Saturday analysis: Moyes finally gets the dominant midfield display he's waited for
West Brom 0-3 Man United
This was certainly more like it from Manchester United. Three points, three goals and a clean sheet is just what David Moyes and his side needed - and they were good value for it after a strong second half at The Hawthorns.
By half-time they led through Phil Jones' super header from a Robin van Persie free-kick, even if their first-half showing wasn't exacly vintage. In an end-to-end 45 minutes, the Red Devils enjoyed the lion's share of possession, but were often found wanting with a lack of ideas in the final third. There were the familiar desires to get it wide, which rarely troubled a West Brom side who were more than willing to hit the visitors on the counter.
Van Persie combined with Wayne Rooney just twice across the first 45 minutes.
After the break, things improved. Michael Carrick and Marouane Fellaini were consistent throughout, with the latter enjoying one of his best displays in a United shirt. The Belgian finished as the game's top passer with 64/71 completed, dug in with 4/5 tackles (all in key areas), made 5 interceptions, 8 clearances and won all of his 4 aerial duels. Fellaini's defensive game came up trumps - but a word of praise to West Brom's Youssouf Mulumbu, who made an incredible 18 recoveries in midfield, completed a game-high 3/4 take-ons and 55/60 passes.
Rafael was also a driving force behind United's big win; the Brazilian right-back was an ever-present attacking threat and set up Wayne Rooney's header with a fine cross. His dribbling wasn't so successful (2/6 take-ons completed), but the intent was there and defensively he came out on pole with 7/8 tackles won and 8 clearances. An all-round impressive display from the 23-year-old.
Cardiff 3-1 Fulham
Breathing room for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer - but surely the result that all but relegates Fulham. The Bluebirds saw Steven Caulker's opener cancelled out by Lewis Holtby on the hour mark, but bounced back impressively eight minutes later when Caulker grabbed his second. The former Tottenham man has four league goals this season - as many as Mesut Özil and Fernando Torres - with three coming against the hapless Cottagers. It was game over when Sascha Riether put into his own net after Maarten Stekelenburg had saved from Jordon Mutch.
Mutch was Cardiff's creative hub; he crafted 8 scoring chances for his team-mates - three from corners, one of which was the source of Caulker's second goal. In general the Welsh side's shooting was decent - they got 9 of their 19 efforts on target, compared with just 6 from 14 for Fulham.
Cottagers new boy Kostas Mitroglou made his debut in south Wales, but endured a frustrating afternoon. He was virtually anonymous in the first half, and by full-time he'd attempted 7 efforts without success. Judging by his passes received, though, the Greek hitman will be used by Felix Magath as the focal point of his side's attacking ventures in weeks to come. They'll need him on song - the west Londoners are bottom of the league and four points from safety, effectively five thanks to their abysmal goal difference. Magath's men have conceded 15 more goals than the next worst defence - Cardiff's.
Crystal Palace 0-1 Southampton
You won't find a more typical Southampton display than this - a possession-based, professional away win with their flying English contingent were at the heart. Jay Rodriguez's first-half sitter (and no, not like that) was enough for maximum points at Selhurst Park, to leave Crystal Palace just two points above safety and staring nervously over their shoulders.
By half-time the Saints had made almost four times as many passes as the hosts, who had recorded dreadful 54% accuracy. By full-time the Eagles had reduced the numbers to 380-150, but their pass-completion rate still dwindled below the 60% mark.
Simply, it was a case of get it wide (3/31 cross completed) or pump it long (as nearly 20% of their passes went) for the south Londoners, who made life difficult for their lone striker Glenn Murray. Southampton were forced into a hefty 64 clearances, which was almost double that of Tony Pulis' men. That the Saints also won the aerial battle 22 to 17 didn't help matters.
Mauricio Pochettino's men kept things neat, turned to Adam Lallana for inspiration once again, and got their rewards with the England man carving out 5 opportunities. Midfield minder Morgan Schneiderlin made one block, with game-high ball recoveries (12) and tackles (5/6). It's another three points in the awfully exciting battle to finish eighth or ninth, but plunges Palace into peril leaving them without a win in three. Next up are Everton away.
Norwich 1-1 Stoke
Norwich will be disappointed not to have seen out a win after taking the lead through Bradley Johnson, but a point isn't horrendous against notoriously prickly Stoke. Jon Walters' penalty earned the Potters a point, before the Republic of Ireland international was sent off for a high challenge on Alex Tettey.
Cardiff's win against Fulham leaves Chris Hughton's side four points clear of the drop zone, with a better goal difference (6) than their Welsh rivals.
As has often been the case, it was left to Robert Snodgrass to provide inspiration. Nathan Redmond was lively on the opposite wing, with a game-high 5/7 take-ons completed, but the England U21 man created nothing and put in only one cross all afternoon. Scot Snodgrass provided the assist for Johnson's opener from a free-kick, flung in nine crosses and won 4 free-kicks for his team - 3 of which were in dangerous positions. Oddly, he was also used as an aerial outlet from goal-kicks and won 7 of his 15 duels. He might not have been stunning, but his dead-ball quality was valuable here.
Stoke struggled to turn possession into meaningful danger. They completed just 15 attacking-third passes in the first half, improved that tally after half-time but attempted only one shot - the penalty from which Walters scored. Mark Hughes will certainly be the happier manager.
Chelsea 4-0 Tottenham
Michael Oliver won't be the most popular man in the white half of north London tonight - but then neither will Jan Vertonghen. It was the latter's blunder, when Spurs were looking more than comfortable at Stamford Bridge, which gifted Samuel Eto'o the opening goal. When Younes Kaboul was adjudged to have brought down the Cameroon striker three minutes later, the Frenchman was sent off and a penalty awarded to the hosts for their troubles. Eden Hazard scored, and the game was over.
The defeat will hurt Spurs more than usual. Their away record against the Blues is historically awful, but they spent the first 45 minutes in west London defying the norm and setting out their stall with a confident display of possession football. The game was poor, but Spurs didn't give their hosts an inch - indeed, they failed to notch a shot on target before the break. Hazard and last weekend's hero, Andre Schürrle, were muted.
Tottenham's attacking threat was wiped out after Kaboul's red card
The north Londoners' first-half display was made all the more impressive on the back of a surprising team selection from Tim Sherwood, who was without the injured Mousa Dembele and left Paulinho on the bench in another midfield reshuffle. Kaboul returned to partner Michael Dawson at the back, and Kyle Walker was named in midfield. It shouldn't have been much of a surprise - the England man is excellent going forward and would have been useful in keeping the threat of Hazard & Co. to a minimum.
This was a classic game of two halves for Tottenham, though. The floodgates opened once Kaboul was sent off, and another two defensive howlers twice let in Demba Ba to compile the misery. Chelsea go seven points clear; Tottenham sulk off after a hideous collapse. There'll be fingers pointed - and plenty of people who deserve them.