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The EPL ‘big boys’ at full throttle

Paul Pogba scored twice for the second time in five days as Manchester United’s revival since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer replaced the sacked Jose Mourinho continued unabated with a 4-1 thrashing of Bournemouth at Old Trafford.

A third consecutive victory since Solskjaer took caretaker charge until the end of the season keeps United eight points adrift of Chelsea in the fight for a top-four finish.

Marcus Rashford also shone as the England international’s stunning run and cross teed up Pogba’s opener before he scored United’s third.

Nathan Ake pulled a goal back for Bournemouth just before half-time, but Romelu Lukaku came off the bench to round off the scoring before Eric Bailly was shown a late red card to leave United to finish with 10 men.

The change in mood around United in the 12 days since Mourinho was sacked is palpable, no more so in the performances of Pogba who was discarded from the Portuguese’s starting line-up for his final three league games in charge.

The French World Cup winner played a part in four of United’s five goals at Cardiff last weekend to get Solskjaer off to a flying start before scoring twice against Huddersfield on Boxing Day.

Solskjaer has spoken of his desire to see Pogba break into the box more regularly and he had the simplest of tasks to prod the ball into an empty net after Rashford had bewildered the Bournemouth defence.

Ake and Diego Rico were left beaten by Rashford’s combination of fleet-footed dribbling and pace before his cross perfectly picked out Pogba’s run.

The roles were reversed 10 minutes later when this time Pogba’s header teed up Rashford for a powerful strike that was deflected just behind.

However, in stark contrast to the final days of Mourinho’s tenure, it seemed only a matter of time before United struck again and once more it was Pogba who provided the finish with a bullet header from Ander Herrera’s cross.

Meanwhile, Manchester City bounced back from two consecutive defeats to beat Southampton 3-1 and cut the gap on Premier League leaders Liverpool to seven points before the top two meet on Thursday.

Pep Guardiola’s champions needed to regain their footing after stumbling against Crystal Palace and Leicester, and did so with strikes from David Silva, Sergio Aguero and James Ward-Prowse’s own goal at St. Mary’s.

Charlie Austin should have put Southampton ahead but miscontrolled the ball after being played in on goal and City immediately took advantage, with Bernardo Silva teeing up David Silva to slot home unmarked in the 10th minute.

Alex McCarthy made a good save to keep out Aguero from point-blank range after good work by Sterling and City were made to pay for their profligacy when Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg slammed home after robbing Oleksandr Zinchenko.

However, Chelsea kept up their pursuit of the Premier League’s top three clubs with a 1-0 win away to London rivals Crystal Palace, thanks to a strike by N’Golo Kante early in the second half.

Chelsea had to work hard to break down Palace who had taken seven points in their previous three matches, including a shock win over champions Manchester City, but seemed content to allow their visitors most of the possession.

After a sterile first 35 minutes, Willian smacked the post with a swinging free kick and Ross Barkley hit the same upright soon afterwards with an acrobatic overhead effort.

Kante broke the deadlock in the 51st minute when his darting run into the Palace penalty area was spotted by defender David Luiz who fed the France World Cup winner to score from close range.

Moreso, Goals from Chris Wood and teenager Dwight McNeil gave struggling Burnley a much-needed 2-0 Premier League win over West Ham United at Turf Moor, ending a run of three straight defeats for Sean Dyche’s team.

Victory lifted Burnley above Fulham into 18th place, and although they remain in the relegation zone on 15 points — the same as 17th-placed Southampton — it was a performance to offer the whiff of a refreshing New Year for Dyche.

After his side’s 5-1 mauling by Everton on Boxing Day, the manager made a “big decision” to drop former England goalkeeper Joe Hart and bring back another international, Tom Heaton, for his first league start since September 2017. He also gave 19-year-old McNeil only his second league start and watched the youngster become the first teenage player to score for Burnley in the Premier League era.

The Clarets took the lead in the 15th minute when Wood fired home after Ashley Barnes headed into his path. New Zealander Wood has now scored five goals in four appearances against West Ham in the Premier League.

Left-winger McNeil made it 2-0 with a volley at the back post after Ashley Westwood had whipped in a deep cross from the right and the youngster should have added another goal moments later when he shot wide after a fine pull-back from Barnes.

Heaton justified his recall with a good save from an Andy Carroll header late on that gave Burnley a rare clean sheet and three valuable points, as well as stopping West Ham’s run of three straight away victories,.

source: the herald

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