The defending champions' dismal 2013-14 campaign took yet another turn south on Matchday 37, as Manchester United were dealt a gut-wrenching 1-0 loss by Sunderland at Old Trafford.
The stunning result was the highlight of Saturday's action and it sums up the type of season it's been for the Red Devils. With just two Premier League matches left to play this May, United are six points back of Tottenham Hotspur for the second Europa League qualifying berth.
Afterward, interim player-manager Ryan Giggs expressed his disappointment, per the Premier League on Twitter:
Ryan Giggs says he's "more disappointed than angry" after @ManUtd's loss to Sunderland. "We didn't show the quality we showed last week"— Premier League (@premierleague) May 3, 2014
While the loss, United's second to Sunderland since Jan. 7, deals the Red Devils another huge blow, the result propels the Black Cuts three points ahead of Norwich City for the final safe spot. The Canaries will take on Chelsea on Sunday.
But United and Sunderland weren't the only clubs jockeying for position on Matchday 37. Here's a look at the updated league table heading into the season's final week, via PremierLeague.com:
|12||West Ham United||37||11||7||19||-9||40|
|17||West Bromwich Albion||37||7||15||15||-15||36|
|Sat, May 3||West Ham United||2-0||Tottenham Hotspur|
|Sat, May 3||Aston Villa||3-1||Hull City|
|Sat, May 3||Manchester United||0-1||Sunderland|
|Sat, May 3||Newcastle United||3-0||Cardiff City|
|Sat, May 3||Stoke City||4-1||Fulham|
|Sat, May 3||Swansea City||0-1||Southampton|
|Sat, May 3||Everton||2-3||Manchester City|
|Sun, May 4||Arsenal||1-0||West Bromwich Albion|
|Sun, May 4||Chelsea||0-0||Norwich City|
|Mon, May 5||Crystal Palace||3-3||Liverpool|
|Tue, May 6||Manchester United||3-1||Hull City|
|Wed, May 7||Sunderland||2-0||West Bromwich Albion|
|Wed, May 7||Manchester City||4-0||Aston Villa|
West Ham United leaped into the top 12 on Saturday thanks to a 2-0 victory over Spurs at Upton Park. Younes Kaboul and Harry Kane were the goats for Tottenham in the shutout loss.
Kaboul was dealt a red card in the 25th minute, forcing Spurs to play with 10 men over the final hour, per ESPN FC:
Younes Kaboul had a Saturday to forget. pic.twitter.com/LQgjtLjjYq— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) May 3, 2014
Two minutes later, Kane accidentally deflected Andy Carroll's header into his own goal to give the Hammers a 1-0 advantage.
Stewart Downing would extend the lead after scoring on a free kick in the 44th minute.
There were five matches with a scheduled 2 p.m. GMT kickoff on Saturday, but only a couple turned out to be competitive, as Newcastle, Aston Villa and Stoke City cruised.
The Magpies led by only a goal at St. James' Park heading into the 87th minute, but they put the match on ice in a hurry after late goals from Loic Remy and Steven Taylor. Cardiff City were able to get off 16 shots but couldn't get past Newcastle's Tim Krul.
Andreas Weimann propelled Villa with a brace against Hull City following Jordan Bowery's own goal that drew the Tigers level. With the result, Villa leapfrogs Hull for 14th place.
At Britannia Stadium, Fulham were no match for Stoke, who scored three times in the second half to run away from the Cottagers, 4-1. Fulham are now assured relegation from the Premier League, per BBC Sport:
Fulham's 83 goals conceded this season are nine more than any other club in the league.
Southampton won a thriller over Swansea City at Liberty Stadium, with Rickie Lambert's 90th-minute strike breaking the deadlock and keeping the Saints in eighth place behind United.
Manchester City were the big winners on Saturday, though, topping Everton 3-2 at Goodison Park to draw even with Liverpool atop the league table. The Citizens control their own destiny with two matches to play and can secure their second Premier League title in three seasons with home wins over Villa and West Ham.
On the other hand, Everton's loss means that Arsenal is guaranteed a top-four finish, regardless of how they fare the rest of the way. The Gunners, who are eligible for Champions League next season, hosted West Bromwich Albion at the Emirates on Sunday and came away with a 1-0 victory, courtesy of Olivier Giroud's goal in the 14th minute.
Chelsea had a chance to notch three points against relegation-threatened Norwich City on Sunday, but managed only a 0-0 draw. Although the Blues are still just one point back of Liverpool and Manchester City for first, they have their work cut out moving forward to contend for the trophy, since Manchester City and the Reds have a match in hand.
On Monday, Liverpool squandered two points at Selhurst Park, conceding three goals in span of nine minutes to settle for a 3-3 draw at Crystal Palace. The Reds needed help from City over the next week in order to have a shot at hoisting the league crown on Championship Sunday.
Brendan Rodgers' squad will need PFA Player of the Year Award winner Luis Suarez to be at his best in order to top Newcastle by a wide margin and keep the pressure on City.
Both teams have been a treat to watch all season long with their potent attacks, which the Daily Telegraph's Paul Heyward alluded to in his analysis:
Stat of the season: Man City and Liverpool have scored 199 league goals between them. That's quite a highlights reel.— Paul Hayward (@_PaulHayward) May 7, 2014
Unfortunately for Liverpool, City didn't relent in Wednesday's match with Aston Villa. After playing to a scoreless tie through the first half, Manuel Pellegrini's club rattled off four goals to secure an easy three points and jump ahead of the Reds in the table by two points.
FT: Manchester City 4-0 Aston Villa. City crush Villa and inch toward another Premier League title! pic.twitter.com/72wnSZ9n0X— Bleacher Report UK (@br_uk) May 7, 2014
So not only were Reds fans dangled a potential blowout win over Crystal Palace, but they also had hopes that City would fall short on Wednesday to an inferior foe. That proved not to be the case, and now Liverpool have their work cut out even more to steal the title from City.
Which club will claim the 2013-14 Premier League title?
To end with more positive forward-looking thoughts for those well out of trophy contention, Sunderland seemed destined for relegation a mere month ago, but have since rattled off four consecutive wins. The last of those came Wednesday in a 2-0 triumph at home over West Brom, sinking the Baggies just three points clear of Norwich City from the bottom three.
This has been an extraordinary stretch for Sunderland and will be invaluable for the club moving forward as they gain confidence to contend in the EPL. A draw with City preceded the shock win over Chelsea that began their streak, and now the Black Cats are finishing with fervor to keep their hopes of future success in the Premier League alive.
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