Tottenham Hotspur kept Chelsea just about within their sights at the top of the Premier League late on Sunday by beating Southampton 2-1 and Manchester United improved their prospects by moving into fifth place with a 3-1 victory at Middlesbrough.
Both clubs would then have been happy enough to watch Manchester City and Liverpool drop points by drawing 1-1 with each other, even though City manager Pep Guardiola unexpectedly described it as one of the best days of his coaching career.
His fierce Manchester rival Jose Mourinho was equally delighted with United. Before the match, Mourinho had deliberately played down his team’s chances at struggling Middlesbrough because of injuries, suspensions and fixture congestion.
“The guys gave absolutely everything, they were magnificent,” he said after goals by Marouane Fellaini, Jesse Lingard and Antonio Valencia moved United above Everton and Arsenal to their highest position for six months.
Middlesbrough were left in the bottom three, with crucial games to come away to Swansea City and Hull City after the international break.
Steve Agnew, temporary manager since Aitor Karanka was sacked on Thursday, said he was proud of them, however, and would like the job on a permanent basis.
There were two other happy managers following a thrilling 1-1 draw at the Etihad Stadium, where James Milner’s seventh penalty of the season — this one against his former club — was cancelled out by Sergio Aguero’s equaliser.
“It is one of the happiest days of my career as a manager. I am so proud,” Guardiola told reporters.
His pride came less from the result than “the spirit, the way we played”.