MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Manchester City beat Sheffield United 2-0 and moved to within two points of English Premier League leader Liverpool on Saturday.
Goals from Rodri and Julian Alvarez at Etihad Stadium secured a comfortable win for the defending champions against the bottom-placed team.
Third-placed City moved ahead of Arsenal on goal difference and were behind Liverpool and Aston Villa. Villa were second on goal difference after beating Burnley 3-2.
While City have looked below their best at times this season, they have been able to stay in reach of the leaders. And with Kevin De Bruyne returning from a hamstring injury, manager Pep Guardiola can hope for improved performances in the new year.
They ended 2023 with back-to-back league wins after returning from Saudi Arabia and success in the Club World Cup last week. All five trophies won over the past 12 months — the Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup, European Super Cup and Club World Cup — were on show ahead of kickoff against Sheffield United.
That was a measure of the task for Chris Wilder’s relegation-fighting team. And the visitor never looked like causing an upset.
City dominated and Rodri struck in the 14th minute. The Spain midfielder collected a ball deep in Sheffield United’s half and drove forward to the edge of the box with no opposition player strong enough to stop him. He shot low into the corner beyond goalkeeper Wes Foderingham.
Despite controlling the game, City could not find a second before the break and it was Sheffield United which came close to a leveller.
William Osula looked set to beat Ederson from close range, but his effort was blocked by a late tackle from Manuel Akanji. From the resulting corner, Osula headed goalward and was denied by Ederson.
Phil Foden had a chance to double the lead early in second half when running through one-on-one with Foderingham, but the ball was pushed away by the keeper as he tried to take it round him.
When City got a second in the 61st, Foden was the creator, curling a cross for Alvarez to slide in and turn over the line.
One of the biggest cheers of the day came when De Bruyne emerged to warm up on the sideline. The Belgian hasn’t played since Aug. 11, the first league game, and was named as a substitute on Saturday.