Man City's title charge certified and other things learned from win over Chelsea

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A 1-0 win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge saw Manchester City keep their place at the top of the Premier League standings on Saturday.

The away side secured all three points through a strike from distance from Kevin De Bruyne.

Here’s what we learned from the encounter.

CONTE’S CURIOUS MORATA REPLACEMENT

Alvaro Morata has found his feet in English football of late after an less than ideal preseason. His hat-trick away to Stoke City last week was indicative of that. Against City, he was easily Chelsea’s best attacker in the first half, going close with a header early on.

He ran the channels well and caused the visitors some problems and that’s why it was a huge blow for the Blues when he limped off in the 35th minute.

Interestingly though, Antonio Conte chose not to replace him with Michy Batshuayi who has been something of a super-sub for Chelsea this season. Instead of a like-for-like substitution, he opted top bring on Willian to partner Eden Hazard up front.

It didn’t quite pay off as the hosts struggled without an out-and-out striker on the pitch. They needed to counter swiftly but without a No9 to aim for, they were forced to try to play through City which was far from ideal.

Antonio Conte

Antonio Conte

HAZARD KEPT QUIET

After a fine display in midweek, much was expected from Hazard’s first start in the Premier League this season. However, the Belgian found it difficult to influence the game. Playing in a centre forward position with freedom to roam, he ended up struggling to find space to operate in.

He was involved in a few rare promising attacks for the hosts but couldn’t get a hold of the game. In fact, he didn’t create a single chance and had only one shot at goal that was saved by Ederson at the near post.

Hazard wasn’t afforded space to weave his way through either, completing just one take-on in the game.

Eden Hazard

Eden Hazard

PERFORMANCE BACKS PEP’S TACTICS

Last season was, by his standards, a disaster for Pep Guardiola as he endured his first trophyless campaign of his managerial career. This time around though, he’s shown why he’s considered one of the best coaches in the world.

His team have been a joy to watch and that was the case again at Stamford Bridge despite coming up against a solid Chelsea side. City outmanoeuvred the Londoners and dominated the ball, creating a steady flow of attacks to gradually break down their resistance.

Once they went ahead, there seemed to be now way back for Chelsea and instead, the visitors probably should’ve added to their tally. It was a top performance against the reigning champions and certified City’s title ambitions this season.

Pep Guardiola

Pep Guardiola

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Marcus Rashford shines on the wing - Seven deadly stats as Man United beat Crystal Palace 4-0

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After their exertions midweek, when they travelled to Moscow for a Champions League fixture on Wednesday, the Premier League’s bottom side were just what the doctor ordered for Manchester United.

The Red Devils ended a hectic September with a fairly easy win, as Crystal Palace’s misery continued. Palace are only the second team to lose their opening seven games in a Premier League season, after Portsmouth in 2009/10, and they have yet to score a league goal this season. United, of course, have no such worries after heading into the international break with a 4-0 win.

Here are seven deadly stats from the game…

MATA’S LONG WAIT COMES TO AN END

For all of Juan Mata’s excellent play both this season and last, he has been criticised, along with his fellow attacking players at United, for not being enough of a goal threat.

With Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and Maruoane Fellaini all showing increased potency in front of goal, it was only a matter of time before Mata would also benefit from United’s improved attacking play this season. The elusive goal finally came via a smart, simple finish after some excellent work on the left wing from Rashford.

RASHFORD THE CREATOR

Rashford has looked promising on the wing, often beating defenders with pure speed mixed with skill and trickery on the ball, but he’s never quite had a game like this. 

The youngster’s excellent play has not always been rewarded in ways that show up on the stat sheet, but on Saturday his contribution was clear. One flash of brilliance on the left to set up Mata’s opener, and a perfectly-delivered free-kick led to Fellaini’s second.

TEENAGER IN FINE FORM

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that Rashford’s only 19. He’s been a first-team regular for nearly two seasons now, which is remarkable in itself, and it’s rare that he doesn’t contribute in some way. If it’s not via goals, assists, or just offering a threat to opposing defenders, Rashford will always provide the work rate that will endear him to managers when nothing is going for him.

At present, however, things are definitely going for him – the teenager is a man on top form right now.

FELLAINI’S TIME TO SHINE?

Fellaini arrived at Manchester United in 2013, in a much-derided transfer that looked even worse after he failed to score that entire season. He scored seven goals in 2014/15, Louis van Gaal’s first season at the club, and in the two seasons after that he’s scored four goals each.

This season, he’s already at four and thus is well on course to have his highest-scoring season for United. The prevailing opinion on the tall, physical Belgian is shifting, with fans recognising that Fellaini is not only an effective player, but is slowly becoming a vital one.

LUKAKU’S RUN CONTINUES

In all honesty, Lukaku should have more than seven Premier League goals. He’s missed a few presentable chances this season, and he could easily already be on double figures for the league campaign. 

As it is, he’s at 11 across 10 games in all competitions, and it’s hard to criticise anyone who has seven goals in seven league games. What a start he’s made. 

MARTIAL GOING FROM STRENGTH TO STRENGTH

There is no doubt that on his day, Anthony Martial is a truly brilliant player. He struggled to show that on a consistent basis last season, as Jose Mourinho was wary of using a player who can undermine his brilliance with a fair share of frustrating moments.

This season, however, Martial looks rejuvenated and full of confidence, and that’s translating to tangible returns on the pitch. His goal in United’s midweek Champions League tie put him atop the club’s total scoring charts for the period starting from the time he joined, and his assist numbers are just as good.

MANCHESTER UNITED’S GOALSCORING FORM

United weren’t at their free-flowing best on Saturday, with a fixture-packed month no doubt taking its toll. But yet again, they racked up a dominant scoreline without really moving through the gears.

Goals, especially in home games, were hard to come by last season, but that concern has been put to bed.

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Players ratings and round-up as Manchester United thrash Crystal Palace 4-0 in Premier League

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The Red Devils are top of the table.

Marouane Fellaini’s first Manchester United brace helped Jose Mourinho’s men to another comprehensive victory, leaving Crystal Palace reeling from a seventh straight Premier League defeat without so much as a goal.

Saturday’s Old Trafford encounter was a complete mismatch between two teams on opposing trajectories.

Fellaini’s double was sandwiched between Juan Mata and Romelu Lukaku goals in a comprehensive 4-0 win that saw United equal their record tally of 19 points after seven Premier League matches as embattled Palace fell to another loss.

TWEET OF THE MATCH

Former Manchester United defender Phil Neville posted a picture of Lionel Messi’s face superimposed over Fellaini’s body.

STAR MAN

Marcus Rashford. Another eye-catching display from United’s teenage England star, in which he produced two fine assists. He comprehensively got the better of Joel Ward on the left before providing the cutback from which Mata opened the scoring, and delivered an excellent free-kick – as David Beckham watched on from the stands – that Fellaini headed in for his second goal.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 30: Marcus Rashford of Manchester United and Joel Ward of Crystal Palace compete for the ball during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Crystal Palace at Old Trafford on September 30, 2017 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

The young Englishman again stood out.

VIEW FROM THE DUGOUT

Quite simply, what a contrast. United boss Mourinho appeared annoyed once or twice at things he saw on the field, and had to dry his hair with a towel at one point, but this wet afternoon could hardly have gone much better for him as his unbeaten team ascended to the top of the table. Hodgson, meanwhile, was suitably gloomy-looking throughout. There was little really in this latest defeat for goalless, rock-bottom Palace – playing most of the contest with Bakary Sako as a makeshift striker, in the absence of the injured Christian Benteke – to suggest they have anything other than a long, hard battle for survival ahead of them. That’s nine goals conceded in their last two matches, with a clash with champions Chelsea up next.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 30: Jose Mourinho, Manager of Manchester United gives instruction during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Crystal Palace at Old Trafford on September 30, 2017 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Mourinho won the touchline battle.

DATA POINT

This match saw Palace equal Portsmouth’s Premier League record of seven straight losses from the start of 2009/10. United scored four times in a game for the sixth time in all competitions this season.

RATINGS

MANCHESTER UNITED

David de Gea – 6
Antonio Valencia – 6
Phil Jones – 6
Chris Smalling – 6
Ashley Young – 7
Nemanja Matic – 7
Marouane Fellaini – 8
Juan Mata – 7
Henrikh Mkhitaryan – 6
Marcus Rashford- 8
Romelu Lukaku – 7
Substitutes:
Jesse Lingard (for Mkhitaryan, 66) – 6
Anthony Martial (for Rashford, 72) – 7
Ander Herrera (for Mata, 77) – 7

CRYSTAL PALACE

Wayne Hennessey – 6
Joel Ward – 5
Mamadou Sakho – 5
Damien Delaney – 5
Patrick van Aanholt – 5
Luka Milivojevic – 5
Yohan Cabaye – 5
Andros Townsend – 5
Jason Puncheon – 5
Jeffrey Schlupp – 5
Bakary Sako – 5
Substitutes:
James McArthur (for Schlupp, 68) – 5
Jairo Riedewald (for Puncheon, 69) – 5
Freddie Ladapo (for Sako, 74) – 5

WHO’S UP NEXT?

Liverpool v Manchester United (Premier League, October 14)
Crystal Palace v Chelsea (Premier League, October 14)

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