It was very much a red day in Manchester, as Louis van Gaal’s men romped home in a comfortable three-goal win against bottom-placed Sunderland, while their sky blue neighbours lost by the same margin at an electric White Hart Lane.
Maiden goals by Memphis Depay and Wayne Rooney, followed by an injury-time shot from close range by Juan Mata saw Manchester United go top of the Barclays Premier League for the first time since Sir Alex Ferguson retired, some 28 months ago.
Depay cut inside Sunderland’s defence on the stroke of halftime to ease United’s nerves and ensure the home side went in with the lead. Upon their return, van Gaal’s team showed their composure and swagger on the ball, running the Black Cats ragged, picking off passes at will. It was never going to be the most challenging game United play this season, but the assuredness with which they saw it off may give their Dutch manager the belief his side are beginning to hit consistency.
“I was very happy for the fans. In the second half we controlled the game more than we attacked. And I hope that the fans have understanding for that. But I was very pleased with the third goal because it was a reflection of the game,” van Gaal said post-match.
Man City trail them by a point, having lost their second consecutive game, albeit in controversial circumstances on a day when arguably as many as three Tottenham’s goals could have been ruled offside. White Hart Lane has been a happy hunting ground for Manchester City lately, and that seemed set to continue when new signing Kevin de Bruyne gave last year’s runners-up a 25th-minute lead. However, a sensational second half from the home side saw Man City blown away, as Spurs put four past their visitors without reply, Harry Kane taking the opportunity to break his duck this season.
After the game, Manchester City’s manager chose not to speak of refereeing decisions, saying instead that his side, “didn’t play very well in the first half against West Ham, or in the second half here.I don’t want to talk about the goals because it’s a mistake, the referee can make it.”
Other results saw Chelsea mount a late comeback to salvage a point and prevent their fourth defeat in seven matches this season at 19th-placed Newcastle, after being down 2-0 with 12 minutes remaining. A spectacular strike from Ramires set the comeback in motion, while a Willian free kick in the 85th minute meant a nervy Newcastle were left clinging to a point in the latter stages.
Arsenal ended Leicester’s unlikely status as the last team to taste defeat in the Premier League this season, brushing past the Foxes at the King Power stadium in an entertaining game that finished 5-2 to the away side. Leicester took the lead through the club’s joint top scorer, Jamie Vardy, before Arsenal pulled away with an Alexis Sanchez hat-trick, a Giroud strike late on adding panache to the scoreline.
Liverpool eased the pressure on under-fire boss Brendan Rodgers, holding on to beat struggling Aston Villa 3-2 at Anfield, with returning striker Daniel Sturridge scoring a brace. The English forward’s shoulders are expected to bear disproportionate responsibility for Liverpool’s goals this season, so keeping him fit and firing is perhaps the single most important task Rodgers has at hand to ensure he can save Liverpool’s season – and possibly his job.
The weekend’s fixtures are rounded up by a game each on the following two days, with Watford welcoming Crystal Palace on Sunday, while Everton travel to the Hawthorns on Monday to face Tony Pulis’ West Bromwich Albion.