Manchester United had a comfortable outing against Queens Park Rangers, briefly extending their lead at the top of the table to an intimidating 15 points. But Manchester City, facing tougher opposition in the form of Chelsea FC, avoided a penalty scare to gain all 3 points and within 12 points of the leaders. It will take a magical run from City and a precipitous drop in form by United to see the team switch positions, but stranger things have happened.
The “Oh! Zizou” moment of the Week
You’d think he’d have learned after his 3-match ban for elbowing Ryan Shawcross in the face, but Nzonzi has proven to be just as steeped in the dark arts today as he was a couple of years ago. After slapping Fulham’s Bryan Ruiz, the 6′ 4″ Frenchman inexplicably remained on the pitch after referee Lee Probert chose to turn Ruiz’s other cheek. Martin Jol, Fulham’s boss, was understandably unhappy with the whole incident branding it ‘evil’ and comparable to when Sauron tried to take the Ring back. Ok, we digress but you get the point. Still points to Jol for not claiming it was life-threatening. He clearly lacks the medical nous that Fergie possesses, who’s currently furiously thumbing through medical journals in a bid to diagnose Robin van Persie’s embarrasing fall into a TV camera pit as anything but that.
The Most Inevitable Result of the Week
Move over Newcastle United’s 4-2 win over Southampton, the most inevitable result of the weekend was clearly Manchester United’s win over Queens Park Rangers. The Rangers may be the sick men of the Premier League but they do have a tendency to spring the odd surprise on sides much superior to them in every respect. Just ask Chelsea, Aston Villa, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur. So it wouldn’t have been the stunner of the century of they’d managed to wrest at least a point from the clash against United.
But this is Manchester United we’re talking about. A side that has, always, been brutally efficient in racking up all 3 points against minnows. While their competitors for the top spot stumble against lower sides, Manchester United’s Red Devils have cracked the mystery of how to do just enough to get all 3 points. It might take them until the 95th minute in an uneventful game, to score the winner, but they will do it. Sorry QPR, you simply stood no chance.
Turning Point of the Week
Chelsea had their task cut out for them against Manchester City at the Etihad, and looked like they might take all 3 points when Frank Lampard stepped up to face off against Joe Hart in a battle of wills. Faced with the prospect of his 200th goal for the club, Frank Lampard put in his best with a hard shot, that kept low but Hart read his mind and was down in a flash palming the ball away.
Manchester City who seemed to be struggling at that point to bring back their mojo of the past season, suddenly seemed a different beats altogether. With Chelsea’s morale dipping, the Sky Blue brigade asserted themselves in front of a partisan crowd with goals from Toure and that eternal thorn in Chelsea’s side, Carlos Tevez. Chelsea’s stars Mata, Hazard, Lampard and Ramires all had forgettable afternoons but Cahill, Mikel and Cole helped salvage some pride keeping it a relatively close contest.
Goal of the Week
Dimitar Berbatov, long-forgotten in a Manchester United side where Javier Hernandez doesn’t get to see the light of day, has continued his rehabilitation with a spectacularly well-taken goal. As the ball drifted in from the right, and with Stoke’s famously terrifying defensive line closing in, the Bulgarian knew he had precious little time at his disposal. He could have waited to ground the ball, pick a sweet spot and caress the ball towards goal, but knowing Tony Pulis’ men that would’ve ended with Berbatov unconscious.
So he did what any sensible striker with an eye for goal would do. Strike a superb volley that left Stoke and Begovic with no clue about what hit them. Are you listening, Torres?
Player of the Week
Wenger may not get a lot right, but when he does it’s spectacular to watch. After what he described as ‘hitting the wall’ twice in one week, with despairing losses to Bayern Munich and Blackburn both of which cement their exits from cup competitions, Arsene Wenger had has back to the wall. It wouldn’t be the first time, but usually Wenger’s boys respond by digging their manager an even bigger ditch, filling it with water and drowning him in it.
This time, however, Santi Cazorla had other ideas. He made Villa goal-scorer Andreas Weimann pay, when the latter “switched off” long enough for Monreal who snuck in a cross for the Spaniard to drive home 5 minutes from time. It might not have been the cakewalk Wenger was hoping for, but it makes 4th spot fall just that little bit within reach.
Milestone of the Week
Hats off to Ryan Giggs. Manchester United’s Welsh superstar is a legend, any way you cut it. Making his 999th appearance for the club and scoring, Giggs now shares the side with players who weren’t even born – Phil Jones and Nick Powell – when he made his debut, and a host of others – Rooney, Carrick, Nani, Hernandez, Kagawa, van Persie, Evra and Vidic – still below ten.
When Giggs makes his 1000th appearance, joining an elite club of 6 others, he will actually be setting himself apart in a league of his own. He’ll be the only non-goalkeeper and Premier League player to have achieved that. Someday they’ll write an ode to him, at Old Trafford. They could start by naming a stand after him.