The festive period must be soon upon us as we were treated to a full midweek programme of proper Premier League football. And boy, did it serve up some things for us to point the finger-of-fun at.
It would be remiss of me to start anywhere other than Old Trafford, of course. Michael Carrick remained in charge after Herr Rangnick’s work permit was delayed and United’s ex-midfielder will leave his temporary gig reputation very much intact with two wins and a draw.
Let us not let Carrick’s impressive mini-tenure distract us from the real talking point of the match, though. David de Gea and Fred are two players who certainly have endured raised eyebrows due to their performances during the Ole Gunnar Solskjaer era – even if DDG seems to have returned to his shot-stopping best this season. But, the goal conceded against Arsenal was pure comedy gold.
Fred, seemingly incapable of cleaning out any of his opponents in the middle of the park, managed to nobble his goalkeeper as a set-piece came in. De Gea, clearly thinking an Arsenal play had trodden on his little toe, hit the deck expecting a foul to be given because, you know, keepers are a protected species and if you breathe on them it is foul. DDG was rolling around on his line with his back to goal as the ball fell to Arsenal’s Emile Smith-Rowe who then shinned it towards goal from outside the area.
Of course, the ball went it – had De Gea been lying down facing the game, he could have stuck his arms out and saved it. The ref nearly gave a foul and avoided looking like a total idiot by not giving said foul. I would love to think that he quickly thought, “VAR’s got this if I am wrong” but we’ll never know as they don’t talk to us.
Rangnick was in the stands watching the chaos – and given he is a coach that likes to mention the word ‘control’ sixteen times an interview, he would have been forgiven for thinking that the issues run deeper than expected with United. And, of course, Ronaldo – the player every armchair analyst is saying cannot play Rangnickball – bailed United out once again with the brace that got all three points.
What will it be with Ronaldo? Does he not press because he is not asked to or because he does not want to? I guess we will find out soon.
There were some glorious internet memes doing the rounds following Liverpool taking their local rivals to the cleaners in the Merseyside Derby. Shots of stewards forcing Everton fans back into the ground to watch the ritual humiliation are obviously fake but funny nonetheless.
I said last week that what is Rafa actually meant to do given the injuries and the lack of money he had to sort out a pretty ropey squad? Well, one answer is probably “don’t go two in the middle of the park against Liverpool’. Benitez, the defensive tactical mastermind, got that slightly wrong. Liverpool cruised and Mo Salah, that finish was a little bit sexy.
League leaders Chelsea were bang average against Claudio’s Watford. Sure, they won 2-1 but they needed Mason Mount to come off the bench and change the game for them. The injuries are mounting up (no pun intended) for Tuchel as Chalobah joined Kante, Chilwell and a few others on the sideline.
If Mo Salah’s finish rated high on the sex-appeal-ometer, Bernardo Silva’s volley for Man City at Villa Park was off the chart. The Portuguese is this season’s Ilkay Gundogan for Pep – by which we mean a sudden flavour of the month who has become the glue holding the team together. Stevie G reckons his Villa side had City worried. The rest of us felt City probably kept a little bit in the tank given the run of games they are about to face.
Leicester would do well to fix their defence in January if none of their proper defenders are due back from injury soon. Not many sides have conceded more than Brentan’s lot – though they do appear to have found the old James Maddison down the back of the sofa and are using him to great effect.
Neal Maupay added to the cool midweek goals list with a late leveller against West Ham at the Athletic’s Stadium. The Moysiah is on a mini-slump and will hope to see the early season form reappear sometime soon – unless it is a cunning plan to get their new Czech investor to put his hand in his pocket in the window.
Leeds got a much-needed win at home to Palace, courtesy of a late pen from Raphinha. Newcastle are very much missing a much-needed win following their 1-1 draw at home to Norwich. Eddie Howe was left scratching his head at Ciaran Clark’s brainfart leading to a 9th-minute red card. Newcastle led before Pukki got Dean Smith a point.
Finally, the less said about Wolves’ nil-nil with Burnley the better for all of us.