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Schalke’s Christian Fuchs jumps for the ball between Freiburg’s defense during the German Bundesliga soccer match between FC Schalke 04 and SC Freiburg in Gelsenkirchen, Germany
Man United stop rot; Reds ‘swamp’ Spurs Swansea City, Norwich draw 1-1

LONDON, Dec 15, (AFP): Manchester United returned to winning ways after consecutive home defeats in the Premier League with a breezy and much-needed 3-0 victory at Aston Villa on Sunday. Beaten by Everton and Newcastle United in their previous two league outings, United were at risk of losing three successive games for the first time since 2001, but they were dominant at Villa Park. A quick-fire brace from Danny Welbeck put United in control after only 18 minutes and they added a further goal through Tom Cleverley as they closed to within 10 points of leaders Arsenal. Victory left the champions six points below the Champions League positions in eighth place, but this was a timely win for manager David Moyes after a desperate run of four games without victory. Marc Albrighton worked United goalkeeper David de Gea twice in the early stages but a pair of goals from Welbeck put United in command.

Deputising for the injured Robin van Persie, the England forward broke the deadlock in the 15th minute when he slammed home after Adnan Januzaj had headed against the post from a Rafael da Silva cross. Villa were unable to contain United’s right-sided players and three minutes later the visitors scored another goal from that flank, with Antonio Valencia crossing for the sliding Welbeck to score. Wayne Rooney, playing in his 500th club game, and Welbeck both went close to extending United’s lead before Cleverley added a third in the 52nd minute with a first-time finish from Rooney’s pass.

Liverpool 5, Spurs 0
In London, Luis Suarez continued his prolific form with a double in Liverpool’s impressive 5-0 Premier League demolition of Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane on Sunday that lifted Brendan Rodgers’ side back up to second place. The Uruguayan got the 16th and 17th goals of his late-starting season — more than powderpuff Spurs have managed as a team. Jordan Henderson, Jon Flanagan and Raheem Sterling also scored as Spurs, who had Brazilian midfielder Paulhino sent off for a high challenge on Suarez after 63 minutes, capitulated. Liverpool moved above Chelsea on goal difference, two points behind leaders Arsenal who have 35 points from 16 games. England striker Danny Welbeck made the most of a rare start for Manchester United with a first-half double in a 3-0 win at Aston Villa as the champions ended a run of four Premier League games without victory. Nathan Dyer scored for Swansea City but suffered a suspected fractured right ankle in the 1-1 draw at Norwich City. Norwich earned a point thanks to Gary Hooper’s spectacular volley in first-half stoppage time.

Swansea 1, Norwich 1
In Norwich, Swansea City’s Nathan Dyer scored but was then stretchered off with a serious ankle injury as his side drew 1-1 at Norwich City in the Premier League on Sunday. The 26-year-old winger put Swansea ahead with a 12th-minute lob, but after he was carried off later in the first half, Gary Hooper struck with a glorious volley to earn the home side a share of the points. Swansea subsequently published a statement on Twitter revealing that Dyer had been taken to hospital with a “suspected fractured ankle”. The draw meant that Swansea remained in 10th place, while Norwich, who would have leapfrogged their opponents with victory, climbed one position to 14th. Norwich were unchanged from the team that won 2-0 at West Bromwich Albion last weekend, while Swansea manager Michael Laudrup made eight changes to the team that had lost to St Gallen in the Europa League on Thursday.

Michu was among the players who came into the visitors’ starting XI, in place of Wilfried Bony, and after Pablo Hernandez had shot wide in the early stages, Swansea took the lead. Dyer belied his diminutive stature by beating Sebastien Bassong to a high ball from Swansea skipper Ashley Williams and then beat exposed Norwich goalkeeper John Ruddy with a measured lob. Michu could have made it 2-0 when he fired over from a Ben Davies cut-back, but Norwich showed notice of their intent when Hooper picked Williams’s pocket, only to shoot off-target. There followed the injury to Dyer that seemed to rob Swansea of their momentum, with the winger stretchered off and given oxygen after his ankle buckled in a duel with Bassong. Norwich were quick to exploit the visitors’ vulnerability, with Williams heading a shot off the line before Hooper equalised in the fourth minute of first-half stoppage time.

                P    W    D    L    F    FA    PTS
Arsenal    16    11    2    3    33    17    35
Liverpool    16    10    3    3    39    18    33
Chelsea    16    10    3    3    32    18    33
Man City    16    10    2    4    47    18    32
Everton    16    8    7    1    27    15    31
Newcastle    16    8    3    5    21    22    27
Tottenham    16    8    3    5    15    21    27
Man Utd    16    7    4    5    25    19    25
Southampton    16    6    6    4    20    15    24
Swansea    16    5    5    6    22    21    20
Aston Villa    16    5    4    7    16    21    19
Hull    16    5    4    7    13    19    19
Stoke    16    4    6    6    15    20    18
Norwich    16    5    3    8    15    29    18
Cardiff    16    4    5    7    12    22    17
West Brom    16    3    6    7    17    22    15
West Ham    16    3    5    8    13    19    14
Crystal Palace    16    4    1    11    11    24    13
Fulham    16    4    1    11    15    30    13
Sunderland    16    2    3    11    12    30    9

Note: Standings read as Played, Won, Draw, Lost, Goals For, Goals Against and Points

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