1. The Tyne-Wear derby throws struggling Sunderland a lifeline
One of the biggest matches to be played over this weekend threw up the biggest surprise as Sunderland secured their biggest victory at St James’ Park since 1979. A string of listless displays by the Black Cats saw Martin O’Neill getting a sack and a volatile Paolo Di Canio taking over. This volatility and exuberance was on full display as the Italian wore his heart on his sleeve and the way he celebrated the Sunderland goals were a sight to behold. Stéphane Sessègnon, Adam Johnson and David Vaughan featured on the scoresheet at Sunderland registered their first victory on the Tyneside in 13 years. The result was a bitter pill to swallow for Alan Pardew whose side now sit only 2 points above their fierce Wearside rivals. An unexpected casualty of the match was Howard Webb, who after a string of poor decisions (a disallowed Papiss Cisse goal, an offside goal by Vaughan and a horror challenge from Yoan Gouffran which went unpunished), was dropped from the Premier League officials line-up and relegated to League One.
2. Has Mancini done enough to warrant another year at the helm?
A victory at Old Trafford followed up with another deserved victory over the European Champions at Wembley in the FA Cup semis. This was definitely a signature week for Roberto Mancini. And at the end of it the City supporters gleefully sang their manager’s name as he waved acknowledgement for their support. But before you begin to conclude that the Italian’s position at the helm is all but secured for another season, you will have to consider the fact that a solitary piece of silverware in the form of an FA Cup is probably not what he was expected of at the beginning of the season. And up against an unpredictable Wigan Athletic side in the final, even that is far from certain. Khaldoon al-Mubarak and Ferran Soriano, City’s executives, were in attendance at Wembley this weekend. And on the evidence of what City dished out over the first hour or so, it definitely seems that the swagger is back. And while a heartbroken City will probably have to hand over their Premier League trophy to the red half of Manchester come the end of this season, they better prepare themselves for the upcoming season and plot to get it back. An Italian job with Mancini at the helm.