Manchester City regained the lead in the Premier League title race with an emphatic 6-0 victory against Chelsea after Liverpool and Tottenham set the tone with wins in an action-packed weekend.
Maurizio Sarri’s side unable to halt the continuous waves of sky blue attacks as Sergio Aguero scored another hat-trick and became the club’s leading all-time league scorer.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side took a significant step towards securing Champions League football next season with a 3-0 win against Fulham to take them into the dizzy heights of fourth. Fulham, meanwhile, slipped further away from the light and Southampton’s defeat against Cardiff takes them into the relegation zone as Neil Warnock’s team end the weekend a point above 18th.
Join Independent Minds
For exclusive articles, events and an advertising-free read for just £5.99 €6.99 $9.99
Get the best of The Independent
With an Independent Minds subscription for just £5.99 €6.99 $9.99
Get the best of The Independent
Without the ads – for just £5.99 €6.99 $9.99
Elsewhere, Arsenal briefly cured their travel sickness with a 2-1 win against Huddersfield, Watford beat Everton, Burnley surprised Brighton and left the south coast with three points and Palace drew with West Ham at Selhurst Park.
Here are five things we learned this weekend in the Premier League
1. City regain control of title race
Manchester City’s thumping 6-0 win against Chelsea restored their temporary lead at the top of the league and sent a message to Liverpool and Tottenham that they are not going to relinquish their crown without one hell of a fight.
Liverpool maintained pace with Pep Guardiola’s defending champions with a comfortable win against Bournemouth and have a game in hand and the chance to go three points above their nearest rivals. However, anything short of a win in their coming league fixtures and City will seize the opportunity to take back control. The three-time Premier League champions have found an extra level of performance and are producing breath-taking performances against whatever opposition and barrier is placed in front of them.
Meanwhile in third, Tottenham kept themselves in with a shout and remained five points adrift of Liverpool and City. Mauricio Pochettino’s side have found a useful habit of grinding out results, the latest a 3-1 win against Leicester, without Harry Kane or Dele Alli available.
As the Champions League and FA Cup schedule increases, the quality and depth of the three squads is likely to show who is most likely to be tasting glory in May, and with that in mind, it is increasingly hard to look beyond City.
2. Solskjaer performs a miracle
Shortly before he was sacked in December, Jose Mourinho admitted it would take “almost a miracle” for his side to finish in the top four. When he was cast aside and replaced by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer United were 11 points short of the final Champions League place. Six weeks, eight wins and one draw later and Solskjaer has United in fourth with a point advantage over Arsenal and Chelsea.
The 3-0 win against Fulham makes you wonder what could have been if United had replaced earlier in the season, or even in the summer.
Anthony Martial scored a superb solo goal either side of Paul Pogba’s strikes to sink Fulham, two players that under Mourinho appeared to have bleak futures. Marcus Rashford was rested ahead of their Champions League last 16 tie against PSG on Tuesday, but they had more than enough to ease their way past Claudio Ranieri’s side at Craven Cottage.
Fulham may have fancied themselves to hand Solskjaer his first league defeat after learning of United’s six changes, but another hopeless defensive display quickly put an end to that. Fulham have relied on home form this season having not won an away league game this campaign, and it’s only Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City next at the Cottage…
3. There’s hope for Cardiff
Who would have thought that Cardiff would have been above the relegation zone in February, rather than propping up the other 19 teams?
Neil Warnock is doing a fantastic job and sealed Cardiff’s first successive top-flight victory since April 1962 with a dramatic win at Southampton to help them stay above the bottom three and drag the Saints into 18th.
Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side may have thought they had rescued a draw when Jack Stephens equalised in added time only for Kenneth Zohore to pinch three points minutes later.
4. Silva on thin ice
Frustrations on the pitch were telling when Kurt Zouma could not contain himself and got sent off for a rant at the referee after the final whistle following Everton’s latest defeat to Watford. Marco Silva, meanwhile, will be hoping the Everton hierarchy show more poise this week.
Silva, who left Watford in fairly untidy circumstances amid interest in his services from Everton a year ago, will now be under further scrutiny having failed to improve Everton’s league form.
The Toffees should carry the ‘best of the rest’ baton by hovering just below sixth place with intentions to challenge the biggest sides, instead they are wallowing in ninth with a points return matching Bournemouth and less than Wolves and Watford.
5. Dean’s wait for a century continues
Once Manchester City made it 4-0 within 25 minutes against Chelsea the result was locked in, and after Sergio Aguero completed his hat-trick and became City’s all-time leading league scorer, the real show started.
Mike Dean is one red card away from sending off 100 players in the Premier League. To put that feat in perspective, Phil Dowd is second with 67 dismissals.
Given 18 of Dean’s 99 red cards have been shown to a Chelsea or Manchester City player, there was a strange excitement about his upcoming century and whether we would witness it in front of the television cameras at the Etihad.
While there was no red card, admittedly the Chelsea players failed to get close enough to anyone in sky blue to produce a tackle let alone anything that might get them sent off, it was a vintage Dean display.
He drew attention with his dramatic point towards the penalty spot when Cesar Azpilicueta clumsily brought Raheem Sterling to the ground in the area, but this was just the warm-up.
Dean crowned his performance by hiding the match ball in the back of his top when Aguero came to him looking for his souvenir to mark his special day. Cracking banter.
Keep up to date with all the latest news with expert comment and analysis from our award-winning writers