Premier League Round-Up: Tight at the top as Carrick earns point in interim United role

Carrick-Man Utd
Michael Carrick made the right call in dropping Cristiano Ronaldo against Chelsea, writes Ryan Baldi

The top three are now separated by just two points, as Michael Carrick makes his mark as Man United's temporary boss by dropping Ronaldo to earn a point at Chelsea, writes Ryan Baldi.

"Coincidence or not, it was only when Carrick elected to withdraw Sancho and introduce Ronaldo on 64 minutes that United’s threat was extinguished and Chelsea began to apply consistent pressure."

The big news ahead of Sunday's standout clash between Chelsea and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge was that Michael Carrick - the away side's temporary manager, in place until Ralf Rangnick's expected appointment as interim boss - had dropped Cristiano Ronaldo from the starting XI.

It was a bold move. The five-time Ballon d'Or winner turns 37 in just a few weeks, but his ability to make ball meet net remains undiminished, with 10 goals already notched since his late-summer Old Trafford return.

For all Ronaldo's penalty-box prowess, though, it is difficult to imagine the veteran Portuguese, at this stage of his career, offering the pace and incision on the break that Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho - United's starting strike duo against the Blues - provided early in the second half.

And it was Sancho who gave United the lead in the 50th minute, pouncing on Jorginho's heavy to touch to race clear and calmly tuck his first Premier League goal beyond Edouard Mendy. Carrick's boldness had been rewarded.

Coincidence or not, it was only when Carrick elected to withdraw Sancho and introduce Ronaldo on 64 minutes that United's threat was extinguished and Chelsea began to apply consistent pressure.

Just five minutes later, Jorginho made amends for his costly earlier error by converting from the spot after Aaron Wan-Bissaka brought down Thiago Silva.

In the end, Chelsea outshot United by 24 attempts to three, and Antonio Rudiger could have won it in stoppage time, blazing a close-range volley high over the bar.

The point was enough to keep Thomas Tuchel's side top of the table, and they are available to back at 4.216/5 on the Betfair Exchange in the Premier League Winner market.

United finish the weekend in eighth, with just one league win since mid-September. But a creditable point against Chelsea and the imminent arrival of Rangnick means they are available at 2.166/5 in the Exchange's Top 4 Finish market.

Tight at the top

Sunday's Stamford Bridge stalemate means Chelsea's grip on top spot is not quite as tight as it had been going into the weekend, after the chasing pack of Liverpool and reigning champions Manchester City each recorded maximum points.

City saw off fourth-placed West Ham at the Etihad, dealing David Moyes' high-flying Hammers a second defeat in as many weeks.

A late Manuel Lanzini strike made the final scoreline suggest a closer encounter, but City were in stride on home soil. They followed up their midweek Champions League victory over Paris Saint-Germain with a first-half goal from Ilkay Gundogan, which Fernandinho matched late on before Lanzini's consolation effort.

Sitting second, just a point behind Chelsea, City remain favourites to be crowned champions once again come May. Pep Guardiola's men can be backed at 1.768/11 on the Exchange in the Premier League Winner market.

Jota.jpg

And just a point behind City, in third place, are Liverpool. The Reds hosted Southampton on Saturday and made light work of the South Coast club.

A Diogo Jota double and Thiago Alcantara's second goal in as many games sent Jurgen Klopp's side in at the break with an unassailable advantage. Former Saints star Virgil van Dijk then rounded off a thoroughly convincing 4-0 victory early in the second half.

Liverpool are available to back at 5.49/2 in the Exchange's Premier League Winner market.

Stevie G force

The Reds will be hoping a former Anfield hero can boost their title chances next weekend, with rivals City set to take on Steven Gerrard's Aston Villa at Villa Park.

Just a few weeks ago, a trip to the second city wouldn't have been a particularly daunting proposition for the league's best sides. But, thanks to Saturday's 2-1 win over Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park, Villa boast a 100 per cent record in the two games of Gerrard's nascent reign.

Gerrard.jpg

Matt Targett put Villa in front in the first half and John McGinn added a second with four minutes to play. A late-stoppage-time goal from Marc Guehi marks the away side's first concession under their new manager.

Before Gerrard's appointment on 11 November, Villa had lost five on the bounce, without a win since beating Manchester United at Old Trafford in September.

The new manager has already overseen Villa's first successive Premier League victories all season, easing relegation fears with a climb to 13th in the table, where they are only two points behind United in eighth.

Villa can now be backed at 2.6613/8 on the Exchange for a top-half finish this season.

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Friday 13 August, 8.00pm

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