Five things we learned from the Premier League this weekend
Liverpool moved four points ahead of Manchester City, who lost again.
Liverpool put daylight between themselves and Manchester City at the top of the Premier League, while Manchester United kicked off life under interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with a 5-1 win at Cardiff.
Here, Press Association Sport looks at the talking points following the weekend’s Premier League action.
Reds look the real deal
Jurgen Klopp’s men laid down a marker with last weekend’s 3-1 win over Manchester United, which they followed up with a Friday night masterclass in the pouring rain at Wolves to move four points clear and guarantee top spot for Christmas.
City failed to respond as they suffered a shock home defeat to Crystal Palace and there is now clear daylight between the title rivals heading into 2019.
While there remains a lot of football still to be played before the trophy is handed out on May 12, it is now down to City and the chasing pack to reel the Reds back in, which on current form looks a tall order.
City slickers slip up again
While unexpected, Palace’s 3-2 win at the Etihad Stadium was well deserved – and could well have seen Andros Townsend score the goal of the season.
City boss Pep Guardiola defended his team selection, with Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne starting on the bench while John Stones was pushed into midfield, and on another day the champions would have been in cruise control after going 1-0 up.
However, following the defeat at Chelsea earlier in December, the chinks are there in the City armour to be dented further – and the Eagles’ effort will offer encouragement to the rest of the also-rans for more shocks ahead over the second half of the season.
Ole’s United front
Read Ole's thoughts on his first win as #MUFC caretaker manager...— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 22, 2018
What a difference an interim boss makes. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer got off to the perfect start at Cardiff as Manchester United moved on from the Jose Mourinho era with a swashbuckling performance which had been so lacking in recent games.
Much work, of course, and harder tests lie ahead for the one-time United striker and long-time fans favourite.
One thing is abundantly clear, though, there is a spring back in the step of all the United squad – one not seen since the last time Mike Phelan was in the dugout, and we all know what happened then.
Super six for Pochettino
Tipped by many to be the next permanent United boss, Mauricio Pochettino has met every question about his future in the build-up to the latest round of Premier League matches with the same calm approach which has served him so well (albeit with a bit of help from Tottenham’s head of communications).
Spurs produced another display full of attacking intent to see off Everton with an impressive 6-2 win at Goodison Park on Sunday, which keeps their hopes of gatecrashing the 2019 title party still intact.
A few more heading into the new year, and you suspect those difficult questions will continue, on and off camera.
Tough at the bottom
🗣 Warnock post-#CARMUN: "If you’d told me at the start of the season that we would be outside the bottom three at Christmas, I would have snapped your hand off."— Cardiff City FC (@CardiffCityFC) December 22, 2018
👉 https://t.co/QRHgJKCBPR#CityAsOne 🔵⚽️🔵⚽️
While things are certainly looking up at the business end of the table, the same cannot be said for the fortunes of those battling to stay in the Premier League as 2018 comes to a close.
New Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl has had the desired impact with successive victories to drag his new team out of the bottom three.
That, though, has only increased the pressure on the likes of Fulham, Huddersfield, Burnley and Cardiff. With points at a premium, it appears set to be another tense finale in the battle to finish 17th or better.