LONDON — Now it’s on for Manchester City to win the English Premier League in the earliest and sweetest way possible: Victory over Manchester United in next Saturday’s derby will seal the trophy for Pep Guardiola’s runway leader.
“I have lived in Manchester long enough to know what it means,” City captain Vincent Kompany said after Saturday’s 3-1 win at Everton. “It will be lively and spicy but I don’t mind.”
Not even Alex Ferguson managed to clinch any of his 13 titles for United by beating the neighbors. Even more incredibly, City can secure its third title since 2012 with six games to spare thanks to the Manchester rivals both winning on Saturday.
Alexis Sanchez scored after setting up Romelu Lukaku’s opener as United beat Swansea 2-0. City then cruised at Goodison Park, with Leroy Sane, Gabriel Jesus, and Raheem Sterling scoring inside the first 37 minutes and Everton settling for a second-half consolation from Yannick Bolasie.
“We are so, so close and so happy with the performance,” said Guardiola, whose side is back on Merseyside in midweek to face Liverpool in the Champions League quarterfinals.
United is already out of Europe. And the 20-time English champions’ hopes of a first title since Ferguson retired in 2013 evaporated before the season reached its midway point. Holding onto second place will be a sign of progress, though, under Jose Mourinho.
Liverpool remained two points behind United — having played an additional game — after Mohamed Salah completed a comeback at Crystal Palace to win 2-1.
Tottenham, which has played two games fewer than Liverpool to trail by five points, travels to fifth-place Chelsea on Sunday as the London rivals tussle for the fourth Champions League spot.
It is unlikely that West Bromwich Albion will still be in the league next season, remaining 10 points from safety in last place after losing to Burnley 2-1. Next-from-last Stoke is at Arsenal on Sunday. Southampton, which occupies the remaining relegation place, lost to West Ham 3-0.
Palace remained two points above the drop zone, a point below Huddersfield, which lost to Newcastle 1-0. Swansea, like Huddersfield, is only three points clear of the bottom three.
Leicester is chasing a Europa League spot, beating Brighton 2-0 to stay three points behind seventh-place Burnley. The comfort of mid-table continued for Watford and Bournemouth after their 2-2 draw.
United did the hard work up front in the first half with one of Sanchez’s best displays since joining from Arsenal in January.
The Chile forward created Lukaku’s fifth-minute opener, slotting through a pass for the former Everton and West Bromwich Albion striker to net his 100th Premier League goal with a deflected shot.
Jesse Lingard set up Sanchez for a low strike to double United’s lead in the 20th.
David De Gea preserved United’s clean sheet with a fine double save to deny Tammy Abraham in the second half.
Liverpool’s victory at Palace came at a cost. Adam Lallana was carried off on a stretcher only five minutes after going on as a substitute in the second half. With barely two months until the World Cup, the Liverpool midfielder left Selhurst Park on crutches in another setback to his attempts to recover from long-standing thigh problems.
“It’s absolutely bad, but we don’t know exactly what it is yet,” Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp said. “In the first moments I saw him it looked really serious to be honest. It looks like something with the muscle.”
Palace slumped to a fifth loss in six matches despite taking the lead through Luka Milivojevic’s first-half penalty.
Sadio Mane equalized after the break and was fortunate to stay on the pitch after handling the ball, having already been booked for diving.
Liverpool can always rely on Salah to come to the rescue and the Egypt forward grabbed his 37th goal in the 84th minute to keep his team on the heels of United.
Unlike the turmoil three weeks ago at the Olympic Stadium — with pitch invasions and the West Ham owners threatened — the only protests came before facing Southampton.
Inside there was not just tranquility but joy rarely seen at the venue unloved by many Hammers supporters. For good reason: West Ham was able to roll over Southampton with ease in Mark Hughes’ first game in charge of the relegation-threatened south-coast club.
Marko Arnautovic’s double after Joao Mario’s opener ensured the three points were sealed before the break, taking West Ham five points clear of danger.
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