(Reuters) – Talking points from the Premier League weekend:
BACK TO THE FUTURE FOR UNITED?
New Manchester United interim manager Ralf Rangnick enjoyed a victory in his opening game in charge of the club with a 1-0 win against Crystal Palace but while the points are the priority there will be plenty of focus on the style of football the German delivers at Old Trafford.
If the opening game was any clue — and Rangnick had only one full training session with his team — it may not be quite as exciting as billed.
Rangnick has been hailed as a tactical innovator of the intense pressing game that has become popular among a number of top German coaches but while United’s forwards did press Palace’s back line in the early stages that was not the most noticeable change.
Rather Rangnick operated without wide attacking players with a narrow 4-2-2-2 formation — Bruno Fernandes and Jadon Sancho tucked in behind Marcus Rashford and Cristiano Ronaldo.
With Fred and Scott McTominay in their usual holding roles it gave United a solidity but may not be the most entertaining approach.
NO STRIKERS, NO PROBLEM FOR MANCHESTER CITY
Who needs an out-and-out striker when you have a midfield playmaker who cannot stop scoring goals?
Much is made of Pep Guardiola’s squad’s lack of a traditional frontman but when goals flow from multiple directions it does not really matter.
Bernardo Silva’s double on Saturday in a 3-1 win at Watford means he is City’s top scorer in the league this season with seven goals, equalling his season’s best haul in 2018-19.
“I want to say thank you, because after what I said in midweek about Silva being the best in the league currently, the performance he has done — he didn’t make me wrong,” Guardiola said of the Portuguese. “He is so important for us.”
SICK MEN OF CHELSEA FIGHTING ON ALL FRONTS
Thomas Tuchel dwelt on “the details” that went wrong after Chelsea’s 3-2 defeat at West Ham United on Saturday but he must also contend with the bigger picture of a growing injury list.
Kai Havertz hobbled off at halftime and wing back Marcos Alonso, himself replacing the injured Ben Chilwell, also went off with back pain. Tuchel said he did not know when key midfielders N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic would be back while Jorginho had been playing with hip pain.
“We have overloaded players. This is not an excuse because they will stay overloaded,” Tuchel said.
Chelsea travel to Zenit St Petersburg on Wednesday needing a win to guarantee top spot in Champions League Group H, and then host Leeds United on Saturday, the first of five Premier League games before Dec. 31. They also have a League Cup quarter-final against Brentford. Chelsea’s first two league fixtures of 2022? Liverpool at home and Manchester City away.
NEWCASTLE HAVE HOPE, BUT HORRIBLE FIXTURE LIST LOOMS
At the 15th time of asking Newcastle United finally got a Premier League win on Saturday as Callum Wilson’s goal earned a 1-0 victory over fellow strugglers Burnley.
The celebrations were understandable at the final whistle, but Newcastle need more wins soon and the fixture list in the build-up to Christmas is far from festive.
They face Leicester City away, before a trip to Liverpool, followed by home games against Manchester City and Manchester United. Come through that run with a few more points on the board and new manager Eddie Howe might well be hailed as the club’s saviour.
POTTER BACKS SANCHEZ TO CUT OUT MISTAKES
Brighton & Hove Albion boss Graham Potter backed goalkeeper Robert Sanchez to improve his distribution following an erratic display in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Southampton and said his team would have to collectively raise their level.
Sanchez’s poor kick resulted in Southampton’s opener before Brighton snatched a point when Neal Maupay scored in added time, but the result means they are without victory in 10 league games — their longest winless run in the top flight since 1982-1983.
“Football is a game of mistakes,” Potter said. “Rob’s distribution is part of his strengths and his first half was probably a little bit like the team, so it’s not about an individual. He made some good saves to keep us at 1-0 in the first half. He’s a young goalkeeper that will get better.”
GERRARD HEADS TO ANFIELD WITH VILLA MOTORING
New Villa boss Steven Gerrard takes his side on a trip up the M6 motorway to Liverpool next Saturday, where an emotional reunion awaits, but his new side will be no lambs to the slaughter for the title-chasing Reds.
Gerrard’s Villa came from a goal down to beat Leicester City 2-1 on Sunday, showing the kind of resilience and drive that was his hallmark as a player, and they will need all of that resolve on his return to Anfield.
“”No sentimental thoughts ahead of Liverpool next week. I just want to go there and win. We go there with confidence and belief, we just want to make it as difficult as we can,” he told Sky Sports after the Leicester win, but nothing would give him greater pleasure than getting one up on his old club.
(Compiled by Martyn Herman, Simon Evans, Shrivathsa Sridhar, Philip O’Connor; editing by Clare Fallon)