Pep Guardiola conceded Manchester City could not live with the pace of Manchester United's attacking players in Saturday's 2-1 derby defeat.

Visitors United constantly exposed their opponents on the counter at the Etihad Stadium, helping them move into a two-goal lead inside the opening half-hour.

Marcus Rashford won and then converted a penalty before Anthony Martial fired in a second after being picked out by Daniel James.

Guardiola talked up United's counter-attacking threat on the eve of the match, but the City head coach has admitted his side ultimately had no answer to the trio.

"I like how my team played," he said at his post-match news conference. "We conceded a little bit more space - not more than usual, but more than last year against United.

"We knew about the pace they have, with James, Martial and Rashford, but sometimes it is not possible to control it."

Nicolas Otamendi pulled a goal back for City five minutes from the end, but there was to be no comeback for the reigning champions as their title hopes were dealt another blow.

"In general, we did what we like," Guardiola added. "We arrived in the final third many, many, many, many times. 

"Unfortunately, we couldn't finish a little bit more, but I like to watch my team. I know nobody agrees but I like it."

Third-place City are now 14 points adrift of leaders Liverpool, who beat Bournemouth 3-0 earlier on Saturday, and travel to Arsenal for their next league outing.

The home loss means Guardiola has the lowest points tally after 16 games of a season in his senior coaching career, but he is not surprised by the drop-off in form since last term.

"Sometimes it happens," he added. "Sometimes you don't win and the others are better and you lose. Normal is not winning the league always, sometimes you lose.

"It is important not to give up and try to do what we do as a team. All the games we play a season we play the game I want my team to play. 

"After that, the counter-attacks, the final third, when we struggle in some departments okay, it's part of the process. Maybe next season we will be better."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hailed Fred's star performance after Manchester United won 2-1 away to rivals Manchester City in the Premier League.

Goals from Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial set up victory at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday, with Nicolas Otamendi's late reply proving only a consolation for the champions.

A fourth league defeat of the season leaves City 14 points behind runaway leaders Liverpool, while United are a further eight points back despite securing successive wins.

Fred's form has improved in recent weeks after some strong criticism for much of his United career, and he shone against champions City, who had also reportedly been interested in signing him from Shakhtar Donetsk.

The 26-year-old's display was particularly noteworthy given he was part of an unsavoury incident in the second half, in which he was hit by a missile thrown from the crowd and appeared to be subjected to alleged racist abuse.

"[He was] Arguably man of the match today," Solskjaer told reporters of the Brazil international. 

"He took the ball, he's playing against Kevin De Bruyne, probably the best player in the league and I thought he was excellent.

"It's great to see it; the boy deserves it. But when you get a run and keep the team together, Scott [McTominay] and Fred have made a great partnership."

The game was overshadowed by those second-half scenes when United had won a corner, with Fred hit after several items were thrown to the pitch, while he and team-mate Jesse Lingard appeared to be targeted by abuse.

City and Greater Manchester Police have confirmed they are working together to investigate the incident, while Solskjaer called for a life ban from football grounds for any individual found guilty of such an offence.

Rashford was among the players to speak out over the incident, with United captain Ashley Young also posting on Twitter: "Should never have to post anything like this because I'd have thought it's obvious but racism has no place in football or society.

"Kudos to Man City for the swift statement, I hope the individual is properly dealt with."

The Fred incident will make the headlines, but Solskjaer was keen to highlight United's first-half display and the importance of holding on for a victory.

"I was so happy with the way we started the game," Solskjaer said. "The way we created big chances, we looked like we could score every time we had the ball.

"And the intent was there to go forward, every time we had the ball. It's not about keeping it or slowing it down; we go for the kill and should have been three or four-nil up.

"But then again, you're playing against the best team in the world, so you have to defend well.

"I think the way we had to prepare for this game, because you follow this team for three years, and they're so hard to defend against because they're so good, I'm very pleased with how they dealt with everything, our boys."

Pep Guardiola vowed Manchester City would not surrender in the Premier League title race despite falling 14 points behind leaders Liverpool.

A 2-1 home defeat to neighbours Manchester United leaves City not only adrift of Jurgen Klopp's pace-setters but also three points shy of second-placed Leicester City, who have a game in hand.

City must string together victory after victory and hope for a Liverpool collapse to stand any hope of defending their crown.

Although a City charge to glory is unlikely, manager Guardiola is not giving up hope - but nor does he want to become overly occupied by the situation.

"It's not time to think about [the title race]," Guardiola told Sky Sports.

"We have to think about what we have to do and think about the next game. It doesn't matter if it's six points, eight or 14, we have to continue. We are a fantastic team."

City were swamped by United's attacking waves in the first half-hour at the Etihad Stadium, where a tormented home crowd saw their side concede a Marcus Rashford penalty and a precise Anthony Martial strike.

Rashford missed one good chance and struck the bar, while Jesse Lingard and Martial also could have added to United's early haul.

The visitors were as impressive in that period as City were abject, yet Guardiola stood up for his players, who improved as the game went on.

Nicolas Otamendi headed City back into it with five minutes of regulation time to play, and moments later, Riyad Mahrez drew a fine save from David de Gea.

Former Barcelona coach Guardiola said: "We conceded three or four counter-attacks during the first half. They were clinical.

"I am more than happy with our performance. We pushed them, we created chances. In general, I am happy with the performance. There are regrets.

"I know who we are as a team. I am delighted to work with these guys. We tried and tried in the second half. Unfortunately, we scored late and could not turn the result."

Marcus Rashford believes racism has become a "big negative" in the United Kingdom after Manchester United players appeared to be targets of discriminatory abuse in Saturday's derby, while Gary Neville pointed the finger at politicians for creating such a climate.

United claimed a 2-1 win that left rivals Manchester City's title defence in tatters, but the contest was marred by an incident in the second half.

While waiting to take a corner, several projectiles were thrown from a section of the Etihad Stadium crowd towards Fred, who was hit by one object.

During the same break in play, one fan appeared to make racist gestures towards the midfielder, with United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer later calling for a lifetime ban for anyone found to have abused Fred or Jesse Lingard, who was nearby.

City confirmed they are working with police to investigate the incident and said they will issue life bans to anyone found guilty of racial behaviour.

Rashford – who was targeted with racist social media comments earlier in the season – rued the frequency at which such incidents are occurring in the country.

"We seem to be speaking about it an awful lot over the last six to eight months," Rashford told the BBC. "Even speaking about it now is not nice.

"The necessary departments need to do the right things to stop it in the game. It is a big negative in the sport and the country."

Former United captain Neville, now a television pundit, suggested part of the blame lies with politicians and pointed to comments about immigration in a pre-election debate as a possible way in which discriminatory behaviour is fuelled.

"You're watching the debate last night [Friday] where the prime minister is talking about immigration, people coming into this country and having to have certain levels - it fuels it [racism] all the time," Neville said on Sky Sports.

Manchester City are working with police to investigate allegations of racial abuse after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said two Manchester United players were targeted in the derby.

During the second half of United's 2-1 win at the Etihad Stadium, the visitors' midfielder Fred seemed to be hit by an object thrown from the crowd as he prepared to take a corner.

Lighters and a plastic bottle could be seen by the corner flag while television footage appeared to show a supporter making racist gestures in the direction of Brazil international Fred and his team-mate Jesse Lingard.

Shortly after full-time, City released a statement saying they were investigating and threatened to issue life bans to any individual found to have committed racial abuse.

"Manchester City FC are aware of a video circulating on social media which appears to show a supporter making racial gestures during the second half of the match against Manchester United this evening," their statement read.

"Officials from the club are working with Greater Manchester Police in order to help them identify any individuals concerned and assist with their enquiries.

"The club are also working with GMP regarding an instance of objects being thrown onto the field of play.
 
"The club operates a zero-tolerance policy regarding discrimination of any kind, and anyone found guilty of racial abuse will be banned from the club for life."

Solskjaer confirmed he had seen the incident and he too called for anyone found guilty of such abuse to be banned from grounds for life.

"I've seen it on video, of course," he told Sky Sports.

"Fred and Jesse in the corner taking coins from the City fans, first of all, so they've got to go away. Then there's this not-so-intelligent fella chanting racist abuse towards my two players.

"I hope City and the authorities will deal with it because he shouldn't be watching football again, not live anyway.

"We have to stamp it out. We keep talking about that every single week and it's not acceptable and he should not be allowed back into grounds. That's how simple it is."

Lingard tweeted after the match in response to footage of the alleged incident, saying: "Not even this idiot can ruin tonight's feeling, shameful behaviour, it may be the derby but there is never ever a reason to be racist!"

Anti-racism and discrimination organisation Kick It Out said it had "been inundated with reports of alleged racist abuse from a number of individuals" and called for "swift action" to identify those responsible.

City boss Pep Guardiola added that he supported his club's pledge to take action.

"I think the same as the club," he told Sky Sports.

"I support the club. We are going to work to avoid it happening again."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer saw Manchester United produce a terrific derby victory and said that was how he had always envisaged his team playing.

Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial fired United to a 2-1 win over Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.

Solskjaer told Sky Sports News: "It's a Man United performance in my mould - I love the boys going forward when there's a chance."

It was a display comparable at times to how Alex Ferguson's great sides could pick apart defences at will, but Solskjaer is adamant this is a team of his own design.

After a slow start to the season, his United have come alive over the past week, deservedly beating Jose Mourinho's Tottenham on Wednesday before crossing Manchester to pick off their neighbours.

Their pace in attack left Pep Guardiola's City players standing at times, while Scott McTominay and Fred were impressive in anchoring the midfield.

And Solskjaer was quick to point out their 2-0 lead after half an hour was far from flattering.

He described the display as "fantastic", saying: "At the start of the game, we were exceptional, attacking every time we got the ball. It looked like we could carve them open every time.

"We could have, should have been three, four, five up, really. That's testament to the boys because they played so well.

"We were playing against, for me, the best coach in the world, the best team. It's so hard to play against them, players coming from everywhere, every angle.

"We were brilliant in the first half, especially. First half an hour, excellent. Some great, quick, attacking football.

"It wasn't just the direct ball or long ball. It was on the floor, quick transitions. I'm so pleased for the boys - they deserve it."

Solskjaer, whose job looked to be under threat only a week ago, added: "Of course, there's a time today when we don't keep the ball as well as we could have. But we're away at the best team in the world, for me.

"We're improving all the time. The boys are getting experiences to remember."

As the Christmas season unofficially began on December 1, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looked anything but merry.

Manchester United had been held to a 2-2 draw at home by promoted Aston Villa and the Red Devils' performance was utterly rancid for much of the game. Solskjaer appeared helpless at full-time.

Ahead of a particularly bleak run of mid-winter fixtures, reports suggested Solskjaer could join Santa in expecting to be burdened with the sack for Christmas. Two games to save his job, some said, with Mauricio Pochettino looming large.

Those two matches; Jose Mourinho's Tottenham and Manchester City in the derby – it wasn't the sleigh bells that were ringing. 

Some might have been content with two points, yet they've managed to take six and left City's title defence in tatters after a 2-1 win over the champions.

Much of the build-up was dominated by 'we're back' talk among both sets of supporters. City had crushed Burnley comprehensively, while United produced arguably their best display under Solskjaer in a 2-1 win over Tottenham.

Saturday's performance left no such room for argument – it was undoubtedly the greatest of his tenure. 

So much of the Norwegian's time at the helm has been mired by worryingly erratic form – one week they barely manage to salvage a draw against Villa, showing a concerning lack of desire, and then follow that up with a genuinely laudable performance at home to a resurgent Spurs.

Such inconsistency has understandably led to questions over Solskjaer's game-management, with United frequently struggling against opposition that sit back despite boasting a solid record of only two defeats in 11 meetings with 'big-six' opponents and Leicester City before the derby.

Solskjaer did little wrong on Saturday, however.

A devastating first half an hour showed just how good this United team can be, particularly going forward.

The fluid front three of Daniel James, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial was electric, while the much-maligned Jesse Lingard showed the kind of technique and drive not seen from him for a long, long time.

United's strengths are by no means a secret – they are blessed with immense pace in attack and are at their best hitting teams on the counter.

City fell into a trap entirely of United's making.

The midfield pair of Scott McTominay and Fred sat extremely deep, while the front four also dropped well back, essentially becoming a second midfield. As such, the gap between United's defence and attack was often minimal, allowing them to break as a unit.

The dynamism and agility of United's attack was plain to see for both goals – firstly Rashford driving into the box and winning the penalty that he converted, before James and Martial linked for the Frenchman's well-worked goal.

But United's effectiveness was about more than just three players running really, really fast. Defensively they had several players who were imperious.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka dealt with Raheem Sterling impressively, making five tackles and seven clearances in a fine display, while McTominay was similarly impressive. The Scotland international won possession back via three tackles, three interceptions and came out on top in 81.3 per cent of the 16 duels he was involved in.

Added to that, Fred enjoyed his best match for United, creating two chances and showing a general awareness that could rarely be associated with the Brazilian previously. On this evidence, you can begin to understand why Pep Guardiola had been so keen to bring him to City.

City's second-half desperation predictably saw United come under pressure and, for a moment it looked like the Red Devils would yet again cave and throw away a lead after Nicolas Otamendi pulled one back.

But it wasn't to be.

While reservations over Solskjaer's suitability for the role will remain as long as his team continue to falter against teams they should beat, there's no doubt in his ability to squeeze every last drop out of his players in the big games.

And in the biggest of matches, United rose to the occasion to leave City 14 points adrift of the summit, their title hopes torn to shreds like so much festive wrapping paper. 

Is Pep Guardiola losing his touch?

Saturday's 2-1 loss at home to bitter rivals Manchester United left the Manchester City manager with his lowest points tally after 16 games of a season.

The defeat at the Etihad Stadium leaves City 14 points off the searing pace set by runaway Premier League leaders Liverpool, who won at Bournemouth earlier in the day.

City, champions in each of the past two seasons, now seem unlikely to make it three in a row and ex-Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss Guardiola has never collected a lower points tally at this stage of a campaign.

His side have lost four times in 16 league games, leaving them with 32 points on the board.

In further grim news for Guardiola, no team have ever come back from 14 points behind at the end of a matchday to win the English top-flight title. 

Jose Mourinho compared Son Heung-min's solo strike in Tottenham's 5-0 win against Burnley to a famous goal scored by Brazil legend Ronaldo.

Son picked up the ball just outside his own 18-yard box, took on several opposition players and fired past Nick Pope to steal the show in Saturday's one-sided affair.

The mazy run and finish was described by former Tottenham striker Gary Lineker as the goal of the season, while Mourinho saw similarities to the stunning individual effort by then-Barcelona star Ronaldo against Compostela in 1996.

Mourinho was assistant to Barca coach Bobby Robson at the time of that incredible strike and has since described Ronaldo as "the best player I'd ever seen take to the field".

The Tottenham coach revealed on Saturday that Son had already earned a new nickname in the Mourinho household coming into the Burnley game.

"It is a tremendous goal. Even before this goal, my son calls him 'Sonaldo' after Ronaldo Luis Nazario," Mourinho said at his post-match news conference. 

"The only thing that comes to my mind is the goal when I had the honour of being next to Sir Bobby Robson when Ronaldo scored a wonderful goal.

"From the outside, I had a feeling. I remember speaking to Sir Alex [Ferguson] about Park Ji-sung. Maybe it's a cultural thing. These players are very coachable. The kid is fantastic. I'm very happy, so happy."

Harry Kane scored twice in the Burnley rout, while Lucas Moura and Moussa Sissoko were also on target as Spurs made it 16 goals scored in five matches under Mourinho.

Four of those games have ended in victory, with Tottenham closing to within six points of the Premier League's top four and already through to the last 16 of the Champions League ahead of their midweek clash with Bayern Munich.

Mourinho plans to leave out Kane for the trip to Bavaria, but 17-year-old striker Troy Parrott could make an appearance after being handed his Premier League debut as a late substitute against Burnley.

"Today he played in the Premier League at the age of 17," Mourinho said. "Will he play against Bayern Munich? I don't know. All I can say is Harry Kane won't. Who plays, we'll see.

"This was a perfect day for us - no injuries, a clean sheet, goals, perfect football, kids coming on for their first Premier League football. Finally, the boys get a day off tomorrow that I've not been able to give them yet."

Burnley fell to 13th after a third defeat in a row, and manager Sean Dyche acknowledged the past week had been a reality check for his side.

"We've given the ball away five times and they've scored five goals," he told reporters. "It's unlike us, even against these good sides, to give the ball away so often, and it's been a tough day.

"We've shown we can play against these sort of teams and make life awkward, and we have to get back to that.

"We didn't start with that edge you need and it's been a week of reality for us, but we know there's a huge gulf in this league when the big teams are on it, so for us now it's onwards and upwards."

Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah is finally back to "100 per cent" fitness, according to manager Jurgen Klopp.

The Egypt international scored the final goal of Liverpool's 3-0 win over Bournemouth as they clocked up their 15th victory out of 16 Premier League fixtures this term.

It was Salah's 63rd strike in his 100th Premier League appearance, and only three players - Alan Shearer (79), Ruud van Nistelrooy (68) and Sergio Aguero (64) - have bettered that tally in their first century of games.

Salah had been struggling with an ankle problem since a clash with Leicester City's Hamza Choudhury back in October, but Klopp is confident the player is now fully fit.

"He looks now 100 per cent," Klopp said in his post-match news conference after the win over the Cherries.

"It's long ago that he got that knock, but you carry things like this with you when have game after game after game. Mo was absolutely strong."

Meanwhile, Klopp urged his Liverpool defence to follow up their first clean sheet in 14 games in all competitions with another when they play in a crunch Champions League match next week.

European champions Liverpool head to Salzburg, where they know a point will be enough to return to the last 16.

Klopp added: "I forgot how a clean sheet feels, to be honest. It's great, we should have them more often. 

"It was the most-used word in the dressing room by the boys, 'clean sheet, clean sheet, clean sheet'. Obviously, everybody was desperate for that. Now we have it, so let's have it more often. 

"The next game where a clean sheet would be useful is already around the corner - against Salzburg on Tuesday."

Bournemouth have been beaten in each of their past five games, and Cherries boss Eddie Howe lamented the loss of two more players from his already injury-stricken squad.

Defender Nathan Ake and striker Callum Wilson were both taken off with apparent hamstring injuries and will be assessed by the club's medical team over the next few days.

"The squad is stretched," Howe said. "It is there to cope with the injuries, but the difficulty for us is we are getting injuries but not getting players back.

"The mentality of the group is strong but damaged in confidence. We can always do better. We can always question ourselves and say we could have done better, but the quality of the opposition was very strong."

Jurgen Klopp said a first clean sheet in 14 games meant Liverpool's 3-0 win over Bournemouth on Saturday was a "perfect" peformance.

Klopp's side cruised to an emphatic victory over the Cherries thanks to goals from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Naby Keita and Mohamed Salah.

It was Liverpool's 15th Premier League win of the season and put them 11 points clear at the top of the table, although that gap will be cut to eight should Leicester City beat Aston Villa on Sunday.

However, the manner of Liverpool's first shutout in all competitions since a 1-0 win over Sheffield United on September 29 particularly pleased the German.

"It was a professional performance, controlled, scoring wonderful goals. It was a perfect game," Klopp told the BBC's Match Of The Day.

"We didn't want to make it overly exciting again so we wanted to control Bournemouth.

"The most used word in the dressing room at the moment is clean sheet – finally! There were wonderful performances; it was a really good game for a lot of players.

"We asked is it possible to enjoy all these games. The answer is 'yes'. 

"There will be moments especially between the games where we have to switch the machine off, then we really can recover. And then switch it on again and have to be there."

The only sour note for the Reds was an injury to centre-back Dejan Lovren, who limped out in the first half, but Klopp is optimistic the Croatia international's injury was not a serious one.

"Lovren was hopefully cramp," Klopp said. "We didn't want to take any risks, but apart from that it was all round nearly perfect day.

"We have only three days and play Salzburg in an all-or-nothing game. It is the next big game for us."

Jordan Henderson helped a much-changed Liverpool to a 3-0 win over Bournemouth and then claimed it is "easy" for the unbeaten Premier League leaders to maintain their good form due to their squad depth.

Jurgen Klopp made seven changes from the side that beat Everton 5-2 on Wednesday and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Naby Keita and Mohamed Salah – three of those who came in – were all on target.

The victory, the Reds' 15th out of 16 in the division this season, ensured they will end the day 11 points clear at the top of the table.

With Klopp shuffling his pack at the start of a gruelling run of games, Henderson was asked whether it was difficult to maintain momentum when such wholesale changes are made.

"When you've got so many good players, it's easy," the Reds captain said.

"They've been working every single day, not only the people that might have played a lot of games. People might want more game time but in training the intensity is always high, everyone's pushing each other, and I think the lads that have come in have been outstanding.

"We need to use the whole squad. The manager has said all the way through the season there's going to be a lot of games, so we need everybody and that's proven the case so far. We need to keep that going right until the end."

Liverpool also recorded their first clean sheet since September in the league, with Bournemouth unable to muster a single shot on target against returning goalkeeper Alisson.

"It's a start but one's no good, we want more and more and more," Henderson added.

"I thought it was a proper performance, both defensively and offensively.

"We'll be happy with that, but we want to improve, want to keep going and onto the next game."

Son Heung-min said he had little choice but to go on a 90-yard solo run for his remarkable goal in Tottenham's thumping 5-0 win against Burnley.

Tottenham were two goals to the good when the South Korea international picked up the ball on the edge of his own area, carried it to the opposition box and slotted past Nick Pope.

Son had Dele Alli to his left and Lucas Moura to his right, but he elected to go it alone for one of the goals of the season.

"When I got the ball, I tried to pass it to Dele but I couldn't find him, so I had to keep going," he told Sky Sports. "I am happy to score this goal.

"It was brilliant today. We created chances and were clinical. We deserved the three points. It was an unbelievable performance."

Son also set up Harry Kane's early opener and has now been directly involved in 15 goals in 15 appearances at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Kane went on to score another goal, while Lucas and Moussa Sissoko were also on target in a dominant home display, but the skipper reserved special praise for Son.

"Sonny stole the show today. It was an unbelievable goal and a great counter-attack," Kane said.

"All he wants to do is work hard and play for the team. He has great quality and works hard for the team. All round, it was a top performance."

Tottenham suffered a first defeat under Jose Mourinho in Wednesday's trip to Manchester United and Kane was delighted to see his side bounce back in style.

"Whenever you play bad in a big game like the Manchester United one, you can't wait for the next game and for the whistle to start," he added.

"You saw that today: we pressed quickly and took our chance."

December: The month Liverpool's Premier League title bid is supposed to come off the tracks.

Yet here we are, seven advent calendar chocolates down, numerous Christmas parties already in the books, and Jurgen Klopp's Reds keep adding to their own Carry On series: Carry On Winning.

The 5-2 victory over Everton on Wednesday was their first of nine games in 26 days across the final month of the year. A festive schedule so packed it might rival the Radio Times' bumper Christmas edition.

How would a squad perceived to be weaker than rivals Manchester City's group cope with such a haul? One that includes two games in as many days, in countries 3,000 miles apart.

The early indications are they will be just fine.

Divock Origi and Xherdan Shaqiri came in and scored three of Liverpool's five goals against Everton. Neither kept their place on Saturday as Klopp rolled the dice again by making seven changes.

Three of those who came in - Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Naby Keita and Mohamed Salah - scored the goals in a 3-0 success over the Cherries, who have now lost their past five Premier League games against Liverpool by an aggregate score of 17-0.

Oxlade-Chamberlain, on target in the Premier League for the first time since January 2018, and Keita became the 15th and 16th outfield players to score for the Reds in the division this term. Liverpool have used just 19, including teenager Curtis Jones, who came on for his Premier League debut 14 minutes from time.

There was a time when Klopp would not have felt as comfortable making such wholesale changes.

Players like Dominic Solanke, who failed to impress for Bournemouth on Saturday, were simply not able to replicate the performances of the men ahead of them in the pecking order when they came in. It was why sustained title challenges never materialised. Now - with Liverpool ending the day 11 points clear - it feels different.

Even without the injured Joel Matip and Fabinho, with Trent Alexander-Arnold, top scorer Sadio Mane and Origi only in reserve to begin with, with Dejan Lovren coming off with a problem, Liverpool did not miss a beat.

The most impressive performer was Salah, which has not always been the case in 2019-20.

The Egyptian had scored just once since the end of October but appeared refreshed and revitalised having had Wednesday night off.

It was his delicious backheel assist that took out three Bournemouth players and teed up Keita for the second, with the roles then reversed for a game-sealing third after the break.

Of course, sterner tests than out-of-sorts Everton and Bournemouth lie in wait, including a crucial Champions League encounter with Salzburg on Tuesday and a top-of-the-table tussle at Leicester City on Boxing Day.

Yet this is a Liverpool side boasting greater strength in depth, one equipped for a flurry of festive fixtures across four competitions.

Surely only the grinches can confidently predict December will be Liverpool's undoing this time around?

Watford ended a run of three successive Premier League defeats, but Hayden Mullins' brief spell as interim manager concluded without a victory as Crystal Palace held them to a 0-0 draw.

The Hornets confirmed Nigel Pearson as their new manager on Friday, but he watched from the stands as Palace left Vicarage Road with a hard-earned point.

A first half of few chances was only notable for Wilfried Zaha's display, as the Ivory Coast international was involved in a couple of flashpoints, seemingly angering his manager Roy Hodgson.

Watford dominated after the interval, with Gerard Deulofeu going close before substitute Ismaila Sarr enjoyed a lively cameo, failing to convert two decent opportunities.

Palace held on, and Zaha – who continued to get caught up in off-the-ball tussles – somewhat surprisingly managed to avoid earning a second yellow card, as Watford remain bottom and the visitors move above Manchester United into seventh for at least a few hours.

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