Manchester United win differently, a Liverpool problem returns and two Premier League managers face pressure

Seven things we learned: The sack race heats up after events in east London and on Merseyside, City show no signs of stopping and there's only one question on every Chelsea fan's lips

Evan Bartlett
Monday 25 September 2017 08:07 BST
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Manchester United were far from their fluent best on Saturday - but that's okay...
Manchester United were far from their fluent best on Saturday - but that's okay... (AFP/Getty Images)

United get a different kind of win

This game will be remembered better for the Manchester United fans who defiantly sang that racist chant about Romelu Lukaku despite being asked not to, but from a footballing sense their 1-0 win over Southampton was more notable for the manner of victory.

Unlike wins against Everton, Swansea and West Ham, United did not overwhelm their opponents in the closing moments of this fixture, but rather limped over the line. Jose Mourinho was happy afterwards, explaining it was one that United may not have claimed last season when a succession of frustrating draws saw them finish outside the automatic Champions League qualifying places.

While their early thrashings has seen many back them as leading contenders for the title this time around, this game was perhaps more important because it proves they can win ugly too.

City show no signs of stopping

Unlike cross-town rivals United, Manchester City continued their scintillating form this weekend, knocking five past sorry Crystal Palace.

Pep Guardiola has the luxury of being able to drop a player of the calibre of Gabriel Jesus and bringing in a talent like Leroy Sane.

The German winger, starting just his second league game of the season, was sensational, opening the scoring with a sublime, Gascoigne-esque chip and finish before laying one on a plate for Raheem Sterling to double the lead.

From then, as has happened early on in so many of City’s matches this season, the game was already over for their opponents.

For Guardiola, you sense, keeping his squad of stars happy will be more difficult than the simple matter of winning games.

Chelsea banish Costa memories


Alvaro Morata was sensational against Stoke 

 Alvaro Morata was sensational against Stoke 
 (AFP)

One of the summer’s longest and ugliest transfer sagas was ended last week with Chelsea and Atletico Madrid finally agreeing to terms which will see the wantaway Diego Costa return to the Spanish capital.

But if there was ever a fear that the Blues would miss a man who fired them to two Premier League titles in three seasons, then there was another Spaniard on hand to provide plenty of hope for the future.

Alvaro Morata was sensational on Saturday, scoring a hat-trick of sublime quality against Stoke, which left just one question on many a Chelsea fan’s lips: Diego who?

What to do with a problem like Mignolet?

It seems harsh to criticise a goalkeeper who won his team the match by saving a late Jamie Vardy penalty at the King Power Stadium, but Liverpool should never have been in a position to drop points given how dominant they were.


Simon Mignolet was at fault for Leicester's opener and gave a penalty away 

 Simon Mignolet was at fault for Leicester's opener and gave a penalty away 
 (Getty Images)

The trouble with Mignolet is that he is an eye-catching shot-stopper, producing brilliant, diving stops and point-blank reaction saves often giving the impression he is among the league’s best – but it is the rest of his game that lets him down.

At 2-0 down, the Foxes were gifted a way back into the match as the Belgian flapped horribly at a corner allowing Shinji Okazaki to bundle home. Then, with Leicester coming into the ascendancy, the goalkeeper botched a clearance and clattered into Vardy to hand the home side a penalty.

From there, he stood his ground and palmed away the England forward’s spot kick, leaving the east Midlands as the hero. But in truth he was a hero Liverpool should never have needed in the first place.

Palace set an unwanted record


Palace have had a horrible start to the season 

 Palace have had a horrible start to the season 
 (Getty)

Poor Roy Hodgson. The former England manager’s homecoming to the club he followed as a boy has got off to a horrible start in difficult circumstances. That 5-0 thrashing at the hands of Manchester City on Saturday made Palace the first team in English Football League history to start a season with six defeats and no goals.

“It’s a bad defeat,” the 70-year-old said after the game. “We know there is a lot of work to do with this group of players. All we can do is keep going and accept that this was always going to be a difficult game.”

His mood can hardly have been lifted by the news that Christian Benteke – effectively the only first-team striker goalless Palace possess – faces a scan on a knee ligament injury which is feared could keep him out for months, nor by a glance at the fixture list. Palace face a trip to Old Trafford next weekend, then host champions Chelsea.

Koeman breathes a sigh of relief…


Oumar Niasse scored two late goals against Bournemouth 

 Oumar Niasse scored two late goals against Bournemouth 
 (Getty)

Everton boss Ronald Koeman hit back at the “ridiculous” suggestion his job could be on the line following his side’s 2-1 victory over Bournemouth on Saturday. Just imagine what the speculation would have been like had they lost.

Despite spending north of £100m in the summer, the match-winner at Goodison was a man the Dutchman had consigned to the reserves this time a year ago. Oumar Niasse scored twice late on as the Toffees came from behind to secure a crucial win over Eddie Howe’s south coasters after three straight defeats in the league.

Koeman will be hoping it can be something of a turning point in their season.

…but Bilic is on a precipice


West Ham's game plan went to pot when Andy Carroll came on 

 West Ham's game plan went to pot when Andy Carroll came on 
 (AFP)

While goals from Javier Hernandez and Cheikhou Kouyate threatened to get West Ham back into their London derby against Tottenham, the reality ended up being a fourth defeat from six Premier League games this season for Slaven Bilic’s side.

There has long been a sense that West Ham are one of the most tactically inept sides in the Premier League and that was proven once again on Saturday. While they had a clear game plan to start at the game at the London Stadium, and one which seemed to be working, it soon went down the pan on the half hour mark as the dynamic Michail Antonio had to go off injured.

On in his place came the more lumbering Andy Carroll with Bilic opting against a like-for-like replacement in the shape of Andre Ayew or Diafra Sakho. The Hammers’ game plan changed and Tottenham capitalised.

Bilic’s contract runs out next summer and there is no sign of it being extended – particularly with results going the way they are. The Croatian is favourite to be the next manager sacked. Surely it is only a matter of time.

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