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Manchester United held onto the top spot in the Premier League after Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker forced the visiting team to settle for a scoreless draw, while Manchester City powered into second place behind a 4-0 rout of Crystal Palace on Sunday.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side had the better chances in a strangely subdued clash between two of English soccer’s most bitter rivals.

Alisson did well to save shots from Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba in the second half, but neither side deserved to win.

United are two points clear of second placed Manchester City, which has a game in hand, and third place Leicester. Liverpool, the defending champion, is a further point back in fourth place.

Manchester United is in first place after the new year for the first time since Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013 thanks a 12-match unbeaten run that’s included nine wins.

Leaving Anfield unscathed is a solid result as United chase a first title in eight years, but the club might feel it was a missed opportunity to put more pressure on injury-hit Liverpool.

“It’s only a good result if we win the next game,”Solskjaer said. “It was an opportunity missed with the chances we had but then again we were playing a very good side.”

“I think we grew in the game and toward the end it was there for us to win. We created two massive chances and it was two brilliant saves by the keeper.”

It’s the first time these old rivals have been involved in a title race together since 2009. But it didn’t have the feel of a seismic encounter due to an empty and silent Anfield.

Liverpool is below the dynamic form that carried it to the title last season and the Champions League crown in 2019.

Jurgen Klopp’s team has now gone four league games without a win and are without a goal in the three top-flight matches.

“There is no easy explanation,” Klopp said. “We always missed chances, even in the games we won, we just had another one which we used.”

“We had to be good to get a point. I think we were good enough to get three points but we didn’t score.”

The draw at Anfield was the perfect result for City, who took advantage at Etihad Stadium with their fifth successive league victory.

Pep Guardiola’s team scored in the 26th minute when Kevin De Bruyne’s majestic cross with the outside of his foot found John Stones, who headed in his first Premier League goal for City.

City, unbeaten in their last 15 games in all competitions, doubled the lead 11 minutes into the second half when Ilkay Gundogan curled into the top corner. Stones struck again in the 68th minute, blasting home after Ruben Dias’ header was saved, and Raheem Sterling made it four with an 88th minute free-kick.

“We were so stable. It’s an important victory,” Guardiola said. “We try to play the same way we have in the last few seasons and in the back four we don’t make mistakes. Last year was the worst.

“If there is one player I’m more than pleased that everything is going well, it’s John Stones. He deserves it.”

Tanguy Ndombele’s stunning strike sealed Tottenham’s 3-1 win at Sheffield United.

Jose Mourinho’s side took an early lead through a rare goal from Ivory Coast defender Serge Aurier.

Spurs added to the lead before halftime on Harry Kane’s 19th goal of the season.

David McGoldrick got one back for last-place United in the second half, but Ndombele’s sublime lob, flicked over his shoulder from an acute angle, secured the points.

Ndombele’s fine form is a stark contrast to his struggles in his first season after arriving from Lyon, with Mourinho admitting the player had to change his mindset to get back on track.

“He is incredible. For me sometimes you can score a great goal isolated from your performance. In this case the goal confirmed his performance. It was really, really good,” Mourinho said.

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