City take over top of EPL, United win again
IT WAS a happy day for football fans in Manchester as City took over at the top of the Premier League table while United continued their revival. Both teams recorded narrow 1-0 wins on Saturday.
Having described the English festive fixture schedule as "not normal", City manager Manuel Pellegrini made six changes to his side and Crystal Palace almost took full advantage at the Etihad Stadium.
City goalkeeper Joe Hart was left with an ugly cut beneath his left eye that would later require stitches, after saving at the feet of Cameron Jerome in the first half and it was to mark the start of a frantic afternoon for the England man.
He saved brilliantly from Jason Puncheon and Mile Jedinak, while Marouane Chamakh headed wide from eight yards out.
With 30 minutes remaining, Pellegrini sent on Samir Nasri and Alvaro Negredo and, in the 66th minute, the hosts made the breakthrough when Edin Dzeko slammed home from Jesus Navas's cut-back.
"I think the team that wants to win the title must have different faces," said Pellegrini.
"We usually score lots of goals at home but, after 45 minutes, we knew it would not be like that."
Manchester United closed to within two points of the Champions League places after recording a sixth consecutive victory in all competitions with a 1-0 win at Norwich City.
The defending champions were without Wayne Rooney due to a groin injury and needed the half-time introduction of Danny Welbeck to secure victory at Carrow Road.
United manager David Moyes' side had laboured until then but, in the 57th minute, a favourable ricochet off Javier Hernandez set Welbeck free and he rounded England teammate John Ruddy before sliding in the winning goal.
Moyes, whose side came from behind to win 3-2 at Hull City on Thursday, said: "Welbeck couldn't score very often last season, but he looks like he will do it every time now. He changed the game today when he came on.
"He is doing very well and we need everybody to chip in with goals when Rooney and Robin van Persie are out. Rooney has a groin strain. But I would expect him to be back for Tottenham (on Wednesday)."
The win took United level on points with fifth-placed Everton, although they have now played a game more than all of the teams above them apart from City.
Cardiff City began life after Malky Mackay, sacked from his post as manager on Friday, with an agonising 2-2 draw at home to bottom club Sunderland.
Elsewhere, relegation rivals West Ham United and West Bromwich Albion played out a richly entertaining 3-3 draw at Upton Park.
Fulham also remain in the drop zone after a 6-0 humiliation at Hull, who prevailed through goals from Ahmed Elmohamady, George Boyd, Tom Huddlestone and Matty Fryatt, and a brace from Robert Koren.