Manchester United stemmed a run of three consecutive defeats and avenged the recent FA Cup loss to Swansea City with a 2-0 win over the Welsh club on Saturday.
Defeats by Tottenham Hotspur, Swansea and Sunderland had left United at risk of losing four successive games for the first time since 1961, but they blew off the cobwebs with an assured display at Old Trafford.
Antonio Valencia and Danny Welbeck claimed second-half goals to leave United four points outside the Premier League’s top four in seventh place, six days after Swansea had dumped them out of the FA Cup on the same pitch.
Teenage winger Adnan Januzaj was the catalyst for United’s victory and he went close to opening the scoring in the 11th minute with a free-kick that struck the crossbar.
Welbeck also squandered a glorious chance when he bundled wide, but the pressure told early in the second period when Valencia tapped home after Gerhard Tremmel parried a header from Shinji Kagawa.
Januzaj provided the cross for Kagawa and he was also the source of United’s second goal, in the 59th minute, with a centre that was cleared to Patrice Evra, whose first-time shot was deftly flicked home by Welbeck.
Chris Smalling somehow contrived to volley over from a cross by Kagawa, who also had a shot blocked on the line, but while there were no further goals, the rediscovered swagger in United’s play will have been a sight for the sore eyes of their fans.
Earlier, Eden Hazard and Fernando Torres scored two excellent goals as Chelsea won 2-0 at Hull City to climb to the top of the table.
Hazard, who turned 23 on Tuesday, broke the deadlock in the 56th minute at the KC Stadium, gathering a flick from Ashley Cole, evading a pair of defenders, and drilling a shot into the bottom-right corner.
Torres marked his 200th Premier League appearance with a late goal that saw him wriggle past Alex Bruce and slam the ball inside the left-hand post with his left foot.
Victory moved Jose Mourinho’s side into first place above former leaders Arsenal, who visit Aston Villa on Monday, and set them up nicely for next weekend’s home game with United.
Everton climbed back into the Champions League places with a 2-0 victory at home to Norwich City.
Gareth Barry put Everton ahead in the 23rd minute with a fine 20-yard shot that fizzed into the top-right corner, before Kevin Mirallas scored direct from a free-kick on the hour.
Tottenham Hotspur are a point behind Roberto Martinez’s side in fifth place after beating Crystal Palace by the same score at White Hart Lane.
Adam Johnson scored the first hat-trick of his professional career as Sunderland won 4-1 at Fulham to climb off the foot of the table and close to within a point of safety.
Johnson teed up Sunderland’s other goal, for Ki Sung-yueng, with Steve Sidwell replying for the hosts.
West Ham United spoilt Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first home game as Cardiff City manager as goals from Carlton Cole and Mark Noble gave Sam Allardyce’s side a 2-0 win that took them out of the bottom three at their hosts’ expense.
Meanwhile, a 66th-minute strike from captain Adam Lallana earned Southampton a 1-0 win at home to West Bromwich Albion.