By Simon Evans
Manchester United reopened the Premier League title race on Sunday with a 2-0 victory over leaders Chelsea that leaves second-placed Tottenham Hotspur just four points behind.
Old Trafford erupted in the seventh minute when Ander Herrera won the ball in midfield, possibly by using his hand, and delivered an inch-perfect pass into the path of Marcus Rashford, who outpaced Luiz and fired low into the far corner of the net.
Four minutes after halftime, the normally reliable N’Golo Kante was robbed inside the area by Ashley Young who cleverly laid the ball back to Herrera whose well-struck effort deflected off Kurt Zouma and into the net to make it 2-0.
Manchester United opened up the Premier League title race with a convincing 2-0 home victory over leaders Chelsea on Sunday that leaves second-placed Tottenham Hotspur just four points behind.
Goals by Marcus Rashford and Ander Herrera sank Chelsea and, with six games left for the top two, there is little room for any more slip-ups by Antonio Conte’s side who a few weeks ago looked like they were running away with the title.
While Chelsea remain favourites to win the league, Conte will be concerned about the manner of the defeat at Old Trafford where they were rarely able to turn possession into chances.
The west London side are top with 75 points ahead of Spurs on 71, also from 32 games, Liverpool with 66 from 33, Manchester City on 64 from 32 and United with 60 from 31.
The strikes by Rashford and Herrera at the start of each half were enough for United who, despite resting several players against Chelsea ahead of Thursday’s Europa League quarter-final return leg at home to Anderlecht, were good value for their win.
United manager Jose Mourinho started with top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic on the bench but delivered a tactical masterclass against his former club, largely nullifying the threat from the usually dangerous Eden Hazard.
Chelsea got a warning after five minutes when United forward Jesse Lingaard robbed defender David Luiz and fed Rashford, but the 19-year-old striker dragged his shot wide.
Two minutes later, though, Herrera won the ball in midfield, possibly by using his hand, and delivered an inch perfect pass into the path of Rashford, who outpaced Luiz and fired low into the far corner of the net.
Looking confident and full of verve, United pushed forward with intent while Chelsea were unusually ineffective going forward, with Herrera doing an excellent marking job on Hazard.
There was another individual battle going on with Chelsea striker Diego Costa and United defender Marcos Rojo engaged in an often physical struggle for dominance and Costa’s frustration resulted in a yellow card for a foul on Paul Pogba.
United threatened to strike again before the break when Rashford found some space for a cross which Chelsea defender Gary Cahill headed just over his own bar.
United’s Ashley Young then blasted over from a promising position on the stroke of halftime but the hosts did not have to wait long after the break to double their advantage.
Chelsea’s normally reliable N’Golo Kante was robbed inside the area by Young and he cleverly laid the ball back to Herrera whose well-struck effort deflected off Kurt Zouma into the net.
Ibrahimovic was brought on for Rashford in the 82nd minute, with the England striker receiving a deserved standing ovation after an outstanding performance.
While United’s hopes of making the top four will be boosted by the win, the major impact will be felt in north London where Spurs will sense a chance to chase down Chelsea’s four-point lead in the final six games of the season.
Liverpool reclaimed third spot in the Premier League after Roberto Firmino’s header sealed a hard-fought 1-0 victory against West Bromwich Albion on Sunday.
West Brom created the best chances in a largely uneventful first half before Firmino nodded home Lucas’ flick on to register his 11th league goal of the season just before the break.
The visitors could have extended their lead after halftime but James Milner blazed a glorious opportunity over the bar and Divock Origi had a goal ruled out for offside.
Simon Mignolet made a crucial late save to deny Matt Phillips but, as West Brom piled on the pressure in the closing stages, Alberto Moreno missed an open goal after Ben Foster had come up for a corner.
Liverpool have 66 points from 33 games, although they have played one more game than Manchester City who sit two points adrift in fourth. West Brom, meanwhile, lie eighth with 44 points.
“If you come away to West Brom you know what to expect and you must deal with it,” Mignolet told Sky Sports.
“We are very pleased with the performance and the three points is massive today. You feel the pressure after you see the other teams and their results but we have to look at ourselves and do our jobs.”
After Manchester City were impressive 3-0 victors against Southampton on Saturday, Liverpool needed to respond in kind against a West Brom side who are notoriously strong at home.
The hosts, however, had failed to score in their previous three league fixtures, but carved out a couple of promising chances through Hal Robson-Kanu and Nacer Chadli.
A goalless halftime beckoned at the end of a cagey first half before Firmino rushed in at the back post to convert Lucas’ flick-on past goalkeeper Foster.
Liverpool started the second half brightly but as the match progressed the hosts slowly started to assert themselves with their best chance falling to Phillips, whose attempted chip was blocked by the onrushing Mignolet.
Liverpool held on to claim a fifth victory in seven games but could have added a second goal in a bizarre finale after Foster was twice caught horribly out of position.
First Moreno shot wide with the goal gaping then Daniel Sturridge dwelled in possession before seeing a wayward pass intercepted.