Manchester United and Manchester City increased the pressure on Premier League leaders Arsenal with comfortable wins on Sunday.
Manchester manager Pep Guardiola admitted Erling Haaland is a doubt for Wednesday’s top-of-the-table clash against Arsenal after coming off at half-time in a 3-1 win over Aston Villa.
City shrugged off the uncertainty caused by a series of Premier League charges to close to within three points of Arsenal at the top of the table.
But victory came at a cost as the Premier League’s leading goalscorer appeared to pick up a thigh injury as he clashed with Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez.
“Haaland had a knock, he was uncomfortable,” said Guardiola. “At 3-0 we don’t want to take risks.
“We’ll see and assess in the next days. If he is not ready, we play another one. Hopefully he’s ready but we will see.”
A cloud is hanging over the English champions after the Premier League hit the club with more than 100 charges alleging breaches of financial rules dating as far back as 2009.
If found guilty, City could face a severe points deduction or even relegation from the top flight.
Rodri, Ilkay Gundogan and Riyad Mahrez all struck before half-time at the Etihad to edge ominously into Arsenal’s rear-view mirror.
The Gunners still have a game in hand, but City will now move to the top of the table should they win at the Emirates in midweek.
Arsenal’s 1-1 draw at home to Brentford on Saturday opened the door for City and unlike last weekend, when the defending champions missed the chance to pounce with defeat away to Tottenham, this time they made no mistake.
Just four minutes in they had something to cheer as Rodri rose highest to power home a header from Mahrez’s corner.
Haaland created the second as his pace beat Martinez to De Bruyne’s ball over the top and he picked out Gundogan at the far post for a simple finish.
Jack Grealish then lured Jacob Ramsey into a clumsy challenge to win a penalty, which Mahrez slotted home as Haaland surprisingly stepped aside.
That decision was perhaps explained by Haaland’s withdrawal at the break.
City’s defensive record will also be a concern for Guardiola as another clean sheet was ruined when Douglas Luiz robbed Bernardo Silva and freed Watkins to fire into the far corner on the hour mark.
Villa substitute Jhon Duran then smashed against the bar in stoppage time, but a second-half rally was too little, too late for Unai Emery’s men.
Ten Hag praises Rashford
Erik ten Hag hailed Marcus Rashford as one of Europe’s best forwards after his late goal inspired Manchester United’s 2-0 win against old rivals Leeds on Sunday.
After Rashford scored to spark United’s comeback from two goals down in Wednesday’s 2-2 draw with Leeds, he tormented the Yorkshire club once again.
Rashford netted with 10 minutes left at Elland Road to make it four successive Premier League games with a goal for the England forward, who has scored in eight of his last nine appearances in the competition.
Following Alejandro Garnacho’s frustrated reaction to being substituted on Wednesday, the Argentine teenager made amends as he came off the bench to seal United’s hard-fought victory five minutes after Rashford’s goal.
Asked if Rashford is among the best in Europe, Ten Hag said: “He’s definitely one of them. He has the skills. I was convinced from the first moment.
“I was really excited to work with him. Yeah, I thought I could get more out of him.
“When he is keeping the investment and keeps the focus in every game and brings the energy and belief, he will keep scoring.”
United’s win was just their second in their last five league games, although they have now lost just once in their last 17 matches in all competitions.
Ten Hag’s side moved up to second place, although Manchester City would go back above them if they beat Aston Villa later on Sunday.
More importantly, United are seven points clear of fifth-placed Tottenham in the race to qualify for the Champions League via a top-four finish.
The clash was marred by offensive taunts from the stands, with Leeds fans singing about the 1958 Munich air crash that killed several United players and their rivals in the away end responding by chanting about the deaths of two Leeds fans in Istanbul in 2000.
Both clubs condemned the chants and the Premier League said: “The League is treating the issue of tragedy chanting as a priority and as a matter of urgency.”
Fourth bottom Leeds are without a win in their last nine league games and would drop into the relegation zone if Everton beat Liverpool on Monday.
Since sacking Jesse Marsch on Monday, Leeds have seen their move for Rayo Vallecano boss Andoni Iraola blocked by his club, while Feyenoord’s Arne Slot and West Brom’s Carlos Corberan ruled themselves out of contention.
Leeds chief executive Angus Kinnear insists the search is “well advanced”, but Michael Skubala was in charge for a second game on a caretaker basis.
Amid a cacophonous noise at Elland Road, Leeds made a frenzied start, with Crysencio Summerville firing over after a mistake from United left-back Tyrell Malacia.
In keeping with the aggressive tone of one of English football’s bitterest rivalries, there were early bookings for Summerville and Leeds teammate Junior Firpo for a pair of crude fouls.
Bruno Fernandes wasted a golden opportunity when he ran clean through on goal after Max Wober’s mistake, only to shoot straight at Illan Meslier.
After scoring United’s equaliser against Leeds in midweek, Jadon Sancho had been rewarded with his first league start since October, but the England forward was largely anonymous and came off after an hour.
United defender Diogo Dalot almost ended the stalemate with a fierce strike against the bar from the edge of the area.
David De Gea had to make a smart save with his foot to deny Summerville’s drive from a tight angle before United finally made the breakthrough in the 80th minute.
Luke Shaw whipped over a teasing cross and Rashford found space to thump in a powerful header from 10 yards, with the forward’s 21st goal this season surviving a VAR check for offside.
Garnacho put the result beyond doubt five minutes later when he surged into the area and shot past Meslier via the near post.