Man United stop rot, Liverpool thrash Spurs
Manchester United and Liverpool each enjoyed breezy victories in the Premier League on Sunday, United sinking Aston Villa and Liverpool returning to second place by outclassing Tottenham Hotspur 5-0.
Beaten by Everton and Newcastle United in their previous two league outings, United were at risk of losing three successive games for the first time since 2001, but they were dominant in a 3-0 win at Villa Park.
A quick-fire brace from Danny Welbeck put United in control after only 18 minutes and they added a further goal through Tom Cleverley as they closed to within 10 points of leaders Arsenal.
Victory left the champions seven points below the Champions League positions in eighth place, but it was a timely win for manager David Moyes after a desperate run of four games without victory.
"It was a good job from us," Moyes told Sky Sports.
"The players did well and the only thing I would criticise is that we didn't score more goals.
"We were a bit sloppy in the first five minutes, but after that we played really well."
Marc Albrighton worked United goalkeeper David de Gea twice in the early stages, but a pair of goals from Welbeck put United in command.
Deputising for the injured Robin van Persie, the England forward broke the deadlock in the 15th minute when he slammed home after Adnan Januzaj had headed against the post from a Rafael da Silva cross.
Villa were unable to contain United's right-sided players and three minutes later the visitors scored another goal from that flank, with Antonio Valencia crossing for the sliding Welbeck to score.
Wayne Rooney, playing in his 500th club game, and Welbeck both went close to extending United's lead before Cleverley added a third in the 52nd minute with a first-time finish from Rooney's pass.
It was the England midfielder's first goal for a year and United were able to celebrate another milestone later in the game when Darren Fletcher came on to make his first appearance after a year out with a chronic bowel condition.
Villa, who have not beaten United at home since 1995, remain 11th in the table.
Having seen Manchester City, Chelsea and Everton steal in front of them on Saturday, Liverpool returned to second place with a very impressive success over 10-man Tottenham at White Hart Lane.
Captain for the day in the absence of Steven Gerrard, Luis Suarez put Liverpool ahead in the 18th minute when he took the ball past Michael Dawson and Kyle Walker before curling home a low shot.
Philippe Coutinho hit the bar, Glen Johnson shot just over and Hugo Lloris blocked from Suarez before Jordan Henderson doubled the visitors' lead in the 40th minute.
Lloris stood up to save from Henderson and then blocked Suarez's follow-up, but he was beaten at the third attempt as the former Sunderland midfielder crashed a volley into the bottom-right corner.
Spurs' hopes of a comeback were effectively ended when Paulinho was sent off in the 63rd minute for catching Suarez in the chest with his foot.
Full-back Jon Flanagan made it 3-0, slamming a difficult half-volley in off the bar from Suarez's cross, and Suarez added a fourth with a delicate lob before teeing up Raheem Sterling for the fifth.
"We got five goals, and we could easily have had seven or eight today," Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers told Sky Sports.
"It was probably the most complete performance since I've been here and just continues the evolution of what we're trying to do."
Liverpool finished the weekend two points behind leaders Arsenal and above third-place Chelsea on goal difference, with Spurs five points below the Champions League places after a first defeat in four league games.
It was Spurs' worst home defeat in 16 years and came less than a month after they were humbled 6-0 at City.
"It was difficult after the sending off," said Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas.
"We said at half-time a goal would put us back in the game. The third goal was the killer and ruled our confidence out."
In the day's other fixture, Swansea City drew 1-1 at Norwich City in a match overshadowed by an injury to visiting goalscorer Nathan Dyer.
He broke the deadlock with a 12th-minute lob but had to be stretchered off and taken to hospital with a suspected fractured ankle after injuring himself in a duel with Sebastien Bassong.
Gary Hooper earned Norwich a share of the spoils in first-half stoppage time, finding the net from 25 yards with a sumptuous, dipping volley.