best – substituting captain Young fully knowing it would take the winger-turned-full-back more time to exit the field due to him passing on the armband.

 

United fans chanted Mourinho’s name in unison clearly buoyed the masterful display. The same fans which were often sickened by Mourinho bringing his Chelsea teams to Old Trafford and furthering his reputation as The Special One now get to experience perhaps what is come down long road ahead.

Top 10 disappointments of Euro 2016

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As we gear up for the quarter finals stage of the European Championships we are beginning to turn pencil to ink when it comes to formulating our team of the tournament selections.

 

However, with the last eight imminent it is a time for reflection. Enough of the tournament has been played that we can get a very good assessment of nearly every player we’ve watched – superstar or an diamond in the rough. Gareth Bale, Dimitri Payet and Jerome Boateng have all but cemeted their place as part of the best XI for the tournament.

 

But what of the others? The ones who promised so much but ultimately fell flat for one reason or another. Well it’s not an XI but I give to you the top ten players who disappointed at Euro 2016. Granted the tournament is not over yet but at this stage it would take quite a lot for these ten names to turn their tournament around.

 

  1. David Alaba, Austria

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    during the UEFA EURO 2016 Group F match between Iceland and Austria at Stade de France on June 22, 2016 in Paris, France.

Austria were the cliché Dark Horse in the tournament and their superstar was one of Europe’s brightest in Bayern Munich left back Alaba. Unfortunately, much like the rest of the squad, the promising defender endured a miserable campaign. Often played in midfield he looked like a fish out of water and desperate to return to his more familiar full back role. Coming off after just over an hour against Portugal Alaba did not look fit. His campaign ended with the ultimate wretchedness of Iceland snatching a victory from Austria in the 94th minute to leave the Austrians rock bottom of Group F.

 

  1. Romelu Lukaku, Belgium

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    during the UEFA EURO 2016 Group E match between Sweden and Belgium at Allianz Riviera Stadium on June 22, 2016 in Nice, France.

He has two goals to his name and ran a mock against the Republic of Ireland. However by enlarge the bruising Belgian has not had much to smile about these Euros. With the Everton forward angling for a move to one of Europe’s elite clubs this was seen as the perfect shop window for him to showcase his abilities against the best in the world.

 

Unfortunately for Lukaku he didn’t get off to a flying start against Italy: often making the wrong runs, inability to hold the ball up and wayward shots were the key ingredients which led to a cocktail of boos when he was eventually substituted for Divock Origi with 73 minutes played.

 

While Lukaku could still turn things around with Belgium still in the tournament his performances have fallen flat for a striker that often promises so much.

 

  1. Arda Turan, Turkey

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    during the UEFA EURO 2016 Group D match between Spain and Turkey at Allianz Riviera Stadium on June 17, 2016 in Nice, France.

The Barcelona man has endured a mixed year. Having to wait until January for his Barca debut due to their transfer ban and then finding the net only twice in 18 appearances. The former Atletico Madrid midfielder would have been hoping for a successful European Championships to kick start his 2016/17 season but as the old saying goes: “Hope into one hand and spit into the other and see which one fills up first.” Turan – along with the rest of his Turkey teammates is has to be said – had a hard time in Group D.

 

The Turkish trequatista struggled to impact his nation’s attacking play. While it was always going to be a tough ask against opponents with such pedigree as Spain and Croatia we all expected more from a player who has played well consistently.

 

  1. Will Grigg, Northern Ireland

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    during the UEFA EURO 2016 round of 16 match between Wales and Northern Ireland at Parc des Princes on June 25, 2016 in Paris, France.

He didn’t play a single minute. Forget stats, the eye test analysis and all the rest. Tha man that had his own song, had Eric Cantona sing that song and became a social media sensation did not play a single second of Euro 2016. Northern Ireland are one of the great stories of the Euros and a justification to the format change. But we needed a Will Grigg sighting. Let us hope he does not fall into the Emmanuel Frimpong (remember him) bracket of being better known for their viral attention that football ability.

 

  1. Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal

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I toyed with putting Ronaldo further up and further down. He started at six, went up to nine, down to four then back to six. When you are one of the two or three best players on the planet these are the tournaments where the magnifying glass can begin to burn you if you stand under the intense heat rays too long.

 

Ronaldo has two goals and could be credited with an assist after his shot forced a good save from Danijel Subasic for Ricardo Quaresma to head in the rebound. Overall though the Real Madrid superstar has cut a picture of frustration. Trying far too hard like a teenager asking out a girl for the first time Ronaldo looked stiff, irritated and the more he tried the more he failed.

 

His brace against Hungary was a glimpse of the CR7 we know and loath but it was back to square on in the Round of 16 when “MISSING” posters could have been taped to lampposts all over France.

 

Like Lukaku, Ronaldo still has time to become a hero at Euro 2016 but it’s fair to say he’s been disappointing by the often lofty standards set by himself and the spectators.

 

  1. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Sweden542162686

This one feels a touch harsh as Ibrahimovic was hardly helped by his supporting cast. If ever there was a one man team at the Euros it was Sweden. Lead by their charismatic captain many felt so long as the rest of the Swedish side could supply the bullets Ibrahimovic would fire them to their necessary targets.

 

In the final group game against Belgium the decorated striker had eight touches in Thibaut Courtois’ box but failed to test the strength of the net like he has done on so many occasions.

 

Many suspected it would be Ibrahimovic’s last major tournament and he announced that would be the case in the middle of the group stages. To see such a great character of the game end his international career with a whimper may be the biggest diappointment of them all.

 

  1. Thomas Muller, Germany

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Much like Ronaldo the Bayern Munich attacker has built a rod for his own back in many ways. Five goals in 2014 helped propel Germany to World Cup victory in Brazil. Muller also endured a quiet 2012 tournament too after being joint top goal scorer in the 2010 World Cup with another five goals. The man turns up to play for big international tournaments.

 

However he has been held goalless so far yet again. The Germans have been their usual efficient selves doing just enough to get through each round. Their attacking play has not been at its fluid best and it has had an effect on Muller.

 

Often isolated in the wide areas and smothered when coming central it has been left to players such as Mario Gotze, Mario Gomez, Julian Draxler and Mesut Ozil to pick up the slack.

 

  1. Robert Lewendowski, Poland

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    during the UEFA EURO 2016 round of 16 match between Switzerland and Poland at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard on June 25, 2016 in Saint-Etienne, France.

It has been a real shame to watch the Poland predator struggle in front of goal like he has done. Lewendowski has worked tirelessly for his team but there is no doubt that he is best when he is facing goalkeepers and making the art of finishing look as easy as one, two, three. The chances have been there for the Munich striker but like many forwards at this years’ European Championship he has struggled for consistency and to find the net.

 

Portugal will still fear the forward as he is truly world class – perhaps the best out and out striker on the planet. But failing to register a single shot on target in four games  (His cooly dispatched penalty in the shoot-out victory over Switzerland does not count) – bringing his total drought with Poland to over ten hours – is more than disappointing, it is a disaster.

 

  1. Paul Pogba, France541498868

Speaking of disasters, poor Paul Pogba. The pressure on him heading into this tournament was gargantuan. He is the poster boy for this tournament and has found himself outshone by an inspired Dimitri Payet in the group stages and a rescuing act from Antoine Griezmann against the Republic of Ireland. It could be argued that his biggest affect on France’s Euro 2016 campaign was digging the hole they had to claw their way out of in the Round of 16 after clumsily conceding a penalty.

 

The Juventus playmaker has shown little touches here and there of what has made him the most sought after player in Europe but it has not been enough. He looks to be a player weighed down by the expectation instead of thriving in the face of it. This tournament is a true acid test of Pogba’s superstardom and if he can be classes as exactly that. Again, there is still time but now over the half was stage of the tournament it has to be said that he has been pretty woeful.

 

  1. The entire England team

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    Joe Hart (ENG), goal, during the UEFA EURO 2016 round of 16 match between England and Iceland at Allianz Riviera Stadium on June 27, 2016 in Nice, France. (Photo by Foto Olimpik/NurPhoto)

We all knew this was going to be number one. What can be said that has not already been uttered about this 23 man wrecking crew. Wrecking our hopes and dreams that is.

 

Harry Kane looked like he was playing in boots made out of cement. Wayne Rooney – not even the best midfielder in a Manchester United – was deemed England’s most creative midfielder and had a nightmare in the second half against Iceland, Roy Hodgson made some of the most head scratching decisions of any England manager and Joe Hart – oh dear. The man who endorses shampoo certainly lived up to the second syllable in that word.

 

Nobody expected England to win the tournament but many deemed this to be the best team since we last made a semi final at Euro ’96.

 

However, much like in Euro 2012 – a fast opening half an hour was ultimaetly met with disappointment. Against Italy in 2012 England started with wave after wave of attack but were ultimately beaten 2-1 by an Azzuri orchestra conducted by the brilliant Andrea Pirlo. “If we play like that we’ll do well.” Said many, sound familiar? It should do because it was the same sentiment after a 1-1 draw against Russia in Marseille.

 

Many expected Hodgson’s men to kick on and a last gasp Daniel Sturridge winner papered over the cracked that England were simply not ruthless enough and had no tactical plan.

 

Lacklustre against Slovakia and abject verses Iceland this tournament will go down as one of the greatest disappointments in England’s long and heartbreaking history.

Martial welcomes Ibrahimovic – but there is cause for concern

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You don’t buy a Ferrari to drive it like a Fiat, a brash Zlatan Ibrahimovic once screamed at then Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola. Unhappy with his role – playing second fiddle to Lionel Messi – Ibrahimovic has been difficult to keep happy throughout his career.

 

Ibrahimovic is expected to announce his next club on Tuesday along with the launch of his clothing brand. The Swede is also expected to sign for Manchester United in what would be one of the worst kept secrets in football.

 

Anthony Martial is one of a number of United players who is welcoming the 34-year-old to Old Trafford but in the case of the French forward, there could be a cause for concern.

 

The young Frenchman ended the season poised to become the man at Manchester United like so many before him. Ryan Giggs, Eric Cantona, Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney. Yet he could return playing second fiddle to a man who while a genius on the ball is well known for being rather self absorbed.

 

Ibrahimovic throughout his career has always felt that the team should revolve around him. No doubt he is one of the best players in Europe and in his earlier years teams have been constructed to work with his strengths and cover what few weaknesses he has. However, last season ended with Manchester United in prime position to build around a sensation of their own in Martial.

 

Martial burst onto the scene with a sensational solo goal against Liverpool. The 19-year-old went on to be one of few bright spots in Louis van Gaal’s reign as he ended the 2015/16 season on the cusp of being a genuine superstar.

While he occupied the left hand side for the majority of the season the arrival of Ibrahimovic could well see Martial’s rise to stardom stutter – for a year at least. Marcus Rashford’s progress also.

 

It was clear that the former Monaco front man was becoming the star of the new Manchester United. Like Wayne Rooney before him, Martial could symbolise a new era at Old Trafford. In 2004 Sir Alex Ferguson paid around £30m for an exceptionally talented forward and years later it could be argued that it was the best £30m ever spent in football.

 

The budding superstar commanded a similar fee – depending on which reports you believe – and has flashed similar abilities of the 18-year-old Rooney. Rooney soon became the heart of the Man United team along with Cristiano Ronaldo and formed one of the deadliest front lines Europe has ever seen along with Carlos Tevez.

 

Martial possesses a similar ability and will blossom into just as formidable player if the team is constructed around him as it once was with Rooney.

 

Ibrahimovic will enter Old Trafford as Jose Mourinho’s guy. The pair have a bond stronger than most brothers. Hardly a surprise when you consider their respective personalities. Martial, as talented as he is, is not Mourinho’s guy. He is yet to build up the former Chelsea boss’ trust and that counts for a lot in a Jose Mourinho team.

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SOLNA, SWEDEN – JUNE 05: Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Sweden and Andy King of Wales during the international friendly between Sweden and Wales at Friends Arena on June 5, 2016 in Solna, Sweden. (Photo by Mikael Sjoberg/Ombrello/Getty Images)

We have seen talented players such as Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bryune suffer and ultimately be exiled due to Mourinho’s lack of faith in their ability. The pair have since gone on to become two of the most sought after talents in world football but it was Mourinho’s show – as it always is.

 

Martial made United tick with his directness and pace down the left hand side giving defenders nightmares. His injury time winner against Everton in the F.A. Cup semi-final was the kind of moment in time which all young sensations have. Will Martial’s effectiveness and boldness on the ball suffer with the demand to cater to Ibrahimovic’s ego?

 

Manchester United fans are excited about the arrival of the legendary Swede and they have a right to be. But for all his goal scoring prowess there are a selection of Red Devils supporters than have forgotten about how much of a prima donna he can be. Edinson Cavani, now settled with life at PSG, once had huge issues having arrived at the club as the most feared striker in Europe following his time at Napoli only to find himself out of position and pandering to Ibrahimovic up front.

 

Ibrahimovic possesses a lifetime of football experience but has never been one to mentor. A man who first and foremost looks after his own interests and expects the rest of the team to fall in line. Such an attitude will shackle United’s French sensation and even if it is only for a year we have seen what a draining of confidence can do. Memphis Depay and Angel Di Maria are perfect examples from within the club.

 

Manchester United have always been a club that have made young superstars the hub of their team. Sir Alex constructed a team around the class of ’92 and later around Ronaldo and Rooney waving in a new age of success. Perhaps that United is well and truly dead and buried as the era of short term success takes over.

 

While Ibrahimovic is the star name – Martial is the longer term option. There has never been a signing more representative of the era Manchester United occupy. A short term signing for short term success.

Weekly roundup

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xxxx during the xxxx at The O2 Arena on April 9, 2016 in London, England.

Victories for Anthony Joshua, claiming the IBF world heavyweight championship, and Danny Willett at the Masters, being the first Englishman to win the title in 20 years, capped off an excellent week of sport. Here is your weekly roundup.

 

Tuesday saw the return of the Champions League as Barcelona came from behind to beat 10-man Atletico 2-1. Fernando Torres gave them the lead before getting himself sent off for two bookable offences. Luis Suarez then scored a brace to give Barca a slender advantage.

 

An Arturo Vidal header inside the opening two minutes was enough to see Bayern Munich beat Benfica 1-0 at the Allianz Arena in a game which saw soon to be Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola take charge of his 150th game as Bayern Munich manager.

 

On Wednesday Manchester City took on PSG in France in City’s first ever Champions League quarter-final. Joe Hart saved a Zlatan Ibrahimovic penalty as City claimed an impressive 2-2 draw at the Parc des Prince. Ibrahimovic would later get on the score sheet but not before Kevin De Bryune had opened the scoring for Manuel Pellegrini’s side. Adrien Rabiot gave the French champions the lead before Fernandinho struck in the 72nd minute to put Man City in a strong position to qualify.

 

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during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final First Leg match between Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City at Parc des Princes on April 6, 2016 in Paris, France.

Elsewhere the shock of the round came when Wolfsburg defeated Real Madrid 2-0 in Germany. Two goals in the first half from Ricardo Rodriguez and Maxi Arnold were enough to take down Cristiano Ronaldo and company who came into the game fresh off the back of their El Clasico victory at the Nou Camp.

 

Catalans Dragons fired an emphatic warning to the rest of Super League on Thursday as they dominated Hull KR from the first whistle and cruised to a 40-0 win at the KC Lightstream Stadium. Catalans ran in seven tries with five different scorers, Jodie Broughton getting a brace.

 

In darts Phil Taylor became the man to beat as he collected four points to move three points clear at the top of the Betway Premier League. The Power played twice on the night first dismantling an out-of-sorts Gary Anderson 7-3 before resisting a late James Wade charge to beat ‘The Machine’ 7-4. Earlier in the night Wade was in focused form as he defeated Raymond van Barneveld 7-4. Robert Thornton made Michael van Gerwen sweat as he valiantly fought back from 5-1 down to go within one leg of snatching a point. Ultimately the ‘Green Machine’ kept his nerve to run out a 7-5 winner, his first victory in three weeks.

 

Hull FC added to the Huddersfield Giants’ misery on Friday as they defeated the Giants 37-20 at the KC Stadium. The game was finely poised at half time with Hull holding just a two point lead over Paul Anderson’s men, 18-16, before a second half flurry saw off Huddersfield – who are still at the foot of the Super League table.

 

Elsewhere St. Helens beat the Warrington Wolves, 22-25, in one of the games of the season at the Halliwell Jones Stadium. Saints had to resist a barnstorming comeback from the Wolves as they lead by 11 with just eight minutes left. However Warrington fought to the death with two tries in the last six minutes left Saints clinging on for victory.

 

Saturday saw Anthony Joshua crowned the IBF heavyweight champion as he stopped American ‘Prince Charles’ Martin in the second round. Joshua floored the champion twice in the second as he caught Martin with a thunderous right hand. Joshua came down to the ring in white robes paying tribute to his hero Muhammad Ali and now looks set for a date with Tyson Fury as their rivalry heats up.

 

xxxx during the xxxx at The O2 Arena on April 9, 2016 in London, England.

xxxx during the xxxx at The O2 Arena on April 9, 2016 in London, England.

Saturday also saw Andy Carroll fire a hat-trick as West Ham came from 2-0 down to draw 3-3 with Arsenal. The Gunner’s faint title hopes were completely extinguished as they relied on a Laurent Koscienly header to rescue a point.

 

Newcastle’s survival hopes now hang by a thread as they lost 3-1 to Southampton. Crystal Palace finally halted their rotten run of form with a hard fought 1-0 victory over fellow strugglers Norwich City.

 

Bournemouth all but officially relegated Aston Villa as they beat the Villains 2-1 at Villa Park. Elsewhere Swansea beat Chelsea 1-0 as Gylfi Sigurdsson’s goal ended Guus Hiddink’s 15-game unbeaten run. Manchester City came from behind to defeat West Brom 2-1 in the evening kick off with Samir Nasri scoring the winner just after the hour mark. Meanwhile Watford and Everton shared the points in a 1-1 draw.

 

The weekend was capped off with Danny Willett becoming the first Englishman to win the Masters in 20 years. Willett capitalised on favourite Jordan Spieth’s meltdown on the 12th to claim his maiden major title at Augusta.

 

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during the final round of the 2016 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 10, 2016 in Augusta, Georgia.

Sunday saw Leicester City move closer to an incredible title triumph as they downed Sunderland 2-0. Jamie Vardy scored a brace to end his seven match goal drought as The Foxes briefly moved 10 points clear.

 

Tottenham Hotspur then closed the gap back down to seven points as three goals in six minutes saw them complete a comfortable 3-0 victory over Manchester United and dent their top four hopes. Goals from Dele Alli, Toby Alderweireld and Erik Lamela kept Spurs just in the title race.

 

Liverpool thrashed Stoke City 4-1 at Anfield to leapfrog their opponent into eighth place. Super sub Divock Origi scored twice after Alberto Moreno and Daniel Sturridge goals sandwiched a Bojan strike for the visitors.