Manchester United Are Effectively Champions – English Premier League Review

With another weekend of Premier League action behind us, it’s time to take stock of everything that’s happened, gloss over the mundane and harp over the spectacular.

The ‘What Were You Thinking?’ Moment Of The Week

Paolo Di CanioAnd you thought Rafa Benitez’s appointment didn’t go down well with Chelsea supporters? Perhaps you should reserve judgement until you hear what Sunderland owner Ellis Short has been credited with.

Short who was understandably upset with the direction his team was headed in, under the stewardship of former Villa boss Martin O’Neill, decided Sunderland’s loss to Manchester United was the final straw that broke the camel’s back. The camel, of course, being Short’s patience with O’Neill.

But then seemingly taking a page out of Roman Abramovich’s playbook, in which entire chapters are dedicated to thumbing your nose at your own supporters, Ellis Short picked a new manager who doesn’t exactly share the political leanings of the predominantly socialist and left-leaning Sunderland crowd. And that’s putting it mildly. The new manager is 44-year old self proclaimed fascist Paolo di Canio, with a penchant for raised-arm salutes and a fascination for Benito Mussolini. Seriously.

All of this has presumably been lost on the Sunderland owner, who presumably has a short attention span (see what I did there?). I suppose it’s time for Chelsea fans to forgive Roman Abramovich for the appointment of Rafa Benitez. It could’ve been so much more worse.

The Least Surprising Moment of the Week

Manchester UnitedManchester United put out an under-strength side in the clash against Sunderland who were playing at home. Sunderland hadn’t won in 7 games, and with United looking forward to its FA Cup clash with Chelsea, this was as good as a chance as any for Martin O’Neill’s men to put some daylight between them and the relegation zone.

Instead with the odds supposedly stacked against them, Manchester United dug deep into that blob of dark matter commonly known as Sir Alex Ferguson’s soul and called on the services of one of their most loyal servants across the ages, the dreaded own goal.

So while United did their best to slow down the pace of the game, so that Sunderland could keep up with them, there was precious little to write home about the game. In any case, when he was done toying with Sunderland, Robin van Persie decided to include the peripheral Titus Bramble in the proceedings, and get the latter onto the scoresheet.

And that own goal will live in infamy as having brought di Canio onto England’s shores.

The ‘Shooting Yourself In The Foot’ Award for the Week

Once again, Chelsea FC and Rafa Benitez walk away with the honors here in this highly undesired category. Nothing begets a victory, like a string of victories and while Chelsea have genuine concerns with fatigue before their FA Cup clash with United, they made a grievous error resting Mata against Southampton, a side whose scalps include Manchester City and Liverpool at home, and against whom Manchester United barely survived twice.

When Chelsea should have been looking to get into steamrolling mode, they ceded the initiative and the mojo (if there is even such a thing). To make matters worse, their FA cup replay opponents Manchester United have started the mind games with Ferguson insisting Chelsea’s FA pedigree have been solely because of a fortuitous run of easy draws. And there’s also the subtle one-year extension to Rio Ferdinand, something that will not go unnoticed by the more deserving Frank Lampard.

The Nod for the Quickest Rehabilitation In A Season

Having watched Chelsea lose to Southampton, Andre Villas-Boas can be forgiven for feeling smug. A few months ago, he was on bended knee convincing Tottenham Hotspur’s Daniel Levy that he’d learned from his mistakes at Chelsea. Today, thanks to the 50-million rated (because, why not?) Gareth Bale his manager Andre Villas-Boas is being seen as having successfully rehabiliated his image with the success he’s had at White Hart Lane with nowhere near the riches that both the Manchesters and Chelsea boast.

A Top 4 spot looks almost certain, and while that wouldn’t be an improvement over Harry Redknapp’s performance, it will do. It most certainly will.

The Most Consequential Return of the Week

Manchester CityThat would be Vincent Kompany’s. Without him, the defending champions dropped 10 points over 2 months thereby dramatically conceding ground to Manchester United who look set to overcome last season’s final day heartbreak with gas to spare in the tank. Upon his return, the sky blue brigade tore Newcastle United to shreds in a 4-0 mauling and Kompany even got to add his name to the scoresheet.

As Alan Pardew pointed out, it’s amazing what the knowledge of there being no chance of a shot at the title can do for you. Roberto Mancini, who doesn’t believe in last minute miracles anymore, seems to agree.

Chalk this up for game of the week to. There’s very few sights in the Premier League that can match that of Carlos Tevez, David Silva, and Vincent Kompany at their best.

Team Of The Week