Ruthless Man United in control as Liverpool hold Man City

Premier League talking points from City's latest slip-up to Popov's apology and Chelsea's woes

LAST UPDATED AT 11:11 ON Mon 4 Feb 2013

MANCHESTER UNITED are nine points clear at the top of the Premier League after title rivals Manchester City slipped up against Liverpool on Sunday. Below the top two, defeat for Chelsea and a win for Arsenal mean things are tightening up in the race for the top four places. Just five points now separates third from sixth.

Of the bottom five, only Wigan won, but the other four teams in relegation trouble all drew. As usual the games threw up the usual array of talking points:

NO MORE SLIP-UPS FOR MAN CITY
Roberto Mancini has made himself a hostage to fortune. After watching his Manchester City side draw 2-2 with Liverpool on Sunday the Italian announced that if City were to defend their league title they would "probably" have to win every one of their last 13 games. Those fixtures include away trips to Everton, Spurs and Man United and games against several relegation candidates, who will be scrapping hard. It’s going to be a tough task for the Citizens.

GERRARD IS A STAR
Liverpool legend and England captain Steven Gerrard (above) added to his collection of memorable goals with a 25-yarder against Manchester City on Sunday and was later named as England's player of the year. He collected the award from Sir Bobby Charlton at a ceremony in Burton. As if to underline his importance to Liverpool the 32-year-old is the only midfielder in the Premier League to have played every minute of every game this season.

UNITED LOOK THE REAL DEAL
On paper Manchester United's 1-0 win over Fulham on Saturday may look routine, but the performance has been hailed as the work of champions-elect. "An efficient, indefatigable display", said the Daily Telegraph. United were under the cosh at times but Wayne Rooney conjured up a late winner and everyone, from David de Gea in goal to substitute Javier Hernandez, did their bit. "They have the relentless look of Premier League winners," said The Guardian.

SENSATIONAL SISSOKO SINKS CHELSEA
Moussa Sissoko enjoyed a sensational home debut for Newcastle scoring twice as the Magpies beat hapless Chelsea 3-2. He was one of three newly arrived Frenchmen, along with Yoan Gouffran and Mathieu Debuchy, in the Toon side. Afterwards, Alan Pardew said Sissoko had already proved his value and the thrilling win lifted Newcastle six points clear of the relegation zone. "Newcastle look like a force to be reckoned with again," said the Telegraph.

TIME RUNNING OUT FOR RAFA
Newcastle's joy was Chelsea's misery and, after a run of one win in six games, the animosity of Blues fans towards Rafa Benitez has reached new heights. "Chelsea have picked up 22 points from a possible 39 during his reign, two points less than Roberto di Matteo picked up from one less game this season," points out The Independent. Next weekend's game against Wigan now has huge significance for Benitez, although the lack of possible replacements makes his position more secure.

CLARKE BLASTS VILE POPOV
Unlike many football managers, West Brom boss Steve Clarke refused to defend the indefensible after Goran Popov was sent off for spitting at Spurs' Kyle Walker on Sunday. "There’s no place for it in life, never mind on a football pitch," said Clarke, who lamented the fact that the red card also contributed to Spurs' 1-0 win, courtesy of a fine strike from Gareth Bale. Popov later attempted a bizarre apology, by phoning striker Peter Odemwingie and asking him to say sorry on his behalf on Twitter.

ARSENAL GET TOUGH
Arsenal showed that they can scrap with the best of them as they beat Stoke 1-0 at the Emirates. Arsene Wenger laid his stall out before the game by leaving playmaker Santi Cazorla on the bench and starting with the rather more combative Abou Diaby in midfield. There was also a debut for newly-arrived defender Nacho Monreal who coped well with the very English challenge presented by Stoke.

QPR STAND FIRM AT THE BACK
Harry Redknapp declared himself satisfied after QPR's 0-0 draw with Norwich, even though Adel Taarabt missed a penalty that could have handed all three points to Rangers. The Hoops remain four points adrift at the foot of the table, but there are signs of improvement. Redknapp's side have not lost in the league this year and have conceded only one goal in five games, and with Chris Samba slotting in at the back QPR just need to find a way to start scoring goals. · 

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.