A Week in Football – United’s title hopes hang by a thread

It has been a record breaking week at Old Trafford, and not in a good way. In just his first few months in charge, Martinez has done what new Manchester United gaffer never could and lead Everton to a victory over the champions at the Theatre of Dreams. What has been so impressive from the former Wigan boss this term has been that rather drastically overhaul Moyes’ Everton, he has instead refined and developed both the squad and their style of play. With youthful attacking verve, Everton have consistently troubled the usual favourites in and around the Champions League places, coping admirably with any setbacks, such as the loss of Leighton Baines to take points of the big boys.

It has remained tense at the top all season in part because all of the top sides have been dropping points, often to teams they really should be beating. Despite André Schürrle finally performing in a Chelsea shirt, Mourinho’s team were unable to overcome Mark Hughes remarkably inconsistent Stoke team, with the likes of Ireland and Crouch putting in the kind of performances that garnered so much praise just a few years ago. The competitiveness at the top is not just down to the usual powerhouses dropping points against sides they should be beating either. As well as Everton, both Newcastle and Southampton have been in and about the European places all season, and not just by beating the sides below them, but going toe to toe with the Champions League regulars to claim hugely impressive points.

Everton were not the only side in the chasing pack to break a record at Old Trafford this week, with Newcastle also claiming their first victory away to Manchester United in 41 years. Given how awful their preseason was and all the speculation surrounding Pardew’s future with Kinnear’s arrival and Newcastle’s woeful start to the campaign, the Geordies have been performing remarkably of late. There is real quality in that squad, and the victory over Manchester United sees Newcastle now ahead of the current champions in the table, and only two points off the top four. With two very poor losses, Manchester United’s season has gone worse than anyone could have predicted, with the Fergie factor having obviously made a huge difference.  The Red Devils are now 13 points adrift of league front runners Arsenal, and although the past few seasons have proven that a significant lead does not always translate to a league title, Moyes’ chances of retaining the Premier League title now seem well and truly gone.

Prior to the start of the season, it was United’s rivals across town at Manchester City that had been touted as title favourites, along with the Special One’s Chelsea. However, City also dropped points this week, with Southampton ending a poor run of form to snatch the win. Sumptuous at home, Manchester City have an appalling away record this season, and if they are to keep up with Arsenal and Liverpool, Pellegrini will need to address this issue. Also spare a thought for poor Norwich; Suarez is a cruel, cruel man who bullies the nice folk of Norfolk whenever he can. Life got better for the Canaries with a 0-2 victory over West Brom at the weekend.

It was a victory that helped Houghton’s men pull away from what is becoming an increasingly tight relegation battle. Despite Muelensteen picking up a first victory of his managerial career, Fulham still seem to be on a fast train to the Championship. Crystal Palace on the other hand are most definitely on the up, with Chamakh the main beneficiary of Pulis’ very famous style. The former Stoke boss is currently doing a fantastic Houdini impression having now guided Palace to consecutive wins against key relegation rivals Cardiff and West Ham who now both find themselves very much embroilded in the fight for Premier League survival.

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