The mantra repeated after Sunday’s Premier League action was ‘Chelsea are the real winners’. So obvious, yet so very true. Manchester City’s humiliating defeat and a draw at Old Trafford made Antonio Conte’s side the only team to come out of Sunday with a big cheesy grin on their faces. Spurs and Arsenal had positive weekends, too, but Chelsea’s superb victory over Leicester enabled them to stretch their lead at the top of the Premier League once again.
A 1-1 draw will not bring much fall out for Manchester United or Liverpool, though.
Jose Mourinho’s side keep their unbeaten streak alive, which is probably enough to stop Jose Mourinho biting a journalist’s head off. They may not have closed the gap on the top four, and would usually expect to win even the bigger matches at Old Trafford, but they kept themselves within striking distance of Manchester City. The performance was not box office, but the ends just about justified the means, even after an indifferent display from Paul Pogba.
With an easier run of fixtures coming up – Stoke, Hull, Leicester and Watford are their next four matches – United will expect to make ground. In each of those gameweeks, there is a clash between two of the other top four teams. The draw with Liverpool perhaps takes the Premier League title a notch closer to being impossible, but it did little damage to their top four credentials.
This elongated period of good form was well overdue for Manchester United. They cannot afford to undo it all with poor results in their next four matches. False dawns have been common for the club over the last couple of seasons, in fact. Louis van Gaal frequently looked like his team had turned a corner, only for all the progress to come crumbling down. Manchester United must use these four matches to prove that their pre-Liverpool form is here to stay.
Now, onto Liverpool.
Jurgen Klopp’s Reds relinquished second-place with their draw at Old Trafford. Considering the line-up he was forced into naming, a draw has to be considered a good result. Trent Alexander-Arnold continues to look at ease at the highest level and the youngster could quickly become an integral member of the squad. The negative side of the result, though, is that it leaves them winless still in 2017.
The gradual return of Philippe Coutinho gives Klopp’s side a boost, but they are missing Sadio Mane drastically. Defensively, too, they are looking as shaky as they did earlier in the season. Such is the competitiveness at the top of the Premier League this season, Liverpool could easily slip from second favourites for the title to outside of the Champions League places. They are currently only three points ahead of fifth-placed Manchester City.
The second half of the season is seldom the time for draws – particularly when a team are running away with the title. Manchester United retain some of their momentum, Liverpool fail to build any and Chelsea are left all the more comfortable at the top of the table. Although this result bunched up the battle for a top four finish, Chelsea were the only real victors this weekend. A few more weekends along this pattern and the title race will be all but over.