Bingo! I think I have sussed it, folks. I am on to the powers that be at Manchester United and I can exclusively reveal the real reason they have not won any of their first four Premier League matches at Old Trafford this season.
It is all part of an elaborate ruse to make United’s backing of this European Super League easier to stomach – ‘look, we clearly cannot be bothered doing well in domestic football – but look at how good we are in Europe!’
Those that watched United defeat PSG (again) in Paris and then Leipzig at home during the week were pointing with long fingers at Ole Gunnar Solskjaer declaring, ‘I told you he has a plan. Did you see how good we were? Did you, did you?’
Yet, PSG approached that game with the contempt Sir Alex Ferguson used to reserve for ‘lads, it’s Spurs’ and Leipzig’s tactical approach suggested they’d never watched United play football before – leaving wide open spaces in midfield and in behind for the likes of Marcus Rashford to gallop gleefully into.
None of that from Mikel Arteta, none of that at all.
Had that Arsenal performance been back in the heyday of when this fixture had something more than a duel between two likely-Europa League-qualification contenders riding on it, we’d have purred at Wenger’s ability to kill his main rivals in their own back yard.
So, maybe we should treat it with the same respect even if it will matter little in the bigger picture come the end of the season? Or maybe we could just call a spade a spade and call the game out as only marginally less awful to watch than when Chelsea rocked up in the rain last weekend? Yeah, let’s go with that.
Roy Keane was in full Halloween mode before kick-off, accusing Paul Pogba of ‘disrespecting’ United and ‘rocking the boat’ with his mere presence. Before the game started, you could have easily just raised an eyebrow and written it off as Roy being Roy but by the final whistle? Keano has it nailed on, once again. Sure, the delivery of his point was more fiery than any socially distanced fireworks display coming up in the next seven days but that does not make it any less valid. And Roy continued post-match too, getting overly worked-up over Arsenal players calling their manager by his first name. Come on Roy, pick your battles.
Bruno Fernandes felt compelled to come out in public and reassure people that Brogba is not a broken relationship, that they are working hard on finding common ground and that the counselling sessions are going well. Yet, when the pressure was on against the Gunners, they looked less together than the married couple moaning about their spouse in different rooms at a dinner party.
Thomas Partey said ahead of the match that he wants to ‘attack like Yaya and defend like Essien’. In fairness, he could have attacked like Carlton Palmer and defended like David Luiz and still been the best midfielder on show.
Pogba carelessly gave away the penalty, duly slotted by Yo-Pierre, and the Gunners have their first Old Trafford three-point haul in 14 years.
In fairness to Pogba, he did call himself ‘stupid’ having given away the penalty and OGS merely waved it away with ‘these things happen’. Penalties against United? Not that often, actually Ole.
David Moyes will have sent his West Ham side out with the clear instructions of ‘and whatever you do, don’t touch that Mohamed Salah in the area!’ and we can only assume that Arthur Masuaku was in the toilet cubicle when this was being made clear.
Moyseh was raging at what he perceived to be yet another Salah diving special, but given that we live in 2020 it was hard to see what he was upset about as Salah clearly did his ankle tickled by West Ham’s left-back. Was it enough for Salah to go down? Well, is it ever? Either way, it was given and West Ham’s dream of getting at least a point at Anfield went down the drain as quickly as Salah hit the deck.
The real highlight of the match was the three minute period where the commentary team seemed utterly incapable of realising that the reason Diogo Jota’s first goal was disallowed was that Sadio Mane had almost taken Lukas Fabianski’s head off. Given the fact that the VAR screen was stating that they were checking for a possible foul, it was a little odd to hear them refute the chances of it being offside.
Who needs to spend big money on defenders when you can find a random 23-year-old kicking around on the training ground, eh Jurgen? King Klopp praised his modern-day equivalent to dragging a Sunday League player out of the pub by calling Nat Phillips, ‘not exactly Messi but a monster in the air’. Mind you, given his complete no-show, you get the feeling a Sunday League player dragged out of the pub would have been able to put Sebastian Haller in their pocket too.
Here’s a worrying fact for the Liverpool fans – the champions have conceded more goals than anyone else in the whole Premier League since they finally lifted the title last season. Yeah, even more Fulham.
Kyle Walker chose not to celebrate his thundering winner for Man City against Sheffield United because he was worried about what people might think. I’m guessing he’s had a change of outlook in life since lockdown MK1, then.
After seeing Frank Lampard’s Chelsea take them to the cleaners at Turf Moor, Burnley manager Sean Dyche complained of being ‘confused’ about penalties this season. It’s very simple, really Sean. Big teams still get them and little teams don’t – even in this VAR age.
It’s safe to say that Hakim Ziyech has passed the modern-day footballing test as well. Ziyech came through the classic ‘can he do it on a freezing cold Saturday afternoon in gale force winds against Burnley’ test with a resounding ‘yes’ next to his name.
Lamps called it a ‘complete performance’ – which might be overstating it a touch given how terrible Dyche’s team have been this campaign.
Down at Tottenham, I found myself questioning Graham Potter’s wizardry once more. Brighton travelled to face a Spurs side incapable of keeping a clean sheet and Potter, in his wisdom, elected to play without a striker. And I don’t mean he started with Danny Welbeck, either.
Tottenham’s striker, Harry Kane, used all his ‘cleverness’ to invite Adam Lallana into giving away a penalty – given by VAR once it was decided the foul took place in the area. Naturally, Kane scored yet this was not the last we would see of video refereeing in this one.
Firstly, credit to Graham Scott for going over to the monitor to check his original decision. Secondly, even more credit to Graham Scott for watching the video back about 15 times and, even with clear video evidence suggesting he got it completely wrong the first time around, backing his original decision and allowing Brighton’s equaliser. That takes some real self-confidence, I applaud you.
Fortunately for Gareth Bale, he managed to come off the bench in this one and help Spurs win rather than throw it away again, ala West Ham and Antwerp. Bale has his first goal back in a Tottenham shirt, left as alone in the box as he felt in Madrid as he headed home Reguillon’s cross for the winner.
You know what they say – 4-0 is never a safe lead. And Aston Villa came closer than anyone expected to saving face at home to Southampton on Sunday.
James Ward-Prowse managed something David Beckham never did – two goals from free-kicks in the first half of a Premier League match. Danny Ings scored a cracker, obviously, before Villa remembered to ‘give the ball to Jack, he’ll sort it out’. Except, he didn’t. I mean, he nearly did. But he didn’t, ultimately. Since smashing Liverpool for seven Villa have been predictably pointless. Who could have predicted that?
Certainly not the Everton fans who genuinely believed they were in a title race for all of five minutes this season.
Maybe, just maybe, the stuff Richarlison does for them when he isn’t rolling around on the floor is of some use because without him in the team (and no J-Rod either) Everton were stunningly bad against a standardly-cautious Newcastle United team at St James’ Park.
Of course, DLC scored when he was finally given the ball in the Newcastle area but by then it was too late – Callum Wilson had already conned himself a penalty and then shinned one in from half-a-yard. Just in case you were still in any doubt, Everton will not be winning the Premier League this season and, I would venture, might end up nearer the relegation battle than the race of the European spots.
I had to spend some time trying to recall what Friday night’s match was – and that in itself tells you all you really need to know about Wolves beating Crystal Palace 2-0.