Man U picks up a huge 2-1 win over Liverpool. The Red Devils are five points clear of second place Liverpool. Man U has 65 points. The Reds have 60 points.
Spurs could vault themselves into second place with a win over Bournemouth later today.
The Daily Mali:” It was all about the boy. That’s not to say the supporting roles weren’t significant, not least Romelu Lukaku who was quite superb and Scott McTominay, who again played beyond his years.
But Marcus Rashford hadn’t started a Premier League game since Boxing Day. If not exactly wasting away, as he has been significant from the bench and started Cup games, you wondered if this was a case of arrested development.
Certainly the stardust which followed him two years ago when he burst into this team and demanded immediate global attention has steadily dispersed.
Not so here. Important players win important games. They make the difference. When Rashford did it at 18, he had the air of an ingénue about him. Here he was more than that. A man composed on this stage, the clinical match winner.
His first finish was exquisite; the second excellent. And all round him, a gripping football match was unfolding. Two bitter rivals going at it for the full 90 minutes, like this game used to be.
It wasn’t quite the title-deciders of old; more like the battle to the best of the rest, which doesn’t have quite the same allure. Still, given the dearth of quality and excitement in this fixture of late, it was a welcome return to form.
And a timely reminder from Jose Mourinho as we reached what he described as the ‘business end of the season.’
At times, it can seem impossible to disrupt the forward flow of this Liverpool team. But, despite all the scepticism at the style he employs, Moruinho does always have a plan. And this one worked, for the first half at least, as well as any since his arrival here.
A bonus feature was that it didn’t include any bus parking. At times it looked like a throwback to a 1990s United team, almost a 4-4-2, with Alexis Sanchez tucked in behind Romelu Lukaku and Juan Mata and Rashford out wide.
It perplexed Liverpool. James Milner, Emre Can and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were outplayed by McTominay and Nemanja Matic in the opening 45 minutes, they were also critically outfought at the back.
Rashford takes the principal plaudits but this was a defining moment for Lukaku too. In a major fixture, he dominated Liverpool’s centre halves, a performance which put you in mind of the best physical centre forwards.
When Rashford scored his second, it was noticeable that McTominay raced to embrace Lukaku, who provided the assist for the assist. His contribution was not going un-noticed, nor unappreciated.
Both those first half goals came from David De Gea kicks.
Not content with being United’s best player, the goalkeeper is proving their most-creative one as well. But faced with a fairly basic tactic and an inspired Lukaku, Liverpool couldn’t cope.
On 14 minutes it was Lukaku’s flick on from De Gea’s punt which released Rashford. He nodded the ball down and from thereon in, he was simply magnificent.
There was the pace to befuddle Trent Alexander-Arnold, a neat check and turn to leave him standing and then an exquisite finish to the far post.
Twenty-four minutes in, Lukaku not only won the header, but pounced on the ball and drove on to release Mata. His strike rebounded off Virgil van Dijk, fell for Rashford and, just inside the box, full of confidence, he applied another excellent finish.
It should really have been 3-0 on half time, Alexis Sanchez crossing for Mata, who, with time and space, attempted a spectacular scissors kick and shot wide. On the bench Mourinho held his head in his hands.
It was a moment in which a simple control and strike would have ended the contest.
Mourinho knew. Such moments can cost. Doubtless it struck his mind when Andrew Robertson’s cross struck Antonio Valencia’s hand inside the box and Craig Pawson ought to have awarded the penalty on 50 minutes
Certainly it would have done when, in bizarre circumstances, Liverpool clawed their way back in the game in 66 minutes.
It is true that Liverpool had been much better in the second half. Still, they were largely contained until Sadio Mané sent in a cross and Eric Bailly got himself in an unnecessary and terrible tangle.
Attempting to clear in an ungainly fashion and hopelessly off balance, he hung out a leg allowing the ball to strike his heel and catch de Gea off guard to put into his own net.
From thereon in, the game ebbed and flowed in the dramatic and committed fashion we expect from this fixture. Both Jurgen Klopp and Mourinho had their moments of high excitement on the touchline.
And Marouane Fellaini was lucky his clumsy challenge on 82 minutes on Mané wasn’t adjudged a penalty. Ultimately, United had enough to repel their rivals.
Maybe that doesn’t mean quite so much as it once did. But second best, which it may well have secured, is a significant upgrade on recent years.