Here’s what we have learnt from the Premier League this weekend.
1) And then there were three
Not only did Kolo Toure’s calamitous piece of defending allow Victor Anichebe to score a crucial goal as far as West Brom’s fortunes are concerned, it also ensured that, bar monumental surprises, Liverpool will go another season without lifting the title.
Truth be told, Brendan Rodgers’ men were never among the favourites to succeed United as Premier League champions, but after an impressive start confidence had grown on Merseyside that this could finally be their year.
However, draws against Villa and West Brom are exactly the sort of results Liverpool will have to avoid if they’re to turn a promising campaign into a championship-winning run.
Eight points adrift of first place – potentially nine, were City to win tonight – Liverpool must now concentrate on securing a Champions League place.
2) Big Andy a big lift for Big Sam
West Ham fans must have watched Saturday’s 2-0 win over Swansea thinking “So, that’s what we had been waiting for.”
Making only his second Premier League start this season, Andy Carroll delivered two assists as Kevin Nolan’s goals gave the Hammers a precious three points in their quest to escape relegation and the former Liverpool man looked increasingly like a crucial figure for Sam Allardyce’s men.
Unfortunately for Big Sam, Carroll’s red card for taking a swipe at Chico Flores means the striker will miss two crucial games in the race to avoid the drop, with West Ham playing away at Villa and at home against Norwich, before hosting Southampton.
If the Hammers manage to come through the next three games with a reasonable points return, then Carroll could prove to be the difference in the run-in.
3) Same old Newcastle
An excellent season turns into turmoil, after the club sells one of its prized assets just before the end of the transfer window, without providing the manager with enough time to find a suitable replacement.
What would be considered madness at any other club, it’s simply routine at Newcastle, where the lid that kept fans’ anger at Mike Ashley and Joe Kinnear in the first six months of the season, was well and truly blown off on Saturday.
Having lost Yohan Cabaye, his best player, 48 hours before kick-off, Alan Pardew saw his men crumble to a second 3-0 defeat at home against Sunderland in the last two seasons, with disgruntled fans storming on the pitch to remonstrate.
Good job that neither Ashely nor Kinnear turned up, or they could have been in trouble.
4) United are a mess
Tuesday’s 2-0 win over Cardiff proved to be the latest false dawn in Manchester United’s season, who had their limits yet again brutally handed to them on Saturday as they succumbed to their eight defeat of the season.
Even David Moyes’ staunchest advocates must be wondering whether the decision to appoint the former Everton manager wasn’t a mistake, for Moyes’ rigid 4-4-2 yet again stifled all the attacking instincts out of his players.
Juan Mata spent large parts of the match isolated on the wing, with United playing a terribly predictable and dire football, their midfielders incapable to provide anything resembling ideas or fight and United were lucky Liverpool and Tottenham didn’t fully capitalise on their slip.
Seven points adrift of fourth spot, United are in serious danger of missing out on the Champions League for the first time in 19 years and David Moyes’ job could soon be subject to even more intense scrutiny.
5) Signings could prove the difference at the bottom
While new signings Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long combined to put Hull ahead against Spurs and Wilfried Zaha came off the bench to inspire Cardiff’s comeback win against Norwich, Fulham’s new signing wasn’t available to face Southampton.
The Cottagers suffered a fourth consecutive defeat and are now four points adrift of safety and must hope £12 million Greek forward Konstantinos Mitroglou will hit the ground running, for goals and points are badly needed at Craven Cottage.