Big-name players not missed
With their top strikers absent, there were concerns that Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur could stumble in their push for Champions League qualification from the English Premier League. No need to worry. United defied the absence of the suspended Zlatan Ibrahimovic — and fatigue because of its hectic fixture schedule — to beat relegation-threatened Middlesbrough 3-1 away in a match that ended with player bustups on and off the field.
Tottenham have lost top scorer Harry Kane for up to five weeks because of injury and the team’s attacking midfielders stepped up to fill the void, with Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli scoring in a 2-1 win over Southampton. It was Spurs’ 10th straight victory at home in the league.
With fellow top-four contenders Manchester City and Liverpool drawing 1-1 in an end-to-end game of numerous chances at Etihad Stadium, the race to finish in the top four behind likely champion Chelsea is too close to call.
Tottenham are second, 10 points behind Chelsea and two points ahead of City. Liverpool are a point further back in fourth and four clear of fifth-placed United, who have two games in hand.
United have finished each of the last 19 weeks in sixth place in the Premier League, but finally climbed a spot with a win at the Riverside Stadium which was overshadowed by bust-ups on and off the field around the final whistle.
In stoppage time, tempers flared when Middlesbrough’s Rudy Gestede and United’s Eric Bailly grappled with each other. Players from both teams piled in. The pushing and shoving continued in the tunnel after the match, with Bailly and team-mate Ashley Young looking particularly aggrieved.