New Manchester United boss Ralf Rangnick praised his side’s “exceptional” play after a hard-fought 1-0 win against Crystal Palace on Sunday as Tottenham crushed Norwich 3-0 to extend their recent revival under Antonio Conte.
Rangnick, taking the reins for the first time, named an unchanged side at Old Trafford after United beat Arsenal 3-2 in midweek and was rewarded with a high-energy performance in the first half, backed by a vocal crowd.
United’s levels dipped in the second period but the much-maligned Fred produced a moment of magic 13 minutes from time to snatch a crucial victory.
It was United’s first clean sheet at home this season after a series of chaotic performances in recent weeks under the sacked Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
“I am very happy with the way the team performed, especially the first half hour, with the pressing, it was exceptional,” the German told the BBC. “The only thing missing was the 1-0 or 2-0.
“The way we defended, we had control of the whole game, the clean sheet was the most important part.
“These are the things we must improve. We need to keep clean sheets. With just the one training session, I was really impressed. We did much better than expected.”
Cristiano Ronaldo had the hosts’ best chances in a bright opening spell as Palace struggled to gain a foothold but the game remained goalless at half-time.
Rangnick threw on Mason Greenwood and Anthony Elanga for Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford to inject fresh energy into his attack as the second half wore on.
But it was Brazilian midfielder Fred who broke the deadlock, curling home a superb strike past Palace goalkeeper Vicente Guaita from the edge of the area after a pass from Greenwood with 13 minutes to go.
The three points lifted United to sixth place in the table, three points behind fourth-placed West Ham.
Spurs stroll –
Spurs are one point ahead of United with a game in hand after cruising to a win against bottom side Norwich—their third straight victory in the Premier League.
Lucas Moura opened the scoring in the 10th minute. After a nice piece of skill to round a Norwich defender, he played a one-two with Son Heung-min, turned his marker and thundered an unstoppable drive into the top corner from 20 yards.
Tottenham doubled their lead midway through the second half when Davinson Sanchez smashed home a loose ball from a corner and Son made it 3-0 in the 77th minute.
Conte took over from the sacked Nuno Espirito Santo early last month with Spurs languishing in mid-table after a poor run of results and is starting to make an impact.
“I know for Tottenham it will be a season of work, hard work,” said the former Chelsea boss. “Only through the work can we improve and to have ambition to improve our position.
“I have just started. We have to build a solid base and a good foundation if we want to try to be competitive in the future and fight for something important.”
New Aston Villa boss Steven Gerrard got the better of his former manager at Liverpool, Brendan Rodgers, in a 2-1 win at home, his third victory in his first four matches.
Harvey Barnes gave Leicester an early lead but Ezri Konsa struck twice, once in each half, to secure the three points for Villa, who moved into 10th in the table, ahead of Leicester on goal difference.
Brentford were denied a win at Elland Road as Patrick Bamford scored deep into stoppage time to rescue a point for his side in a 2-2 draw.