Manchester United’s lead at the Premier League summit now stands at four points after the frontrunners could only muster a 1-1 draw at Swansea City, on day when Chelsea handed Aston Villa an 8-0 defeat.
Looking to respond to Manchester City’s win against Reading on Saturday, it was United who went ahead after 16 minutes when Patrice Evra met Robin van Persie’s corner at the near post and headed in. Swansea levelled close to the half-hour, though, and for the 13th time in the Premier League this term, it was Michu who found the net. The Spanish midfielder finished from close range after David De Gea had parried a Jonathan De Guzmán effort into his path.
The visitors tightened up after the break and began to dominate, with Van Persie improvising a volley from a Wayne Rooney cross which bounced off the top of the crossbar. Michel Vorm then did excellently to divert a Michael Carrick header against the woodwork, but – unlike City against Reading – Sir Alex Ferguson’s side could not conjure a late winner.
In Sunday’s other match, Chelsea returned to third spot with a commanding triumph as seven players found the net against Aston Villa. Fernando Torres got the ball rolling after three minutes and efforts from David Luiz and Branislav Ivanović put the hosts three up at the break. Frank Lampard increased the advantage on 58 minutes and Ramires weighed in with a double to go with an Oscar penalty and an Eden Hazard strike.
Frank Lampard’s goal was a milestone for him, as it was his 190th goal for Chelsea, three behind the club’s all-time scorer Kerry Dixon.
For all the negativity that has surrounded Chelsea this season, if they win their game in hand they will be only four points behind second place Manchester City, with a little more than half a season to play.
One reason for Chelsea’s improved play has been the performance of Fernando Torres who has now scored seven goals in the six games that Rafa Benitez has been on charge.
Another reason is that Chelsea look stronger defensively since Rafa pushed David Luiz forward from center half toa holding midfield player. Luiz has been terrific in that position, and John Obi Mikel might struggle to get his place back in the side when he returns from international duty in late January/early February.