Boxing Day fixtures rarely ever seem to disappoint, and this season the trend was continued once again. At the top of the table Man City yet again came up a cropper at the Stadium of light as ex-City player Adam Johnson scored the winner, inevitably. Joe Hart must bear the blame but Mancini’s men were largely poor and lacked the killer instinct that crowned them champions last term.
In the other battle between the North-East and Manchester, Sir Alex Ferguson’s troops for the umpteenth time came back from behind to pip the opposition right at the chequered flag, gloriously inevitable yet shockingly unbelievable for the sheer regularity. Man United are now seven points clear off their city rivals, who at the moment don’t really have a clue as to where the back of the net is.
‘Rafalution’ is finally in motion for the Stamford Bridge club who seem to have got their act together at just the right moment to just about stay in the title reckoning. Another win, this time at Carrow Road has brought Chelsea within touching distance of the defending champions as a solitary Juan Mata goal was enough for the London outfit to condemn Norwich to back to back defeats. Other big winners were Spurs as AVB’s side dismantled Villa in their own backyard riding on the brilliance of one Gareth Bale. The Welshman was undoubtedly the player of last night’s action with a brilliant hat trick.
The Merseyside clubs had contrasting fortunes with Everton solidifying their Champions League aspirations with a regulation home win against perennial relegation contenders Wigan while Stoke defeated Liverpool to leapfrog them in the table and put another dent in Brendan Rodger side’s ambitions of securing a European place.
Let’s look at the few talking points from last night’s enthralling action:
Manchester United’s Unsung hero – Michael Carrick
Average, just about good enough and mediocre are the words commonly associated with the Englishman but Carrick’s second half showing against Newcastle was nothing short of sensational bordering on the extra-ordinary. With time running out and his team mates fluffing their lines, Carrick displayed tremendous composure and calm and moreover that eye for the match wining pass that finally ended Magpies stiff resistance and sent the Old Trafford crowd into overdrive.
Michael Carrick when partnered with Paul Scholes seems a completely different player to when he is playing along the likes of Anderson and Cleverley. With Scholes off the park, Carrick dictates play, picks out passes which he would otherwise never even try and simply looks twice the player. The Englishman also has a tendency to come to the party in the second half of the season; hopefully for United’s cause this is just the beginning for this campaign.
Chelsea sneak back in title reckoning
Ever since returning from the Club World championship Chelsea have gathered momentum and importantly Benitez has won over a sizeable section of the Blues. 6 points out of 6 and the gap between Champions City and Chelsea is potentially down to a solitary point and that is some turnaround as just about a month ago the Stamford Bridge club looked liked they would struggle to hold onto the Champions League places. Now, the next step for the manager would be to get the best out of the squad during this festive period and if Benitez manages to do that, then Chelsea could yet stag a late assault on the Championship.
Is Joe Hart really all that?
Let’s get this straight he is the best England have right now, but clearly not anywhere near the best in the game as commentators would have you believe. Hart has had a error ridden season so far and while he has come up with brilliant saves from time to time, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that Joey has cost City almost as many points as he has saved this season.So an error prone goal keeper with the ability to make the odd brilliant save, well that sounds a bit like his competitor down in the red half of Manchester, the much ridiculed David De Gea.
Heroes of Boxing Day
Gareth Bale produced a clinical performance one that left Paul Lambert’s Villa side demoralized and absolutely heartbroken. The Welshman is now undoubtedly the best wide player on view in the British shores and perhaps one of the top five players in the league altogether. Dimitar Berbatov’s audacious celebration must rank pretty close to Balotelli’s hugely famous “Why Always Me” as the Bulgarian’s “”keep calm and pass me the ball” rose more than a few eyebrows. It seemed cocky and uncharacteristically smug for someone of the Bulgarian’s persona, Fulham manager Martin Jol described Dimitar Berbatov’s T-shirt stunt as ‘stupid’ and said he would speak to the Bulgarian about avoiding a repeat. Javier Hernandez last gasp winner crowned him the darling of Old Trafford as his love affair with Manchester United gained further strength. Although Chicharito had a rather average game but the Mexican ran his socks off and never ever gave up the fight and his endurance finally paid rich dividence.
Merseyside Round up
Leon Osman and Phil Jagielka scored for Everton as they maintained their Champions League challenge with a 2-1 win against Wigan at Goodison Park. Unbeaten on Boxing Day since 2005, Everton now have a big game coming up this weekend against Chelsea, win that and the road ahead will seem rosy.
Liverpool after last weekend’s fabulous win against Fulham were brought back down to earth as they slumped to a crushing defeat at Stoke. Despite Steven Gerrard’s early penalty Jonathan Walters scored the two goals either side of Kenwyne Jones’ header. Champions League football looks a step too far for Liverpool this term, as Europa League spot must surely be the realistic target. Everton look likely to finish ahead of Liverpool for the second year running, which is indeed a rarity in these shores.