Premier League grades: Manchester United pass, Tottenham top class
Last Updated: 24/12/18 12:49pm
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer passed with flying colours on his Manchester United managerial debut, but Tottenham top the class in this week's Premier League grades.
United, Liverpool and Arsenal all won over the weekend while Crystal Palace and Leicester pulled off shock victories over Manchester City and Chelsea respectively - before Spurs thumped Everton on Sunday.
Here's how our reporters graded every team's performance...
Tottenham - A+
It has to be top marks for Spurs after a scintillating attacking display against Everton. Mauricio Pochettino's side continued their excellent December by sweeping the Toffees aside at Goodison Park. Heung-Min Son was excellent, with his runs on and off the ball causing Everton constant problems, and Harry Kane could have scored more than just two. If Spurs can maintain their momentum over the festive period they should be in the title mix by the start of 2019.(James Walker-Roberts)
Manchester United - A
This was more like it. A United team that proved very exciting to watch. Whenever they ventured into the final third one of Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford and the unplayable Anthony Martial looked capable of creating problems for the Cardiff backline. After recent dull showings under Jose Mourinho, this was an early Christmas present for the United fans. It should prove a fun period under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. (Lewis Jones)
Crystal Palace - A
For half an hour, Palace were unable to get out of their half and having fallen a goal behind it looked like being a long afternoon for Roy Hodgson's side. However, with City's passing unusually slack, they began to offer a threat on the counter. Counter attacks led to Jeffrey Schlupp's equaliser and the penalty converted by Luka Milivojevic in the second half, while Andros Townsend stunning volley in between deserved to be in a winning cause perhaps more than any other goal this season. (Sam Drury)
Liverpool - A
"I'm sure if we had played a couple of seasons ago here we would have struggled. We have learned from these previous seasons how to play these difficult games and we did it quite well." Dejan Lovren summed it up; a Friday night trip to Molineux in wet conditions might have seen Liverpool slip up in recent years, but on this occasion they didn't look like losing from the moment Mohamed Salah put them ahead in the 18th minute. Virgil van Dijk was commanding alongside Lovren in defence and the Reds closed out victory to enhance their title credentials. (James Walker-Roberts)
Leicester - A
Leicester produced a brilliant display to win at Stamford Bridge for the first time since 2000. In the first half they were defensively resolute to keep Chelsea at bay, then they grew in confidence after Jamie Vardy's 51st-minute goal and could have won by an even greater margin. Full-backs Ben Chilwell and Ricardo Pereira were the standout players but this was an impressive all-round performance from the Foxes. (James Walker-Roberts)
Southampton - A
Before last weekend, the last time Southampton had enjoyed a Premier League victory was back on September 1. Seven days later, they are six points better off, and already looking like a different side under Ralph Hasenhuttl.
They defended manfully in their win over Huddersfield, but in attack they possess a real threat from all angles, with Nathan Redmond finding form at the right time, while in Danny Ings they have found the leading marksmen they have been looking for. Surely the only way is up for Southampton under their new boss. (Pete Hall)
Watford - A
After a near-perfect away performance, Watford are again threatening the European spots. Javi Gracia's side are up to seventh, two points behind Manchester United in sixth following their 2-0 victory at West Ham.
Goals from Troy Deeney and Gerard Deulofeu will grab the headlines but it was the clean sheet, which ended a run of seven consecutive Premier League games in which they failed to record a shutout, that pleased Gracia the most.
They now head into a crucial clash with Chelsea at Vicarage Road on Boxing Day, live on Sky Sports, full of confidence and eyeing another scalp. (Oliver Yew)
Arsenal - B+
It was vital for Arsenal to get back to winning ways against Burnley on Saturday after recent back-to-back defeats across two competitions, and that is exactly what they did.
In truth, Unai Emery's side were always in control against a stubborn - but limited - Burnley side, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's two goals either side of half-time moving the Gunners level on points with fourth-placed Chelsea in the race for next season's Champions League. (Richard Morgan)
Bournemouth - B+
Eddie Howe's side snapped their three-game losing run across all competitions by seeing off Brighton in relatively comfortable fashion, while keeping a clean sheet in the process. The latter was made all the easier due to some top-class saves from goalkeeper Asmir Begovic, who was lauded by team-mate Steve Cook after the game.
However, Wales international David Brooks was the star of the show, producing two fine goals either side of half-time. The first saw the young winger drive through the heart of the visitors' defence before unleashing a low shot past Albion 'keeper Mat Ryan, while the second was a lovely looping header after Lewis Dunk was shown a second yellow card. Now up to eighth, the Cherries have relieved some pressure ahead of challenging trips to Tottenham and Manchester United. (Liam Grace)
Fulham - B-
After defeats in his previous two away games against Chelsea and Manchester United, as well as a 2-0 home reverse to West Ham, Claudio Ranieri needed Fulham to get something at Newcastle and they showed much more resolve in their goalless draw at St James' Park.
The switch to a back three helped. Ranieri got bodies behind the ball and the home side did not have enough to break his team down. The result was Fulham's first clean sheet of the season. It was only a point, and they remain bottom, but this was a start.
Ranieri will need more than this if Fulham are to clamber out of trouble but there were positive signs and they may have now hit upon a system that can pick up points on their travels. (Adam Bate)
Burnley - C+
Burnley's struggles continued at the Emirates on Saturday lunchtime, with the Clarets' latest defeat confirming they will be in the Premier League relegation zone on Christmas Day.
However, similar to their gritty display in the capital the previous weekend, Sean Dyche will have been pleased with how his players performed for long periods at the Emirates.
And had decisions gone their way, then the visitors may even have left north London with an unlikely point. (Richard Morgan)
Newcastle - C+
Rafa Benitez was again left frustrated with the officials in Newcastle's goalless draw against Fulham at St James' Park. In particular, the decision to ignore Kenedy's claim for a penalty when tugged down by Joe Bryan. "We had a penalty appeal that was very clear watching from the linesman's position," Benitez told Sky Sports afterwards.
What Benitez was not so keen to acknowledge was that Newcastle were not impressive. They did not have a shot of any description until Ki Sung-Yueng scuffed a long shot wide in the 36th minute. They became the first team this season not to score against Fulham, but that was no surprise given that Sergio Rico didn't have a save to make in the first half.
The visitors could even have nicked it late on but for a brilliant tackle by Jamaal Lascelles. Newcastle keep picking up points but the signs are that it is going to continue to be a grind. (Adam Bate)
Brighton - C
The Seagulls should be applauded for their first-half showing at the Vitality Stadium, with Yves Bissouma and Lewis Dunk forcing excellent saves from Cherries goalkeeper Asmir Begovic. However, Chris Hughton's team failed to keep pace with their fellow south-coast hosts after the break and the abundance of crosses from the right were disappointingly poor - Solly March and Pascal Gross, in particular, guilty of not utilising the time and space being given to them.
Dunk's second yellow card on 73 minutes was the final nail in the coffin as Bournemouth ran out as 2-0 winners, while Brighton are 13th and face home fixtures against Arsenal and Everton next. (Liam Grace)
Wolves - C
Wolves lacked a cutting edge against Liverpool, failing to make the most of the half-chances they created. They had four shots on target in the first half without really troubling Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson and were then caught out when Salah nipped ahead of his marker to put the visitors ahead. From then on it looked a long way back and Wolves were unable to breach Liverpool's defence. (James Walker-Roberts)
West Ham - C
West Ham went into the game hoping to secure fifth straight Premier League victory but they produced a flat performance in defeat to Watford. Michail Antonio did miss a glorious opportunity to level things up before Gerard Deulofeu's late second sealed Watford's victory but in truth, West Ham, who failed to keep a clean sheet in 10 of their last 11 Premier League home games, will have to improve if they want to get back to winning ways against Southampton on Thursday, live on Sky Sports. (Oliver Yew)
Manchester City - C-
Pep Guardiola's side lost ground in the title race after an unusually sloppy display at home to Crystal Palace. Without hitting the heights of earlier in the season, they were able to take the lead through Ilkay Gundogan. However, after shipping two goals in three minutes to fall behind, City lacked a cutting edge as they tried to respond while their passing was strangely wayward at times.
Not only that, they were vulnerable to the counter-attack, an issue that resulted in the penalty that brought Palace their third. Unsurprisingly, Kevin de Bruyne added a little more creative when he came on and his cross for Gabriel Jesus should have brought City a late equaliser after his mishit cross had halved the deficit. A rare off day for the champions. (Sam Drury)
Huddersfield - D
David Wagner's men at least showed some fight in the second half of their defeat to Southampton, but their woeful performance in the first half earns them a D grade.
Four goals at home all season is nowhere near good enough for a side who have aspirations of remaining in the top flight. Their lack of imagination going forward must be especially worrying to Wagner, with defensive errors also not helping matters down the other end.
Two home games against Newcastle and Southampton represented the perfect opportunity for Huddersfield to pick up some much-needed points, but two defeats is not what the doctor ordered. Huddersfield are in real trouble. (Pete Hall)
Chelsea - D-
For the first half it looked like Chelsea might eventually break down Leicester with their constant pressing and probing. However, their response to falling behind shortly after half-time was surprising. There was no urgency, players were sloppy in possession and Chelsea were not able to build any attacking momentum. Not for the first time there seemed to be an over-reliance on Eden Hazard, who hit the bar in the first half but was often crowded out when he got on the ball. Chelsea need to find more goals and creative spark from elsewhere. (James Walker-Roberts)
Cardiff - D-
This performance may worry a few Cardiff fans. Yes, Manchester United had the bounce factor of a new manager but the way Neil Warnock's team allowed them to surge through them at will made them look like relegation fodder. Despite United playing a very attack-minded game, Cardiff didn't possess the quality in midfield to hurt them. (Lewis Jones)
Everton - E
Everton tried to go toe to toe with Tottenham and came off second best. Even though the Toffees took the lead, they could not cope with Spurs when they attacked. The midfield, missing Idrissa Gueye, was unable to get any control of the game and Richarlison failed to have an impact from the left side. Marco Silva will surely not try to repeat these tactics when the rest of the top six visit Goodison Park in the second half of the season. (James Walker-Roberts)