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Premier League title race is over
I think we will look back on this weekend and see it as when the Premier League title was won. Sir Alex will not be having his boys take the foot off the pedal just yet, but with a 15-point lead after another Manchester City loss, that crown will be moving across town very shortly.
So, with the top very much sewn up in my view, I want to start at the bottom. I think what we saw at Villa Park Saturday blows the relegation race wide open. QPR’s defeat there has really isolated them and they now need maximum points in my view to avoid the drop. The truth is that Queen’s Park should have run away with the game – but Villa got a super performance out of Brad Guzan in that first half and Villa were able to rebound and get a massive win.
Guzan’s performance came at just the right time for American fans too. With Tim Howard out injured, there’s a lot of pressure on Guzan in the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Costa Rica and Mexico. I think he’ll come into camp really confident about his abilities now and that will only help the USA.
We also saw Southampton deliver a very comprehensive performance against Liverpool. Yes, the Reds were bad on the day, but give the credit to Maurico Pochettino: he’s right that the Saints have developed quickly under him and they got a huge win in a very difficult fixture.
Wigan also picked up a controversial win against my old club with a late goal that looked to be end result of a handball. But I don’t want to sound as if I’ve got sour grapes – you get breaks in the game and Wigan got one. Fair enough.
What I do want to point out is that that match had what I think is the worst tackle I’ve seen in a long, long time. Callum McManaman’s tackle on Massadio Haidara was a disgrace. It was so high and so late, that it was simply sickening and that really could have ended a player’s career right there. There is no room for that in this game, at all.
We all go in hard and try to get the ball when we play, but no professional would say that challenge was at all acceptable. So I don’t know what the referee was thinking – the game is quick, yes, but that is a tackle you have to address. The FA is going to have to have a serious look at it. I do not think McManaman meant it – but I think he’ll look back on that and be very disappointed in himself, as well he should be.
Now, up top, give credit to David Moyes: he took Everton out after a big disappointment in the FA Cup and made a statement. Everton cleverly exploited Roberto Mancini’s choice to use three at the back, and I think moreover, that game was a statement about Moyes and the resilience of his club.
Now, that played into United’s hands, but isn’t the story here how wounded Reading was coming into the game? For the life of me, I do not understand why Reading fired their manager with so little time left in the year. This game rarely surprises me any longer, but that’s foolish – especially when you consider Brian McDermott was manager of the month in January.
It wasn’t a convincing United performance, but I think we saw just how much Rio Ferdinand still brings to the table. He was outstanding in the game, and it should remind all of us that age is just a number. Ryan Giggs here, Mark Schwarzer at Fulham, and the great Paolo Maldini – these are people who overturn the conventional wisdom. Maldini was European defender of the year at 39 – and I don’t see any reason why Rio cannot continue to contribute in the same way at a young 34. Let’s look a bit more at what people do on the field and less on what the age on their passport reads.
Finally, I thought Arsenal showed some real spirit over Swansea, and built well after their Champions League disappointment in Munich. Their win, combined with Tottenham’s loss to Fulham means we now have a real Champions League race on our hands, and I am not going to count out Arsene Wenger.
I want to finish up by wishing the best of luck to both the USA and my home of England in the upcoming qualifiers. I’m really looking forward to these games and I hope both teams come away with two wins!
As always, you can follow me on Twitter at @warrenbarton2; you can also ask a question at any time over on @FOXSoccer by using the #heywarren hashtag. I answer as many as I can each week, and I do love hearing from you guys. Thanks for reading and for watching FOX Soccer – and I’ll see you next week!
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