Takeaway: A couple months ago, when United were winning but looking dreadful in the process, it was hard to imagine Old Trafford’s glory days would return any time soon. This weekend, we finally got the sense that the old, imperious United might be back. Sunday’s final score was flattering to Manchester City, and we’re talking about a 4-2 loss. Aside from an opening 15-minute spell, United were miles ahead of City in terms of tactics and quality. City’s central defense couldn’t handle Wayne Rooney and Ashley Young; three of United’s four goals came on pathetic defensive miscues. And keep in mind two of United’s “stars” -- Angel Di Maria, Radamel Falcao -- didn’t even make the starting eleven. Louis van Gaal is finally getting both results and beauty as this was a fluent, exciting performance under pressure.
Getty ImagesAlex Livesey
Will Manuel Pellegrini oversee Manchester City's rebuilding plan?
Takeaway: City have now slumped into their worst vein of form under the soft-spoken Chilean, winning just two of their last eight games across all competitions. It gets worse: City have won just four games in their last 15 outings, and have lost more league games in 2015 (5) than they lost all last year. Pellegrini admitted after the game that City are not struggling with “just one problem” and he’s right. City desperately need another forward to run off Sergio Aguero; they need a brand new back four; and they need to say goodbye to Yaya Toure, Martin Demichelis and Vincent Kompany, older heads that this season look well beyond their expiration date. They also may need a new manager. The club’s body language on Sunday suggested they have quit on the one they currently have.
Getty ImagesMichael Regan
Marouane Fellaini, Juan Mata leading United's charge
Takeaway: Who would have thought that the best players for United at this stage of the season would be Fellaini and Mata? Certainly not many of the Red Devils’ faithful, who used both to beat David Moyes out the door. Turns out the Scot was right. Fellaini has been a dominant figure this season, and re-introduction of Mata has given the club both a deft passer and that touch of class champions need. That is unlikely to provoke wholesale reevaluation of Moyes’ tenure at the club but it should.
Man Utd via Getty ImagesJohn Peters
London clubs keep winning ugly during title chase
Takeaway: Chelsea and Arsenal looked jaded this weekend in their games against teams in the cellar, but both showed the quality to win them out. Arsenal, who have made a habit of strong late-season form, didn’t impress in a slim 1-0 win at Turf Moor over Burnley, but they also didn’t crack. And Chelsea, pretty dire at Loftus Road, were able to nab a late winner from Cesc Fabregas to keep them seven points clear with a game in hand. It’s a cliché, but good clubs do find a way to win bad games. Chelsea next face City in what could be a referendum on City’s future; Arsenal and Chelsea will meet later this month in what may be the de-facto title decider.
Getty ImagesSteve Bardens
Start paying attention to Crystal Palace
Takeaway: It would have been easy for Crystal Palace to take their foot off the gas pedal this weekend. Following a big win over Manchester City, Palace were safe from relegation, and really don’t have a lot to play for. Instead, they went up to troubled Sunderland and ran the Black Cats into the ground with a commanding 4-1 win. Yes, Sunderland are laughably awful, and deserve to be sucked into the relegation battle. But Palace are playing to their strengths right now, running an exciting, attack-first game that teams are struggling to contain. How long that lasts remains to be seen, but right now, it’s a lot of fun to watch.