Sunday’s derby showed two teams going in opposite directions, Paolo Di Canio was doomed to fail at Sunderland, and North London rule the roost
By Greg Stobart
NO MORE MISTAKES FROM MOYES OR UNITED RISK TOTAL HUMILIATION
Leaving the Etihad Stadium last night, I could not help but wonder whether the two Manchester clubs are even direct rivals this season.
Both clubs can claim to be in transition after changing manager over the summer, but City’s 4-1 evisceration of their great rivals on Sunday drew a stark comparison between the two squads.
City have depth in every position, technical quality, a fierce desire to win back the Premier League title and a manager with the tactical nous to handle the big occasion.
|PREMIER LEAGUE TABLE
3. Man City
8. Man Utd
This is no kneejerk, but five league games in, United should forget about the title. Their priority this season should be to finish in the top four.
David Moyes was handed a tough fixture list early on – and even suggested some conspiracy against United – but the Scot has picked up just one point from three clashes against direct rivals and his side have produced just one convincing performance domestically.
Aside from the opening day defeat of Swansea, they have lacked cohesion and looked defensively suspect, the legs of veterans such as Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra creaking,
Marouane Fellaini’s arrival on the final day of the transfer window was vital, but United’s midfield is still their problem position and fails to compare with that of City, Chelsea, Arsenal or Tottenham.
The deeper frustration for Moyes will be that the teams United’s rivals have all started strongly and make up the fetal top five in the league, despite making changes of manager and losing star players themselves.
United now have a run of eminently winnable fixtures until they face Arsenal on November 10. But they cannot afford any mistakes or Moyes may have to contemplate the ultimate disaster: failure to even qualify for next season’s Champions League.
DICTATOR DI CANIO WAS DOOMED TO FAIL
Is there anyone who expect the Paolo Di Canio and Sunderland story to end any differently?
|DOOMED TO FAIL
|DI CANIO’S SUNDERLAND RECORD|
|GAMES PRESIDED OVER
PLAYERS BROUGHT IN
PLAYERS SHIPPED OUT
The Italian lasted just 13 games at the Black Cats manager but the club deserve credit for pulling the plug early and sacking Di Canio on Sunday night.
It was never going to improve. Sunderland have started the campaign horribly – they are bottom of the table with one point from five games – and in their next six home games place five of the ‘big six’ plus arch rivals Newcastle.
Di Canio made the instant impact he needed last season to keep up a team that looked doomed to relegation.
But his behaviour was increasingly bizarre as he alienated players by publicly lambasting them, running the club like a dictatorship rather than inspiring the players to get behind him.
It ended in a stand-off with the Sunderland fans after the 3-0 defeat to West Brom on Saturday that summed it up: for him, it was still the Paolo Di Canio show. He was a dream for the press but a nightmare for Sunderland.
In these circumstances, clubs often turn to the polar opposite, so expect owner Ellis Short to admit his mistake and appoint a no thrills, safe pair of hands to put the ship back on course.
NORTH LONDON SITTING PRETTY AT PREMIER LEAGUE SUMMIT
Tottenham lost their best player over the summer, for a long time Arsenal did absolutely nothing.
Yet any negativity in north London has evaporated, with the two clubs sitting pretty and level on points at the top of the league after five games.
Mesut Ozil has started in sparkling form for the Gunners and continued to rack up his incredible assist record in the 3-1 win over Stoke on Sunday, while Spurs showed they can score last-gasp winners without Bale in their 1-0 victory at Cardiff.
Both teams lack the experience of winning titles, but they have certainly taken early advantage of teething problems as their rivals – City, United and Chelsea – settle under new management.
Top four has to be the priority for Arsenal and Tottenham this season but while their squads lack title-winning experience, who’s to say neither side can launch a credible challenge? It’s there for the taking.
ALL EYES ON SUAREZ AGAIN
It’s been a long time coming but with Luis Suarez, there was never a danger of the Uruguayan becoming a forgotten man.
This week he finally returns from a 10-game ban for biting Branislav Ivanovic and, of all clubs, he faces Manchester United and Patrice Evra at Old Trafford in the Capital One Cup on Wednesday.
While Liverpool have started the season brightly, they missed Suarez’s touch of genius in the final third in Saturday’s dismal defeat to Southampton, so his return comes at a good time.
His desire to leave the club in the summer seems already forgotten, while his drive to win football matches has never been in doubt.
Intense, impetuous, impulsive – it’s what makes the striker a great player and also a liability.
Part of me would like Suarez to enjoy a low-key, understated return on Wednesday and stay out of the headlines. It’s never that simple with him, though.
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