The English Premier League had a feeling of familiarity about it this weekend. Manchester United were back at the top of the table, there was an underwhelming performance by Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool, and Chelsea failed to win at Newcastle. Thomas Stelzer wraps up the weekend of Matchday Seven in EPL Stoppage Time.
On Saturday, Manchester United made the momentous return to the summit of English club football, a staggering 770 days since they last experienced the heady heights of Premier League primacy after a 4-1 opening round victory over Swansea in August 2013.
It was a new dawn for the Premier League, the start of the post-Ferguson era and a sense that anything was possible. Sunderland (whose 3-0 weekend loss to United torpedoed them to the bottom of the table) were enjoying the heady heights of 15th in the table after only succumbing 1-0 to the eventually-relegated Fulham and Liverpool, of all sides, almost managed to win the league.
It was a simpler time back then – David Moyes was still the Chosen One and no one had heard of Anthony Martial. Of course things soon took a turn for the worse for the Red Devils, not to mention Moyes himself, who, according to Alex Ferguson’s new book, was almost as low on the managerial wanted list as his eventual league finish that season.
Things have certainly changed under big-spending Louis van Gaal and the club ended this weekend one point ahead of cross-town and title-race rivals Manchester City. After an extremely convincing start City faltered again, losing 4-1 to Tottenham at White Hart Lane.
But more notable than the result was the fact the game was seemingly played without the offside rule, with some suggesting it was simply the latest in a long line of underpublicized FA trials to spice up the game. With five goals, the decision seems to have been an instant success, building on the momentum of previous experiments like female officials and Mike Dean refereeing Arsenal matches.
The goal-scoring heroics of Daniel Sturridge saved Brendan Rodgers blushes, and perhaps his job, as Liverpool edged out Aston Villa 3-2 at Anfield. The under-fire manager took no time to go on the offensive, lashing out at the ‘hysteria’ surrounding his team’s form and continuing a modern Liverpool tradition of misjudged managerial outbursts.
Roy Hodgson selects his England side for next week’s international break and, as is tradition, Sturridge will likely lose a limb while “on duty”. Here’s hoping he’ll have it sewn back on in time for next season.
Chelsea staged a late comeback to rescue a point from fellow relegation-strugglers Newcastle. A free-kick from Willian leveled the game at 2-2, after Ramires gave the Blues a lifeline with a powerful strike. Having never won at St James’ Park, it may prove a valuable point for Jose Mourinho’s side as they look to ensure their Premier League survival.