Manchester United’s emphatic victory over 10-man Wolverhampton Wanderers saw them extend their lead at the top of the Premiership to four points over neighbours Manchester City – but football took a back seat on a weekend shadowed by tragic events on and off the pitch.
A severely depleted Premier League fixture list – just four games were played this weekend – was overshadowed by the collapse and subsequent rush to hospital of Bolton’s Fabrice Muamba. It transpired that Muamba had suffered a cardiac arrest during his side’s FA Cup clash with Tottenham on Saturday afternoon, and the match was postponed following his collapse.
What was remarkable was the reaction from both sets of supporters, joining together to chant the stricken midfielder’s name and cheering on the medical staff’s efforts at resuscitation. Muamba remains in a critically ill condition in hospital, his illness a reminder that there are ultimately more pressing matters than football.
On the pitch, Wolves continued their appalling run of former under temporary boss Terry Connor by suffering a five-goal defeat at the hands of Manchester United.
Jonny Evans opened the scoring, and his United account, with a well-taken finish from a Michael Carrick cross, before Ronald Zubar received his second yellow card for a lunge on Welbeck after 40 minutes.
United – who had named an aggressive line-up in a bid to banish any remaining Europa League demons following their exit from the competition on Thursday – sensed that this was now a Wolves team there for the taking. Indeed, Antonio Valencia marked his return to the first team after injury with a superbly taken solo goal, running from his own half to smash the ball past the hapless Wayne Hennessey.
A matter of minutes later and Danny Welbeck made the result a formality, slotting home when Valencia cut the ball back into his path.
With the score 3-0 at half-time, Wolves were dead and buried – but United did not take their foot off the gas in the second half. Javier Hernandez added two more goals in the space of five minutes; first heading in Rafael’s cross having lost his marker superbly before rifling another Valencia cross – the Ecuadorian winger had been superb all afternoon – into the roof of net to seal the victory for the league leaders. Defeat leaves Wolves bottom of the Premiership on goal difference, now facing a tough task to survive the season.
Elsewhere, an impressive Swansea side beat Fulham 3-0 at Craven Cottage. The West Londoners never really got going in a tie in which the Welsh side brought their best passing game. At times the ball retention from the Swans was Barcelona-esque, keeping the ball away from their opponents for minutes on end, before striking with devastating effect.
Gylfi Sigurdsson was once again on target for Swansea, his brace either side of half time finishing the game as a contest before an 18-yard Joe Allen strike added the gloss to a decent victory.
Swansea have managed to turn around their poor away form, winning three of their last four, and climbing to 8th in the table. If they are able to maintain their league position come the end of the season it will be huge reward for a highly impressive debut Premiership season from Brendan Rodgers’ men.
At the DW Stadium, Wigan and West Brom played out a 1-1 draw, after which Roberto Martinez’s Wigan side will be rueing several wasted opportunities for a much-needed victory.
James McArthur opened the scoring for the home team before Paul Scharner equalised for the Baggies. Whilst West Brom are likely to avoid relegation this season, Wigan will need to correct their poor finishing if they are to stand a realistic chance of doing the same.
Newcastle continued their exciting high-flying season with victory over Norwich, an extremely well-placed half-volley from Papiss Cisse the only goal in the encounter. Cisse has been a revelation since his January move to the club, and may still prove to have a huge role to play with strike partner Demba Ba in maintaining Newcastle’s push for European qualification.
Tags: Antonio Valencia, Barclays Premier League, Fabrice Muamba, Manchester United, Papiss Demba Cisse, Premier League, Ronald Zubar