So, that’s Manchester United fixed then, right?
A 5-1 win away at Cardiff City incredibly washed away five years of disappointment for United fans. There’s talk of them being ‘back’ and almost guaranteed to get into the top four by the end of the season. Because they beat Cardiff 5-1. Cardiff.
That said, United did look better than they have done for quite a long time. Sure, that is mainly because they couldn’t look any worse but they did rack up five goals for the first time since Sir Alex Ferguson’s final match against West Bromwich Albion; which ended 5-5 stats fans.
Is it down to Ole Gunnar? Before we go there, shouldn’t we tip our hat to Mike Phelan? Phelan was on the bench for Fergie’s final hurrah and he was on the bench on Saturday night. That’s 10 goals with Phelan involved. Many say the biggest mistake Moyseh made was getting rid of Phelan and never has that looked so true.
Of course, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is going to get a fair dollop of the credit, despite the fact that anyone one other than Jose Mourinho could have got that kind of performance out of the United side purely by being anyone other than Jose Mourinho.
But, it was great to see how far a smile goes. Solskjaer has spent the majority of the first few days in charge of United smiling and his blue eyes twinkling. He looks like a man who has just been told he is getting the number one item on his Christmas list. And, it’s transferring over to his players immediately.
Take Paul Pogba, for example. Three assists on Saturday night which means at least three passes went where they were supposed to go which is approximately two more than he managed all season for Mourinho. Mind you, Pogba cracked the best funny of the weekend; thanking Jose Mourinho for improving him as a player and as a person.
And Jesse Lingard; is anyone bleating on about his clothing range now?
Victor Lindelof strode forward like Rio Ferdinand in his prime to create a chance for Marcus Rashford at one point and the shift Rashford put in himself should have Romelu Lukaku wondering whether it’s worth coming back from Belgium. At one point, Ashley Young was so high up the pitch without the ball that I wondered if he’d forgotten the teams had changed ends at half-time. You didn’t see that one Jose’s watch, that’s for sure.
Yet, United were still a shambles defensively and although Solskjaer has already committed to playing the attacking football, the Old Trafford faithful demand he is going to have to do something about their inability to keep a clean sheet. Only Fulham have fewer this season and they are probably going down. Plus, this will tell us how good a coach Solskjaer actually he is. I mean, if he can resurrect Phil Jones and Chris Smalling into international quality defenders then Mr Ed should give him the job full time.
Let’s keep this in perspective, though. It was Cardiff City. Yes, scoring five is going to get people a bit excited because you know Mourinho would have accepted a 0-0 before blaming his players for their lack of bravery in attack or something, but it was still only Cardiff. Not that I am knocking Cardiff, I hope you understand. The fact they will be eating their Christmas lunch safe in the knowledge they are not 20 points adrift at the bottom of the table is credit to the job Neil Warnock and his staff are doing. Two things I did not expect to see at the end of 2018; Cardiff not in the relegation zone and Neil Warnock still in a job.
Liverpool fans will probably be tweeting how this is the ‘best Christmas ever’ given that they will be stuffing their faces with turkey knowing there is a four-point gap between them and Man City. And boy will the Liverpool fans be making the most of social media over the next few days. It’s almost a relief that social media didn’t exist the last time Liverpool won the title. Hell, the Premier League didn’t exist and if the Premier League was a footballer, they’d just be starting to think about hanging up their boots; that’s how long it has been since Liverpool won the title.
Could they win the title this season? You can’t say they can’t. People, including me, utterly killed them for the money they spent on Virgil van Dijk but the guy looks like a bargain now and it is incredible that nobody else went for him far sooner than Kloppo. Andy Robertson would find his way into Man City’s starting XI immediately and in Alisson, they again did what they needed to do; get someone with the ability to keep the ball out of the back of the net.
On Friday night they played a very good Wolves side and kept them at arm’s length. Fabinho ran the midfield once again and considering Mo Salah was never going to do what he did last season again, he is doing what he did last season again.
They are going to have a blip, of course they are. It just depends on how long it lasts. Liverpool can win this.
And Peppy G knows it. He would have, rightly, assumed that City would have seen off Crystal Palace at home and been opening their presents a single point behind Jurgey lad’s boys. But they didn’t account for Andros Townsend. Townsend scoring a visually pleasing goal is not a surprise, they are the only goals he scores. The fact that it was a goal where he didn’t cut inside, drop the shoulder then just smack it with his left foot is the surprise. This was just a sweetly struck long-range volley that absolutely flew past Ederson.
Surely this result means that Uncle Roy can now move on from the Iceland debacle? Here is a manager that is in his 70s yet managed to get that type of performance (again, because don’t forget they nearly beat City last season) from a far less talented squad. Hodgson is a brilliant coach and Palace must hope he has another few years left in the tank.
Everton’s game against Tottenham certainly fell into the ‘entertaining despite being quite rubbish’ category. Both Jordan Pickford and Everton have been pretty bobbins since their ‘greatest ever derby performance’ from a couple of weeks ago. Mind you, Everton were always destined to lose having had a goal controversially disallowed when 1-0 up. I challenge anyone to show me a team that wins after that happens.
In the first 45 minutes, Pickford managed to collide with Zouma outside his area leading to Son equalising. Then he managed to punch a shot back into the danger zone where Dele Alli happily accepted the gift-wrapped present to put Spurs ahead. And, on the stroke of halftime, Pickford happlessly failed to realise that Kieran Trippier loves a near-post free-kick despite spending a month trying to save them in Russia over the summer. But don’t forget, he’s good with his feet, right? So good with his feet that he still found time to take out Alli when the Spurs midfielder was marginally offside yet clean through on goal meaning his England teammate had to go off injured at the break.
Three minutes into the second half, Pickford got beaten from 30 yards by Christian Eriksen. By the 75th minute, Pickford had let in his 6th. Well, the Everton fans did moan when Big Sham Allafarce made them so defensive.
The real question from Goodison Park was obvious. Just how many career goals would Harry Kane end up on if he wasn’t allowed to play Panama and Everton?
Wednesday’s Jamie Vardy and Saturday’s Jamie Vardy were two different people. In an interview earlier in the week, Vardy admitted that Claude Puel’s style of football at Leicester didn’t really suit him and he needed to do what he could to adapt to it. On Saturday, Jamie Vardy sped on to a through-ball from James Maddison and tucked away the winner against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
Puel feels he has nothing to justify at Leicester and isn’t about to change, even if we’ve been here before as whispers start to come out from Leicester players that ‘they are not happy’. Maurizio Sarri was once again ‘surprised’ by his player’s mentality having gone behind. Don’t start going down that path trodden by Jose, Mr Sarri. It doesn’t lead to happiness.
Sean Dyche is starting to feel like he should be fronting the Brexit campaign. He really cannot stand these ‘foreigners’ who come over here and ‘dive’ and ‘cheat’. Yes, this week Sean went as far as calling Arsenal players ‘cheats’ which is pretty strong in any language. Is a player who falls over after the slightest contact any more of a cheat than Ashley Barnes, for example? Anyway, Dyche needs to say things like this as he is running out of understandable excuses for why his Burnley side, 7th last season, are absolute trash this season and very much in a relegation battle. It certainly couldn’t be anything to do with Burnley now, could it? It’s definitely down to every single team they’ve played.
Dyche could well have missed his moment. Last season, his stock was high and he could have easily secured a job in the next rung up. Right now, he is looking like a Ginger Mourinho without a load of Premier League and Champions League medals to justify being such a moaning, grumpy bore.
Bournemouth feel like they needed a win having lost six of their last seven matches and win they did against Brighton. Following such a good start there were a few fans of the Cherries starting to look over their shoulders at the relegation zone and David Brooks’ brace will allow them to relax a little over their pigs-in-blankets.
Ralph Hasenhuttl is still benefitting from not being Mark Hughes as his Southampton side went to Huddersfield and won 3-1. Danny Ings is starting to look like a player again as is Nathan Redmond. To all future chairmen considering employing Mark Hughes, remember this for your own sake.
West Ham’s incredible recent run was unlikely to continue so their fans could enjoy their Christmas pudding. Watford came to the Athletics Stadium and won 2-0. Have opposition fans not learned just to ignore Troy Deeney? West Ham fans were giving to rotund striker plenty before he had the chance to put Watford ahead from the spot. He did and he enjoyed the celebration.
All Claudio Ranieri wanted for Christmas was a clean sheet and he got his wish. The only problem was, it came at the cost of Fulham’s attacking prowess against Newcastle at St James’ Park. Still, clean sheets are what will keep them up.