Saturday Premier League takeaways: Cardiff buried, Manchester United fun without strikers

Steve Bardens

Pour one out for Cardiff, start wondering where this Shinji Kagawa has been for the last two years, get your hopes up about Fulham and strap in for a great title race.

Cardiff City have looked like relegation fodder for the better part of six months, but it seems fair to write off their hopes of staying up after they got worked at home by a relegation rival. Manchester United were also in action, demolishing Newcastle in a meaningless game, while Chelsea kept pace in the title race. We'll discuss all of that, but first, Jose Fonte.

What was Jose Fonte thinking?

by Kevin McCauley

Most challenges that lead to penalties being awarded are dumb. In some cases, a defender just slightly mistimed what could have been a great tackle. In others, they were put into terrible positions by their teammates. Most, though, are the result of very bad individual errors. Still, there's usually some sort of intention to stop an opponent from scoring by legal means or to win the ball. Jose Fonte's foul on Edin Džeko was a completely different story.

It was like he was in the hallway in high school, tripping his enemy so he got to see their books go flying while the entire school laughed at him. After getting beat, Fonte inexplicably stuck out his leg behind him to trip Džeko, making absolutely no attempt to do anything legal or win the ball. He just tripped him, because reasons.

I was hoping he'd get pulled for this stunt, just so we could relive this wonderful moment from the 2011 Copa Libertadores.

United fun without their top strikers

by Michael Graham

Newcastle couldn't have been less interested in this one had it been a shared Facebook photo of someone they didn't know, but it shouldn't necessarily detract from the attacking quality that Manchester United produced on the day -- ironically without either Wayne Rooney or Robin van Persie.

The movement and touch of Shinji Kagawa, Juan Mata and Adnan Januzaj was just far too mesmeric for the hosts' defence even in crowded areas, carving them open again and again in a ruthless display of precision football. The Reds were just too much to handle.

Maybe Manchester United have fallen into the trap of becoming overly reliant, mentally, on their big name strikers? Perhaps this will be the wake-up call they need to realise they have the talent to be so much more than the round-the-sides and over-the-top team that Moyes' United have been this season? I hope so, because for the first time in a good long while, United were genuinely fun to watch.

Ben Hoskins / Getty Images

Fulham are alive

by Zach Woosley

For 86 minutes, Saturday's match at Villa Park was a near perfect microcosm of Fulham's season. Play terribly for 45 minutes, show some life in the second half, take a lead, blow the lead, get denied on an absolutely insane off the line save. Frustration, hope, heartbreak. Then, in the 86th minute, something different happened. Hugo Rodallega found the back of the net and Fulham held on for the final few minutes to claim a massive victory that keeps their hopes of escaping relegation alive. They're still five points from safety, but that's two points closer than it looked like they'd be with just four minutes left to play.

As for Aston Villa, while their odds of staying up are still good, their supporters will likely not be pleased with the result. Considering the swaths of empty seats in the final minutes after the goal, that feels like a safe assumption to make. Dropping six points this season to this year's team Fulham is embarrassing, but when you're missing Fabian Delph, Christian Benteke, and Gabriel Agbonlahor, it's at least understandable to a point.

Say goodbye to Vincent Tan

by Kevin McCauley

When they play decent teams, Crystal Palace struggle to put together three full attacks in a game. They scored three goals away to Cardiff City on Saturday, likely burying the Blue/Red Birds/Dragons for good. Cardiff will spend next season in the Championship, and as long as they're losing 3-0 at home against Tony Pulis sides, they absolutely deserve it. It's unfortunate that the Premier League is losing such a good crowd, but we should have no problem wishing good riddance to a putrid side and an incompetent owner.

Chelsea not brilliant, but Salah impressive

by Ryan Rosenblatt

Chelsea scored three goals, but it wasn't exactly a pretty performance. They won the ball away only to give it right back repeatedly, and their counterattack bordered on comedy time and time again. Even when they earned a penalty, it was saved, only for them to scored on the rebound.

Luckily for the Blues, Mohamed Salah was fantastic in his first start and Willian hit a gorgeous curling shot so all of the ugly moments in between didn't matter so much. And no matter how sloppy Chelsea may have been, Stoke were always worse.

Stoke couldn't complete passes and spent most of the second half battering Chelsea. Charlie Adam came on at halftime and proceeded to stomp on André Schürrle, while two-footed tackles were the norm and David Luiz was kicked in the chest. At least Chelsea were better than that (and scored goals).

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