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Man Utd into top four, City stroll as Premier League welcomes back fans


London (AFP) – Manchester United roared back to beat West Ham 3-1 on Saturday and climb into the top four of the Premier League as fans returned to the English top-flight for the first time in nine months.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men fell behind at the London Stadium but a three-goal blitz from Paul Pogba, Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford turned the tables.

United, who have won nine successive league games on the road, are now fourth in the table, one point ahead of Manchester City, who earlier cruised past Fulham 2-0.

United, who started with Bruno Fernandes and Rashford on the bench, were second best in the first half and fell behind to a Tomas Soucek goal seven minutes before half-time.

West Ham, cheered on by 2,000 fans in their cavernous 60,000-seat stadium, should have been further ahead but squandered their chances.

Solskjaer threw on Rashford and Fernandes for the start of the second half and United made the Hammers pay for their profligacy.

Pogba equalised in the 65th minute with a superb strike from distance and minutes later United were ahead, Greenwood turning and firing home in the area.

Rashford struck a post as United looked to extend their lead, and it was the England striker who made it 3-1 12 minutes from time.

United, now just two points behind leaders Tottenham, have fallen behind in all five of their Premier League away games this season and have won them all.

“Of course you are very, very happy with the away form,” Solskjaer told Sky Sports. “I think the home form is decent, we are becoming more and more consistent and we are coping better with games like this. 

“When you are 1-0, 2-0 down the boys still believe and that character is important. At the end of the season you don’t care about the performance.”

– City cruise –

The drama at the London Stadium was in sharp contrast to City’s cruise against Fulham.

City, who had won just four of their opening nine matches, are showing ominous signs they are returning to their best form after building on their 5-0 mauling of Burnley last week.

They made a superb start at the Etihad, with Raheem Sterling putting them ahead inside five minutes to end his recent goal drought after a delightfully weighted Kevin De Bruyne through-ball.

De Bruyne, in Guardiola’s 700th game as a manager, doubled the lead from the penalty spot after Sterling was brought down by Joachim Andersen.

Guardiola bemoaned his side’s wastefulness in front of goal but was pleased to notch up another clean sheet.

“This season looks like there will be a lot of teams in contention,” he told the BBC. “Everyone can beat everyone. In this month it was important to get qualification for the Champions League, now we focus on the Premier League. It will be a long season.”

Earlier, Dominic Calvert-Lewin scored his 11th Premier League goal of the season to rescue a point for Everton in a 1-1 draw against struggling Burnley, who took an early lead through Robbie Brady.

Premier League chiefs issued advice to supporters on coronavirus safety measures, including a warning for fans not to get carried away when their team scores a goal.

“Fans can celebrate but should remain socially distanced from people outside their social bubble,” said the advice.

“Hugging of other fans and high-fives should be avoided and fans are asked to be respectful to those around them, including avoiding excessive shouting or singing.”

London and Liverpool are among the areas to have been placed into the Tier-2 category based on Covid-19 rates, meaning up to 2,000 fans will be able to attend matches.

But clubs based in Tier-3 areas, such as Manchester and Birmingham, are still not allowed to open their gates.

Chelsea boss Frank Lampard goes toe to toe with Marcelo Bielsa in the late Saturday kick-off in the first league meeting between the bitter rivals for 16 years.

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