Liverpool and Manchester United enjoyed breezy victories in the English Premier League on Sunday, Liverpool returning to second place by outclassing Tottenham Hotspur 5-0 and United sinking Aston Villa 3-0.
United, at risk of losing three successive games since 2001, were dominant at Villa Park.
A quick-fire brace from Danny Welbeck put United in control early and they added a further goal through Tom Cleverley to close within 10 points of leaders Arsenal.
Victory left the champions seven points below the Champions League positions in eighth place, but it was a timely win for manager David Moyes after a desperate run of four games without victory.
“It was a good job from us,” Moyes told Sky Sports.
“The players did well and the only thing I would criticise is that we didn’t score more goals.
“We were a bit sloppy in the first five minutes but, after that, we played really well.”
England forward Welbeck, deputising for the injured Robin van Persie, 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, they scored another goal, with Antonio Valencia crossing for the sliding Welbeck to score.
With Wayne Rooney playing his 500th club game, Cleverley added a third in the 52nd minute.
United celebrated a milestone later in the game when Darren Fletcher came on to make his first appearance after a year out with a chronic bowel condition.
Having seen Manchester City, Chelsea and Everton move above them on Saturday, Liverpool returned to second after thrashing 10-man Tottenham at White Hart Lane.
Stand-in captain Luis Suarez put Liverpool ahead in the 18th minute when he took the ball past Michael Dawson and Kyle Walker before curling home a low shot.
Philippe Coutinho hit the bar, Glen Johnson shot just over and Hugo Lloris blocked from Suarez before Jordan Henderson doubled the visitors’ lead in the 40th minute.
Lloris stood up to save from Henderson and then blocked Suarez’s follow-up, but he was beaten at the third attempt as the former Sunderland midfielder crashed a volley into the bottom right corner.
Spurs’ Paulinho was sent off in the 63rd minute for catching Suarez in the chest with his foot.
Full-back Jon Flanagan made it 3-0, slamming a difficult half-volley off the bar and into the net from Suarez’s cross, and Suarez added a fourth with a delicate lob before teeing up Raheem Sterling for the fifth.
Liverpool move two points behind leaders Arsenal and above third-placed Chelsea on goal difference, with Spurs five points below the Champions League places after a first defeat in four league games.
Swansea City drew 1-1 at Norwich City in a match overshadowed by goalscorer Nathan Dyer being carried off on a stretcher and taken to hospital with a suspected fractured ankle.