Four things we learnt from Saturday’s Premier League action: Aston Villa relegation battle; Fulham's thin broth; Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Cardiff worry; Manchester United flourishing


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The Independent Football

Villa are relegation candidates

When Aston Villa lost 1-0 at home to Crystal Palace on Boxing Day, their manager’s reaction was telling. At least, said Paul Lambert, they had worked hard. Given that last season Villa had the seventh-highest wage bill in the league, owner Randy Lerner may feel entitled to more than hard work. After a lucky 1-1 draw against Swansea, Lambert said: “We are not in a relegation fight”. As they are four points off the drop zone and averaging less than a point a game at home, others may feel differently.

Too many managers spoiling a thin Fulham broth

Nobody was very surprised when, soon after having Rene Meulensteen forced in alongside him, Martin Jol was sacked by Fulham. Alan Curbishley was then added on Christmas Eve as first-team technical director. Now, Ray Wilkins, who worked uncomfortably alongside Kevin Keegan when Mohamed al-Fayed took over the club in 1997, is to join the coaching staff. Given that Meulensteen coached Manchester United to the title, you wonder how much help he actually needs, although after the 6-0 thrashing at Hull, the answer is probably quite a lot.

Solskjaer should beware the view from the directors’ box

Alex Ferguson’s advice when one of his protégés was offered a new job was always to go to the highest point of their stadium and compare it to the new one. The view from the Aker Stadium, lying as it does by Molde’s fjord, is beautiful but the 11,800-capacity, let alone the transfer budget, does not compare to what is on offer at Cardiff. However, before Ole Gunnar Solskjaer joins Cardiff, he ought to remember that the Aker Stadium has never seen its owner, Kjell Inge Rokke, boo his team off as Vincent Tan did after the 2-2 draw with Sunderland.

United are flourishing with backs to the wall

When David Moyes said he would be launching one of Manchester United’s most expansive forays into the January transfer market, it came just after Robin van Persie was ruled out for a month. And yet, Saturday’s 1-0 win at Norwich was United’s sixth in succession and achieved without Van Persie or Wayne Rooney. Given how Everton under Moyes almost invariably enjoyed a better second half of a season, United may not yet be title contenders but the vision of them finishing in the Champions League places no longer seems so unrealistic.