With 10 matches being played over this weekend, we have plenty to talk about.
1. Despite an out of sorts number 20, Manchester United inch closer to title no. 20
What has happened to the talismanic Dutchman? Once considered as a sure shot bet for the Golden Boot, Robin van Persie has dramatically fallen off the radar. With only a solitary goal in his last six appearances, he has been overtaken by Luis Suarez in the race to the coveted award. Despite the Dutchman’s profligacy in front of goal, Manchester United find themselves 15 points clear of their closest rivals Manchester City – thanks in no small part to a David Moyes scripted 2-0 victory for Everton over City… the same Everton who had roadblocked United’s road to glory last year with a pulsating 4-4 draw at Old Trafford.
Everton roared back from a humiliating 0-3 defeat in the FA Cup to Wigan to beat Mancini’s charges, even though they played the bulk of the second half with 10 men on the pitch after Steven Pienaar was sent off. With only 9 games to go and a yawning 15-point gap, surely there is no way back for City. Tie those red ribbons to the Premier League trophy, I say.
2. Video Replays – the need of the hour in the Premier League
Three separate incidents that raised the question – why don’t the match officials have video replays to assist them in their decision making? One, Marouane Fellaini’s handball inside the 18-yard box as he attempted to block Carlos Tevez’s shot. Surprisingly referee Lee Probert chose to award a free kick outside the box, much to the chagrin of protesting City players.
Two, a similar incident at the Stadium of Light as Danny Rose handled the ball and the referee awarding a free kick despite replays clearly showing the infringement to have been inside the box.
Three, the horror tackle by Wigan Athletic’s English striker Callum McManaman on Newcastle United’s Massadio Haidara, which resulted in the Frenchman being stretchered off to the hospital, probably out for the rest of the season. This incident went unsighted by referee Mark Halsey. The first two incidents could have had serious implications on the outcomes of those matches and while retrospective action against McManaman could still be taken, it could have been much worse for Wigan had they gone a man down in the first half itself. The standard of refereeing has been unusually shocking this weekend and it remains to be seen whether the FA takes steps to remedy these game changing decisions by introducing some kind of a video replay on the lines of the system used in the NFL.