London: Manchester United returned to winning ways after three straight defeats with a 2-0 Premier League home victory over Swansea City on Saturday, avenging last week’s FA Cup loss to the Welsh club.
Without strikers Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie, United laboured before halftime, but Antonio Valencia and Danny Welbeck scored early in the second half to calm any jitters. United remained in seventh place with 37 points from 21 games, nine points behind leaders Chelsea.
Victory was a relief for manager David Moyes, who has come under intense scrutiny after a woeful start to the year which has included a league defeat by Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford, the FA Cup home reverse to Swansea and a midweek loss at Sunderland in the first leg of the League Cup semi-final.
Earlier, Eden Hazard and Fernando Torres applied the gloss to Chelsea’s workmanlike 2-0 victory at Hull City.
In true Jose Mourinho style, Chelsea first nullified the minimal threat posed by Hull, then cut through at will after the break when classy goals by Hazard and Torres earned the Blues a fourth consecutive league victory.
Mourinho’s side have 46 points, one more than Arsenal and two more than Manchester City.
“Do we like to be leaders? Yes, we like, but maybe we are second on Sunday and maybe Monday we are third,” Mourinho said. “The important thing is that we all know we are going in the right direction.”
Everton are also on the up, rising to fourth with 41 points courtesy of a 2-0 home win over Norwich City and Tottenham Hotspur have 40 in fifth after beating Crystal Palace 2-0.
With Sunderland winning 4-1 at Fulham and West Ham United 2-0 at Cardiff City, Palace now prop up the table.
New West Bromwich Albion manager Pepe Mel watched his new club lose 0-1 at Southampton.
Chelsea enjoyed a largely stress-free Saturday lunchtime in Hull with Hazard providing the spark throughout.
He fired a low shot home 10 minutes after the break and Spain striker Torres marked his 200th Premier League appearance with a clinical late strike.
A thoroughly satisfying day for Mourinho also witnessed goalkeeper Petr Cech set a new club record of 209 clean sheets, 150 of them in the Premier League.
Cech was barely troubled as he edged in front of Peter Bonetti, his only save of note coming from Jake Livermore’s swerving effort before halftime. Without setting the league on fire, Chelsea are beginning to hit top gear at just the right time, churning out wins and clean sheets as they did in Mourinho’s first stint.
“Today we had the extra pressure of not losing the chance to be top even for a few hours. I feel the team are improving step by step, all the players are stable and the young players are improving, you can feel the evolution in the team.”