Soccer

Mkhitaryan masterpiece keeps Man United rolling in EPL

  • Manchester United's Henrikh Mkhitaryan celebrates after scoring his side's third goal during the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester United and Sunderland at Old Trafford in Manchester, England, Monday, Dec. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)

    Manchester United's Henrikh Mkhitaryan celebrates after scoring his side's third goal during the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester United and Sunderland at Old Trafford in Manchester, England, Monday, Dec. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)  (The Associated Press)

  • Manchester United players celebrate after Manchester United's Henrikh Mkhitaryan, second left, after scored his side third goal during the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester United and Sunderland at Old Trafford in Manchester, England, Monday, Dec. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)

    Manchester United players celebrate after Manchester United's Henrikh Mkhitaryan, second left, after scored his side third goal during the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester United and Sunderland at Old Trafford in Manchester, England, Monday, Dec. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)  (The Associated Press)

  • Chelsea's Pedro, center, celebrates with teammates after scoring during the English Premier League soccer match between Chelsea and Bournemouth at Stamford Bridge stadium in London, Monday, Dec. 26, 2016.(AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

    Chelsea's Pedro, center, celebrates with teammates after scoring during the English Premier League soccer match between Chelsea and Bournemouth at Stamford Bridge stadium in London, Monday, Dec. 26, 2016.(AP Photo/Frank Augstein)  (The Associated Press)

Toppling forward, Henrikh Mkhitaryan looked like he'd misjudged the right-wing cross as he surged into the box seeking a clinching goal for Manchester United.

What came next brought Old Trafford to its feet — and underlined Mkhitaryan as perhaps the next cult figure at the English giant.

With an acrobatic flick of his right heel, the Armenian somehow managed to turn a ball that was behind him into the far corner from eight meters out, before plunging to the ground. Paul Pogba was the first United player to celebrate with Mkhitaryan and walked away shaking his head in disbelief.

It was a goal-of-the-season contender in the Premier League, another piece of art from a player who is coming into his own after a tough start to life at United when he struggled to adapt to the fast pace of English football following a move from Borussia Dortmund.

Mkhitaryan sealed a 3-1 win for United over Sunderland on Monday and a fourth straight league victory for a side that's beginning to motor under Jose Mourinho. United might still be 13 points behind Chelsea, which won a club-record 12th straight game to extend its lead to seven points, but a finish in the Champions League qualification places looks increasingly likely.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic provided the cross for Mkhitaryan's goal, set up Daley Blind for United's 39th-minute opener and scored the other goal for his 16th goal of the season in all competitions. Mourinho will be delighted to see his trio of high-profile offseason signings — Ibrahimovic, Mkhitaryan and Pogba — looking the real deal.

Monday marked the opening batch of games in the first of three Premier League rounds over the festive period. All the title-chasing teams won.

Here's a look at what else happened away from Old Trafford:

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CHELSEA 3, BOURNEMOUTH 0

Two goals from Pedro and Eden Hazard's penalty kick ensured Chelsea bettered a run of 11 victories set over two seasons in 2009.

Only once — Arsenal in 2001-02, with 13 straight wins — has a top-tier club had a longer winning streak in one season since World War II.

Hazard starred in the absence of suspended duo N'Golo Kante and Diego Costa as the league leaders recorded their 10th clean sheet of the 12-match winning run.

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HULL 0, MANCHESTER CITY 3

City wore down last-placed Hull, with all its goals coming late in the game.

Yaya Toure converted a penalty in the 72nd minute after Raheem Sterling was tripped as he drove into the area. Up until that point, City lacked inspiration going forward as Hull defended valiantly and in numbers, but more spaces opened up to allow the visitors a second goal.

Kevin De Bruyne played in David Silva, whose pinpoint cross was tapped home by Kelechi Iheanacho at the far post in the 78th. In the third minute of stoppage time, Sterling weaved his way into the area and sent in a cross that was deflected into his own net by Curtis Davies.

It was a third straight win for City, lifting the team into second place ahead of Liverpool by two points. Liverpool plays its game in hand against Stoke on Tuesday.

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ARSENAL 1, WEST BROMWICH ALBION 0

Olivier Giroud marked his first league start of the season with a late winner as Arsenal avoided another stumble after back-to-back losses on the road.

The France striker headed home Mesut Ozil's cross in the 86th minute to end West Brom's stubborn resistance at Emirates Stadium.

Fourth-place Arsenal is tied for points with Liverpool.

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SWANSEA 1, WEST HAM 4

American coach Bob Bradley's future at Swansea looked increasingly fragile after the team lost again to remain in relegation trouble.

Angry Swansea supporters turned on Bradley as Swansea slumped to a seventh loss of his 11 games in charge, with a chant of "We want Bradley out" reverberating around Liberty Stadium.

"I don't have regular dealings with the board," Bradley said after goals by Andre Ayew, Winston Reid, Michail Antonio and Andy Carroll sunk Swansea. "As a manager, when results go bad you understand there will be discussion. It's not anything you control."

Swansea is in next-to-last place, tied on points with Hull.

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OTHER RESULTS

Former England coach Sam Allardyce's first game in charge of Crystal Palace ended in a 1-1 draw at Watford, Burnley beat Middlesbrough 1-0 to continue its strong home form, and Leicester lost 2-0 at home to Everton in the latest disappointing result of its stuttering title defense.

Leicester is only three points above the relegation zone nearly halfway through the season.