Manchester City outclassed Manchester United to leave their rivals’ top-four chances hanging by a thread as Arsenal climbed into the Champions League qualification spots at United’s expense.
On an eventful weekend in the Premier League, Newcastle won again to pull seven points clear of the relegation zone while Chelsea hammered struggling Burnley 4-0 after a turbulent week.
Elsewhere, Leeds lost their first match under new manager Jesse Marsch to remain in the mire and Christian Eriksen made his first start for new side Brentford in a 3-1 win at Norwich.
AFP Sport picks out three talking points from the Premier League.
Man United face another rebuild
Manchester United began the season beating Manchester City to the signing of Cristiano Ronaldo as they set their sights on snatching the title from their local rivals.
Sunday’s 4-1 hammering at the Etihad instead leaves the Red Devils in the all-too-familiar position of facing a yawning gap to the league leaders.
The scoreline barely did justice to City’s superiority as a disjointed and dispirited United were brushed aside, leaving their chances even of making the top four hanging by a thread.
Arsenal now have a one-point lead and three games in hand in the race to join City, Liverpool and Chelsea in next season’s Champions League.
“They gave up,” said former United captain Roy Keane. “Shame on them.”
United interim manager Ralf Rangnick could point to key absentees, with Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani out injured, while Raphael Varane and Luke Shaw were sidelined by coronavirus.
But the German has failed to have the desired impact since replacing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who was sacked in November.
Rangnick is set to remain at Old Trafford for the next two years in an advisory role.
And it is hard to imagine him recommending anything other than another expensive rebuild for a dysfunctional squad.
Arsenal seize control of destiny
Arsenal were bottom of the Premier League after their first three games of the season, without a single goal to their name.
But now they are fourth in the table, strong favourites to return to the Champions League after a five-year absence from Europe’s top club competition.
The Gunners have shrugged off the recent departure of forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to Barcelona, which left them light on experienced attackers, winning their past four games.
The scoreline of the 3-2 win at Watford on Sunday did not do justice to the Gunners’ superiority, with Mike Arteta’s team playing fluent football and scoring some dazzling goals.
The Spaniard said he tries not to look at the Premier League table too much.
“I cannot control results and I cannot predict which matches we are going to win, draw or lose,” he said. “It’s impossible. If I start to do that I think we’re going to lose focus in what we want to do.”
But a glance now and it makes pretty good reading.
Chelsea shut out the noise
Chelsea have been a club in turmoil over the past week.
First it was announced that Roman Abramovich was to hand over control of the club to trustees of its charitable foundation following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Then came the dramatic announcement that the Russian billionaire was to sell up after 19 years of almost uninterrupted success at Stamford Bridge.
Despite the upheaval off the pitch over the past week, Chelsea have gone toe to toe with Liverpool in the League Cup final before losing on penalties, beaten Championship side Luton in the FA Cup and seen off Burnley 4-0 in the Premier League.
Tuchel criticised fans who chanted Abramovich’s name during a minute’s applause to show solidarity with Ukraine before kick-off at Turf Moor.
But he praised his team for their efforts after a difficult few days.
“It shows for a me a lot of character,” he said. “It shows the guys have what it takes to play for Chelsea. It shows we have the environment to focus on football. We believe we are allowed to focus on football and we do it as good as possible.” – Agence France-Presse