Football Good Weekend, Bad Weekend: Zlatan strikes twice to save United; Stoke flop as Kane tonks treble

FourFourTwo's winners and losers of the weekend, as Manchester United snatch the first silverware of the season

Good weekend...

Manchester United

Just about. Manchester United had to rely on the officials, the woodwork and Zlatan Ibrahimovic to edge past Southampton and collect the first silverware of the season, but they snatched victory in the shadows of full-time.

Jose Mourinho will present this as an unlikely success given his side's comparatively heavy workload over the past two weeks and, to give his players their credit, he'll be right: United were second best for much of this game and, at 2-2, were flagging badly. Nevertheless, this is the start point Mourinho wanted – and one which he has traditionally been able to parlay into more substantial triumphs. 

Nothing matters other than score in cup finals, but the Portuguese will still be informed by what he saw. Against the run of play, United had found themselves 2-0 up at Wembley, only to surrender their lead to Manolo Gabbiadini. But smart as his goals were, they were descriptive of a weakness which Mourinho must now solve.

A good weekend for Manchester United, but less so for his ailing defence. Once the champagne has run dry and the confetti has been swept away, expect the restorative plotting to begin. 

Crystal Palace & Sam Allardyce 

It's a great victory. I think the two-week break helped us refocus and that showed - they made a lot of very good decisions.

- Sam Allardyce

This might be the result that the January win over Bournemouth proved not to be: a line in the sand and a new standard for Crystal Palace. 

Sam Allardyce cancelled a planned warm weather training trip to Dubai during the club's two-week hiatus from competition and, on this evidence, that was a smart decision. Plenty of Allardycian directives will have been barked across Palace's New Beckenham training ground in that time and, finally, this team appears to have become deaf to anything other than their manager's way of playing. 

The 1-0 win over Middlesbrough was ugly and largely bereft of quality, but it might just be Palace's Andy Dufresne moment. An agonising struggle, no doubt, but planned and well executed nonetheless. 

Cesc Fabregas

A win for Chelsea, a rare start (and goal) for Cesc Fabregas and a new landmark: the assist provided to Pedro – on his 300th Premier League appearance – was his 102nd in the competition, level with Frank Lampard and second only to Ryan Giggs. That's some esteemed company and it is testament to Fabregas's longevity and, latterly, his professionalism. 

He may not be the most likeable on-field personality and, yes, when Roman Abramovich is paying your contract it's probably easy to remain loyal, but this season will have dented the Spaniard's ego. He's been a spare part in Antonio Conte's machine, spending his weekends sitting alongside reserve goalkeepers and graduated youth players, but he's still providing a telling contribution whenever given the chance. With a Premier League winner's medal already on his mantel, there's no sense that this is just box-ticking, either, and he appears genuinely committed to Conte's project.

Given the bags of Chinese currency on offer to even mediocre players, Fabregas could quite easily have flounced away from what must have been a humbling experience. He didn't and he continues to be an asset whenever he steps onto the pitch. 

Harry Kane

Three hat-tricks in six weeks. Harry Kane may have lumbered through his first few games back after injury in 2016, but early 2017 finds him in arguably the best form of his career.

If Sunday's thumping 4-0 win over Stoke spoke to his economy in front of goal and the range of his finishing, it was also indicative of his breadth as a forward. His first goal was dispatched with lethal instinct, his second with a cultured class and his third via a deflection. But the touch which took him around and beyond Bruno Martins Indi and into position to square to Dele Alli for Tottenham's fourth was the game's highlight moment; a wonderful illustration of his range of skill. 

But more importantly, Kane's contribution sparked Spurs's re-ignition and carried them to a level of performance which they haven't reached since defeating West Brom in the middle of January. Yes, he's a natural hero at White Hart Lane, but he's far more than just a one-of-their-own fantasy.