Can Man Utd push Liverpool all the method?
FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Manchester United’s win over Aston Villa
Forget that there is nonetheless 22 video games of an arduous season to play. Forget that Liverpool’s purpose distinction is superior to the tune of eight. Forget the nail-biting moments, the string of David de Gea saves and the missed Aston Villa possibilities – Manchester United are stage on factors with leaders Liverpool and, for the first time in a very long time, should be thought-about real title contenders.
How lengthy that title problem lasts stays to be seen, the pleasure may nicely be extinguished by the time the remaining whistle sounds at Anfield in lower than three weeks’ time, however the truth Manchester United are presently in competition is an achievement in itself.
Let’s not overlook, it is a 12 months to the day since United entered 2020 a staggering 24 factors off the eventual champions. Exactly two months and 10 video games in the past, when Arsenal inflicted the final league defeat on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s aspect, they have been 9 factors adrift of the champions.
- Man Utd 2-1 Aston Villa – Match report and highlights
- How the groups lined up | Match stats
At this stage it might be naïve to declare that United’s latest ascension will trigger Liverpool sleepless night time, however what it definitely does is add one other fascinating aspect to the race for the title.
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Liverpool have had firm at the high earlier than, a number of instances this season in truth, with Tottenham, Chelsea and Southampton all having fun with spells at the summit. All have been seen off, however, this time, it feels totally different.
Having strolled imperiously to the title final season, you simply surprise how Liverpool will reply to having their arch-rivals – the workforce whose file of 20 top-flight crowns they want to equal come the finish of the season – respiratory down their necks.
That’s the place Manchester United have put themselves in, however that is solely the begin of it – the problem now could be to maintain it proper to the very finish.
Villa able to gatecrashing high six
“Aston Villa should now be aiming for a top-six finish,” stated Sky Sports’ Darren Bent forward of kick-off at Old Trafford.
It was maybe an announcement that raised just a few eyebrows from these watching on from residence – do Dean Smith’s aspect actually have the consistency and high quality to be ending above certainly one of Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, Tottenham, Leicester or Chelsea? Well, they’ve taken seven factors from a potential 12 towards these big-hitters this season and the defeat at United solely additional enhanced Bent’s phrases that Villa aren’t about to fall away.
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United by no means had a second to calm down in a pulsating fixture with Jack Grealish dancing into area all over the pitch, creating 4 possibilities for his teammates – solely certainly one of which was taken. Yes, Emiliano Martinez needed to be known as upon to make seven saves throughout the 90 minutes however United’s anticipated purpose determine was 2.64, suggesting that he was making stops most Premier League goalkeepers can be anticipated to maintain out. Villa had 15 pictures to United’s 19 and wasted quite a few set-piece conditions – they took 10 corners however did not create a single probability from them – one thing Dean Smith could have been disillusioned with. On one other day, they might have walked away with a end result.
This newest efficiency, following on from the draw with Chelsea, proves that Villa are able to gatecrashing the high six over the subsequent few months.
A actuality examine for Everton
FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from West Ham’s win over Everton
Everton’s defeat to West Ham was one other actuality examine. They went into the sport on the again of one other four-game successful run, simply as they’d at the begin of the season. But a slice of dangerous luck as Yerry Mina’s deflection zipped into the path of Tomas Soucek to fit residence noticed Everton crushed in the Premier League for the first time in over a month and finish what was a largely constructive festive interval.
- Everton 0-1 West Ham – Match report and highlights
With Richarlison again in the beginning XI and James Rodriguez returning to the bench, there was hope that Everton may rediscover their free-scoring contact that stood them in good stead earlier in the season.
But their attacking play was somewhat uninteresting and the ending lacked route – they’d ten pictures however solely two of those have been on the right track. Dominic Calvert-Lewin failed to search out the web for a fifth Premier League sport having scored 11 objectives in 11 matches beforehand and is scuffling with an absence of service. The striker may solely muster two pictures – the similar as Abdoulaye Doucoure – and Richarlison had one.
But once more Everton’s defence had a largely spectacular night. Jordan Pickford did not have an excessive amount of to do whereas Seamus Coleman made a welcome return. With Michael Keane rested, Mason Holgate moved into the center alongside Mina, each taking the high two spots for clearances (six and 5 respectively). As Ancelotti stated: “I think the defence were better than their offensive partners.”
The Everton supervisor is hoping to have extra injured gamers again in motion for his or her subsequent Premier League sport on January 12 towards Wolves, which can hopefully enhance a lacklustre begin to 2021.
West Ham enchancment clear over festive interval
Three video games in six days is a big process for anybody, particularly with the depth of the Premier League. West Ham had drawn their earlier two video games and an away journey to Everton, particularly with their latest kind, was no simple process.
Since coming again to West Ham, David Moyes has spoken of his need to enhance the mentality of his gamers in addition to their on-field performances. Beating Everton definitely confirmed that each are on the up, with Moyes saying: “Everton could have gone second top tonight so we’ve come to Goodison and got a result which shows you how well the players are playing.”
- How Everton and West Ham lined up | Match stats
It was a battle of the defences at Goodison Park, however West Ham have been the higher aspect up entrance, significantly after the break. Everton did not supply a lot in assault, though Darren Randolph – who was a late addition after an damage to Lukasz Fabianski in the warm-up – did nicely when known as upon.
Tomas Soucek can also be proving to be an outstanding addition, slotting residence his fifth purpose of the season after Yerry Mina’s deflection fell into his path – he’s now West Ham’s highest scorer in the Premier League. Declan Rice additionally continues to indicate what an outstanding expertise he’s.
When Moyes inherited his West Ham squad simply over a 12 months in the past, they might not have had the metal to see such a end result by. But their enchancment is evident as West Ham head into their subsequent two video games towards Burnley and West Brom with renewed confidence.
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