The Premier League champions had a bit of a shocker against their Manchester rivals. They were completely outclassed by Manuel Pellegrini's Manchester City and, rather worryingly, their usual reliable defensive duo of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic looked pretty suspect, as did new signing Marouane Fellaini. It didn't help matters that David Moyes completely forgot about Wednesday’s victory over Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League when Shinji Kagawa – whilst not imperious – added an inventive dimension to United’s game that was badly missing against City. And what about poor old Javier Hernandez? 2-0, nothing. 3-0, nothing. 4-0, still he isn’t called upon. Someone remind Moyes you are meant to make substitutions when chasing a game.
2. Liverpool desperately need Suarez
Yes, he is renowned for the odd ‘hiccup’ – his most recent misdemeanour saw him tuck into the Serbian cuisine that is Branislav Ivanovic’s arm – but Liverpool’s defeat to Southampton demonstrated they need Luis Suarez back in their side. Take nothing away from the Saints, who were excellent, but Liverpool didn’t really get at Dejan Lovren and co. Suarez can twist and turn, is creative and, most importantly, is quite handy at putting the ball in the back of the net. He’ll need to build Liverpool a big enough points haul so that when he inevitably commits his next sin his side can hold on without him.
3. The Premier League will be much less exciting without Paulo Di Canio
Paulo Di Canio is a brave man. After a pretty shocking defeat to West Brom he strolled, without backup, towards a rather frustrated away end to gesticulate with them in some kind of experimental sign language. The Sunderland board lost patience with the eccentric Italian on Sunday night which, although an understandable decision, will have the knock-on effect of making the league more dull. The game needs characters and we've lost one in Di Canio.
4. Four Champions League spots are not enough
Granted the Champions League can only accept 32 entrants, but there are six or seven English sides capable of competing in the continent’s premier competition. It makes it all very exciting of course, but there is a real possibility that a major force will miss the competition. Imagine the uproar if Everton or Tottenham take Manchester United’s place in the top four. Based on the weekend’s results, that is not a complete impossibility. There are going to be a few unhappy teams playing reserve European football next season…
5. The curse of Paul Lambert lives on at Carrow Road
He’s only been gone 15 months but Paul Lambert has already beaten Norwich three times at Carrow Road since his departure. Saturday’s defeat was the closest the Canaries have come to ending that run but Villa shot-stopper Brad Guzan harnessed the power of Lambert to pull off two spectacular saves, keeping out a Robert Snodgrass penalty before he flung himself left to tip over Gary Hooper’s accidental effort in the final minute. And if Norwich thought things were going to get easier they were mistaken as their next three Premier League games see a home match against Chelsea sandwiched between visits to Stoke and Arsenal. Ouch.
6. These North London teams are half-decent
One benefit of playing for Arsenal is that, however bad your season might turn out to be, you’re guaranteed to be top of the table at the start of the campaign even if you do have to owe a degree of thanks to the alphabet. But five games in they sit top of the tree on merit and, to make matters even stranger, their North London rivals Spurs are level on points with them. Arsenal scored from three set-pieces, unheard of from a team who once refused to score unless the goal was a work of art, with new boy Mesut Ozil selfishly pursuing first place in the assist chart. And what about Mathieu Flamini? Something happens to him when he pulls on an Arsenal shirt. Gone is the man who toiled at Milan and, in his place, is a leader who was influential in the win over Stoke. Tottenham, too, are displaying qualities previously reserved for teams they have envied during the Premier League era. Maybe, just maybe, these two can push each other to new heights. Much more likely though is an entertaining edition of the North London collapse, to hit our screens sometime in spring.
7. Jose Mourinho really isn’t a fan of Juan Mata... Or Jamie Redknapp.
You’d think a home game against Fulham would be the ideal time to chuck Juan Mata into the mix with the message: prove you can play football. But for some obscure reason Jose Mourinho continues to ignore arguably Chelsea’s best player and, despite his staunch defence on Sky Sports to Jamie Redknapp's media gang, his selection policy appears misguided. Give him a chance, Jose.