It was another action-packed weekend in the Premier League, and one which has left Frank de Boer collecting his P45 and Ederson collecting his teeth from the front row of the City of Manchester Stadium.
It’s early days of course, but you wonder how significant Liverpool’s 0-5 defeat at Manchester City will prove to be in their quest for a top four finish, while Manchester United were left to rue missed chances at Stoke which may just have an impact upon their title credentials.
But where there’s misery there’s always hope, so who were the weekend’s biggest winners and losers in the Premier League?
Winner: Manchester City
Beating one of your closest rivals is one thing, but thumping them 5-0 is an altogether mightier proposition.
Okay, so Liverpool were reduced to ten men after Sadio Mane’s contentious red card, but that should not detract from the Rolls Royce-like performance that Manchester City produced on Saturday.
If Sergio Aguero is the iconic badge of this well-oiled machine, and Leroy Sane’s late two-goal burst, the comical-sounding horn, then Kevin de Bruyne was very much the engine. The Belgian prompted and probed and was the heartbeat of all his side’s good work, and while he didn’t manage to get on the scoresheet himself he did assist two of his teammates’ goals and provide countless key passes in an awesome display of midfield orchestration.
After dropping points against Everton, the Citizens are second only to their Manchester rivals now on goal difference, and they could leap to the summit of the Premier League on Saturday if they beat Watford at Vicarage Road.
Loser: Sadio Mane
It’s hard not to feel sympathy for Sadio Mane, whose high boot saw him see red against Manchester City and ultimately cost his side any chance of taking something from the game.
There was no malice on the Senegalese international’s part; his eyes were firmly on the ball rather than the target of kicking Ederson’s head clean off. But rules are rules, and if Mane’s tackle did not constitute ‘dangerous play’ the lord knows what does.
Perhaps the biggest loser is Jurgen Klopp, who will now be without his talisman for matches against Burnley (h), Leicester (a) and Newcastle (a) pending a successful appeal.
Of course, there’s always somebody that benefits from an absent teammate….
Winner: Philippe Coutinho
Klopp has, sort of, confirmed that Philippe Coutinho will return to his squad as soon as possible – “Phil is a fantastic player, and hopefully we can use him as quickly as possible,” – were his words immediately after the Manchester City humbling.
And he will need a playmaker to replace the outstanding output from Mane so far this term. Happily, Coutinho is a like-for-like replacement, as he too will drift in from the left flank and produce magic with his right foot.
Klopp had hinted that the Brazilian wasn’t quite ready for a return to high-octane Premier League action, but his hand may now be forced. Coutinho, who has got game-time under his belt for his national side recently, has a lot of making-up to do with Liverpool fans, but he should have an immediate chance to get them back on side.
Loser: Simon Parrish
Clearly, the biggest loser from the Crystal Palace debacle is Frank de Boer, who must now recover the wreckage of his career now that he has lasted less than 100 days in two of his three managerial roles.
But surely the prize plum in this situation is Palace chairman Simon Parrish, who expected the Dutchman to sprinkle some Total Football magic dust on an average squad of players put in place by ‘Less Than Total Football’ merchants Tony Pulis, Alan Pardew and Sam Allardyce.
The fact that Parrish has now seemingly appointed Roy Hodgson as De Boer’s replacement – hardly the most enlightened of coaches – suggests the chairman has realised the error of his ways. Who needs progression when you can bore your opposition, and own fans, into submission with a particularly prehistoric brand of football?
Winner: Mark Hughes
One manager who will have something of a spring in his step this morning is Mark Hughes. The Stoke custodian seems perennially under pressure in the Potteries, and you sense that any bad result could be the trigger for his sacking.
But a 2-2 draw with previously untouchable Manchester United will have done Hughes’ confidence – and his board’s confidence in him – the world of good.
Even more pleasing for the Welshman will have been the fact that one of his summer signings, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, did the damage by bagging a brace and condemning the Red Devils to their first dropped points of the campaign.
Everton have claimed just four points from a quartet of admittedly-difficult fixtures, but it is the nature of their poor return that will be worrying Toffees fans the most.
Their side have recorded a solitary shot on target in their last 180 minutes of football, and even with boss Ronald Koeman switching to four at the back to enable him to select summer signings Wayne Rooney, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Davy Klassen and Sandro, his side were unable to create anything of note.
The pressure is slowly starting to build on the big-spending Dutchman, and at the start of a week in which his side must travel to Atalanta on Thursday for a Europa League game before heading to Old Trafford on Sunday that does not bode well.