City back on title hunt, United resurgence continues

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A Sergio Aguero hat-trick stopped Arsenal in their tracks. Reuters

LONDON (Reuters) – Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola feared last week’s defeat at Newcastle United had all but ended their Premier League title hopes but said the defending champions were back in the hunt after Sunday’s 3-1 win over Arsenal.

City are on 59 points from 25 games, behind league leaders Liverpool who faced West Ham United yesterday and Guardiola was relieved the gap was not wider after Juergen Klopp’s side drew with Leicester City last week.

“After the Newcastle game everybody was convinced, myself too, that Liverpool were going to beat Leicester and it would be seven points and it would be almost over,” Guardiola said.

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“Now we’re on two points and that’s why we don’t have to look too much at the table… I cannot deny we would prefer West Ham to beat Liverpool, but Liverpool would have preferred Arsenal to beat us.”

City take on ninth-placed Everton tomorrow and Guardiola is well aware of the need to build momentum, with third-placed Tottenham Hotspur two points behind them and breathing down their necks.

“Another big week, now we rest and prepare for Goodison… we have to win,” Guardiola added.

“Tottenham have showed incredible mentality, they fight and fight. A lot can happen.”

Elsewhere, Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford celebrated his 100th Premier League appearance on Sunday with a fine goal to secure a 1-0 win over Leicester City that kept interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s dream start going.

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Having missed a simple header early on, 21-year-old Rashford compensated in the ninth minute, skilfully latching on to a lovely dink from Paul Pogba over Leicester’s defence to smash the ball past Kasper Schmeichel from close range.

“It was a great finish. The kid has improved and improved,” said a delighted Solskjaer, who has enjoyed nine wins and a draw in all competitions since taking over as caretaker manager from the sacked Jose Mourinho in December.

Rashford is the youngest player to reach a century of top-flight appearances for the Red Devils since Ryan Giggs in 1993.

Manchester United continue their resurgence with Paul Pogba providing the assist for Sunday’s match winner.​ Xinhua

He and Pogba have been in superb form since the moment former Manchester United favourite Solskjaer walked in. Yet Sunday’s win lacked the fluency and joie de vivre of other performances.

Chilean forward Alexis Sanchez was disappointing again, looking miserable when substituted in the second half.

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“They won’t be too happy. They know they can do better,” Solskjaer said of his team, smiling at the win even so.

The victory moved United on to 48 points, two adrift of Chelsea in fourth place. Solskjaer’s men have dropped points only once under him – a 2-2 draw with Burnley on Tuesday – and are now firmly aiming for the top-four spot that would give them Champions League football next season.

Inconsistent Leicester stayed 11th on 32 points after losing their third home game in a row.

Second best throughout the first half, Leicester pressed better in the second, and should have equalised.

Jamie Vardy’s 61st-minute overhead volley was clawed away by David de Gea, and Rachid Ghezzal’s 77th minute free kick was flying in before the Spanish goalkeeper tipped it over.

Leicester manager Claude Puel was disappointed with his whole team – not only the poor clearance from Ricardo Pereira that led to Rashford’s goal.

“It was not just the fault of the player, it was the fault of the team that did not play well,” he said, criticising his team for playing too many sideways and backwards passes.

“We hesitated to put this team under pressure … It’s a big shame and a big disappointment.”

It was Leicester’s third home defeat in a row.

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