Manchester City's 5-0 win over Aston Villa felt a helluva lot better as United surrendered with an anaemic defeat at Norwich City after Chelsea had succumbed to the Steve Clarke Effect away to West Brom in the Premier League.
Gooners got their Arsenal back too, or as they put it 'Ar5ena2', after swatting Tottenham again with a little help from Emmanuel Adebayor and Luis Suárez showed the good and the bad of his game at Anfield with a couple of goals and more than a couple of studs embedded on Wigan's David Jones.
Down in west London, Nigel Adkins was beaming after he won the Premier League managerial death match but Fulham were left reeling after they conceded three goals against impotent Sunderland.
United's passenger, Match of the Day's latest depth-plunging effort and Newcastle feeling bereft are just some of the weekend's talking points...
FINAL CURTAIN CALL FOR GIGGS
“A sentimental person thinks things will last, a romantic person hopes against hope they won’t,” so said F. Scott Fitzgerald. And behind the gruff Glaswegian image of Sir Alex Ferguson lurks a sentimental soul. It was in evidence again at the weekend when he started the ostensibly everlasting Ryan Giggs in a two-man midfield with Michael Carrick at Norwich City. Whereas supporters wondered whether Carrick would be partnered with Tom Cleverley, Paul Scholes or Anderson Ferguson did what he so often does; what everyone least expected.
Time to say goodbye?
And the defeat was expected. Giggs and Carrick offered no drive for United, who were bereft of another attacking bow since Wayne Rooney was missing with tonsillitis. The erratic Ashley Young and timid Antonio Valencia both underperformed, but what infuriated United fans was the needlessness of playing Giggs. Their midweek Champions League match is an unimportant one (United are already assured of progression as group winners) so there was no excuse not to play the strongest team possible at Carrow Road. Astonishingly Giggs lasted the full 90 minutes on Saturday.
The Welshman has played in three of United’s four defeats this season, with his presence so detrimental in the Tottenham loss he was hauled off at half-time. It was a rare mea culpa on Ferguson’s behalf for starting him, but he can’t seem to overlook a player he has known since the mid-80s, despite his usefulness being questionable.
The same sentimental streak can be applied to Scholes and, most ludicrously, Gary Neville. Neville should have retired in 2009 but soldiered on throughout the 2009-10 season before ending his career midway through the next campaign. He was unfortunate that his distinguished career was effectively ended by a Gary Speed challenge in March 2007, but had he not have been a long-standing servant of United he would not have been rewarded with fresh contracts.
Giggs turns 39 on 29 November, and it is just after his birthday when he begins to consider whether to extend his 21-year playing career another season. His mind should be made up already. The final curtain calls.
HUGHES’ CAREER IN JEOPARDY
Mark Hughes will be haunted by two quotes in his career…
On leaving Fulham in 2011: “I felt my ambition for where I wanted to take the club was not matched.”
After QPR stayed up: "As far as I'm concerned, we will never be in this situation again while I am manager."
Hughes, of course, moved on to QPR, the third-best team in west London behind Chelsea and… Fulham! And now the Rs are in a worse position than the 17th they finished in at the end of last season.
"Is this really 'ambition'?"
“I don’t run away from challenges and this is a huge challenge,” Hughes vowed after the weekend’s home defeat to Southampton. Cynics might suggest this is his euphemism for refusing to resign in order to reap his full salary if or when he is sacked, but that is how football works.
And the challenge may be an insurmountable one. In QPR’s last two home games they have hosted Reading (then winless) and Southampton (only one win); the two teams huddled with them in the relegation zone. If the Reading draw was resilient, the Southampton defeat was risible. Watching highlights of a match can distort the true reflection of a game, but it was telling that QPR’s one reel of attacking coverage in the second period was Junior Hoilett’s goal. It was Southampton rather than them who were marauding around like a team of Chev Chelios'.
Where once Hughes was earmarked as a possible successor to Ferguson at Old Trafford when he was in charge of an impressive Blackburn side now he wouldn’t get a courtesy call if he had the gall to send his CV in. His inevitable termination at Loftus Road threatens to push him towards the retirement riches of the Middle East; not bad for the bank balance but it not very ambitious, either, for a 49-year-old.
QPR travel to Old Trafford this week, a stadium which echoes with some of Hughes’ most glorious moments as a footballer. How long ago they must seem for the Welshman.
DEFOE’S SHORT MEMORY
After Gareth Bale scored to reduce Arsenal’s lead to 4-2 in the north London derby, the Emirates got anxious. Then Bale outpaced Bacary Sagna and homed in on Wojciech Szczesny’s goal with Jermain Defoe waiting to tap the ball in. Instead the Welshman kicked the ball wide and Defoe kicked the post in frustration at greedy Gareth.
This may not seem a notable occurrence in a match which ended 5-2, but Defoe is notorious for his avarice and some Spurs fans actually withheld their annoyance with Bale in order to mock the hypocrisy of their striker.
IN BAD KOMPANY
Vincent Kompany is an eloquent footballer who unites supporters of rival teams through not just his ability but his demeanour. But what sense could he talk on Match of the Day flanked by bantersaurus rexes Gary Lineker and Alan Hansen, or Harry Redknapp, the only manager who without saying anything akin to self-promotion can still be self-promotion? This was a desperate and superfluous exercise by the BBC which badly backfired, with some slating Saturday’s edition as the worst Match of the Day there had been, as if it was the latest instalment in an HBO series.
The City captain could only be diplomatic and smile uncomfortably at the absurd nature of the back-slappers around him. He expected analysis, he experienced anathema. This is not what we or him want on a Saturday night but we keep getting it.
No Premier League manager welcomes an international break, particularly when it comes midway through November and the fixtures are friendlies. Roberto Martínez blamed the schedule for Wigan’s defeat at Liverpool (as well as, needlessly, the referee) and the haughty Didier Deschamps threw another barb André Villas-Boas’ way over Hugo Lloris. Newcastle’s grievance over Papiss Cissé is an altogether more serious affair.
The striker was forbidden from starting in the Magpies’ 2-1 defeat at home to Swansea after he had missed Senegal’s friendly with Niger. Cissé had withdrawn from the squad with a back problem, but his country’s FA invoked Fifa's five-day rule claiming they were not sent details of his injury. Newcastle said they were "dismayed and angry” by the Senegalese Federation’s position.
Alan Pardew used it as an excuse, saying it was “hard for us to take” and labelled it a “blow” for the players. He perhaps dressed up the club’s annoyance a bit dramatically but that they should be victims of a ruling which exists is a concern for clubs. The upside is that it should be an example used to pressurise Fifa into abolishing a clause which risks dividing clubs and countries, with the player unenviably stuck in the middle of the mess.
TERRY MUST REMAIN A FIRST-TEAMER
Roberto di Matteo’s suggestion John Terry may not reclaim his first-team place at Chelsea was the first vocal instance in which the Blues coach has stood up against the club's player power culture. Such attempts rarely last long, for the manager is sacked should he drop any members of the clique, although Di Matteo would be daft to stubbornly refrain from starting Terry when he returns.
Terry is reminded who'll be playing in his absence
He dropped him for the Shakhtar Donetsk match when Chelsea conceded twice and but for the away side’s farcical goalkeeper may have lost the game. At the weekend, without the injured Terry for the trip to West Brom, Gary Cahill and David Luíz again excelled in underlining why the club captain is undroppable. Luíz is purportedly a defender but boasts no such characteristics; his dithering defending suggests that bushy mop droops over his eyes during a match. Cahill meanwhile was bought by the club when the manager, Villas-Boas, did not want him, and has displayed the same incompetence when Bolton shipped in 42 goals in 19 league games until he was sold.
Luíz loses Long
Liverpool belatedly cottoned on to Chelsea’s vulnerability without Terry last week and their one-man band nearly triumphed at Stamford Bridge. Juventus and Manchester City are both on the agenda for the Blues this week, boasting acts with several great contributors. Whereas under Mourinho Chelsea concentrated on conceding one goal less than their opponents, without Terry it has to be about scoring one more.
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