London, Jul 9 (efe-epa).- Manchester United cruised Thursday to a fifth straight victory, dominating Aston Villa 3-0 to move within a point of the Premier League top four and a ticket to the 2020-2021 Champions League.
United, unbeaten in their last 17 matches in all competitions, have 58 points, 1 less than Leicester City and 2 behind third-place Chelsea.
Few would bet against the Red Devils overtaking the Foxes based on recent form, as Leicester have taken only 6 from 18 possible points since the Premier League returned to action last month after being shut down for 100 days by the coronavirus.
Thursday’s defeat leaves Villa 4 points from safety with four games left.
While the visitors set the pace from the opening whistle at Villa Park, their first goal came on a set piece. The referee awarded a penalty for an encounter in the area between Bruno Fernandes and Villa’s Ezri Konsa and the Portuguese converted from the spot.
United went to the dressing room up 2-0 on Mason Greenwood’s goal in the final sequence of first-half stoppage time.
Paul Pogba, who missed most of the pre-pandemic part of the season to injury, made it 3-0 just before the hour mark with his first Premier League goal since April 2019.
And goalkeeper David De Gea celebrated his record-setting 399th match in United colors with a clean sheet. The Spaniard surpassed Danish shot-stopper Peter Schmeichel as the foreign-born player with the most appearances for the club.
Earlier Thursday, Tottenham Hotspur and Bournemouth drew 0-0 in a match that saw Spurs fail to put a shot on target despite their having 60 percent of the ball against a defense that has conceded more goals than all but two other clubs in the Premier League.
The result quashed any remaining hope that Spurs will qualify for Champions League play in 2020-2021. Jose Mourinho’s men are ninth with 49 points and must now set their sights on a Europa League place.
Bournemouth, sitting 18th, could take some satisfaction from ending their losing streak at five games, but they remain 3 points from safety.
Spurs had no trouble getting deep and won a dozen corners, but an attack led by strikers the caliber of Harry Kane and Son Heung-min never tested Cherries goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale.
Callum Wilson appeared to produce a winner for the hosts in the final minute of regulation, only for the goal to be disallowed after a VAR review spotted that the ball brushed the arm of Bournemouth’s Joshua King on the way into the Tottenham net.
The referee added 12 minutes to the 90 after a collision between Cherries defender Adam Smith and Spurs’ Ben Davies left the Bournemouth player on the ground for eight minutes.
Smith, 29, had to receive oxygen, but was alert and talking as the medics carried him off on a stretcher and Bournemouth coach Eddie Howe told reporters later that the player was fine.
In Thursday’s other Premier League contest, visiting Southampton took a 1-0 lead against Everton in the 31st minute on a goal by Danny Ings, his 19th of the season.
Richarlison’s equalizer for the hosts on the edge of half-time turned out to mark the end of the scoring.
Everton, who were flirting with relegation when Carlo Ancelotti became coach last December, remain 11th with 45 points, 1 more than Southampton in the 12th spot. EFE