A topsy-turvy, manic encounter, and yet entirely predictable when neither side can defend. Immense fun, but weren't these two teams with title ambitions in August..?
Man United's winning run was halted by ten-man Aston Villa as Louis van Gaal's side struggled to crack the hosts' resistance. Van Gaal is still waiting for a big performance...
What they need: A new defence, a goalscorer and players prepared to fight for survival. The Rs' current first-choice centre-back pairing of Clint Hill and Ryan Nelsen is by far the slowest in the Premier League and was embarrassed by Luis Suarez when Liverpool romped to a 3-0 victory at Loftus Road over Christmas. QPR are also struggling for goals (at the time of writing they have the joint-lowest total (17) with Aston Villa), with Jamie Mackie and Djibril Cisse managing only five league strikes between them and Bobby Zamora still struggling with a hip injury.
What they're likely to get: Darren Bent seems a likely target now that he's recovered from a hamstring injury and Paul Lambert has made it clear the striker is no longer guaranteed to start at Aston Villa. A cut-price fee of around £8million could secure a deal. Michael Dawson was a target in the summer but has since played his way into Andre Villas-Boas's plans; Joleon Lescott and Richard Dunne are alternatives to join Tal Ben Haim. Harry Redknapp will want to spend, that much is clear.
What's been said? Harry Redknapp: "If we can get one or two in, we'll give ourselves a chance. That's what I'm looking at. I've got to sign people in the right positions who can help us."
What they need: Reading's squad is bereft of Premier League quality and, aside from the 1-0 win over West Ham, the Royals have looked very poor in recent weeks. Brian McDermott has strengthened his defence with the acquisition of Sporting Lisbon defender Daniel Carriço, but the manager will need to find further defensive recruits if Reading are to stop shipping goals. More creativity in attack is also desperately required.
What they're likely to get: The arrival of Russian investor Anton Zingarevich hasn't boosted the coffers as much as fans would have hoped and Reading are likely to continue the prudent approach they adopted in the summer. Australian international midfielder Tomas Rogic is set to follow Carriço to the club, and McDermott will also look to improve his squad in the loan market.
What's been said? Brian McDermott: "There is a possibility. We are trying to maybe do two or three players, plus Daniel (Carriço, the Sporting Lisbon defender who has already signed)."
What they need: Considering the mixed performances of Saints' three keepers they could benefit from resurrecting a move for Jack Butland, who looks set to leave Birmingham to allay the club's financial problems. The defence has improved in recent weeks, but Nigel Adkins is still thought to be looking at centre-back targets in January. A wise decision, with Jos Hooiveld prone to spectacular errors.
What they're likely to get: Reports in Italy claim Cagliari centre-back Davide Astori will join the Saints this month and the Italy international would add extra quality to the back-line. It appears Southampton have good connections in Italy following Gaston Ramirez's move in the summer, and they are likely to exploit them as Adkins seeks to strengthen his squad. A loan move for Yossi Benayoun is also a possibility.
What's been said? Nigel Adkins: "We've had our recruitment meeting well before the January window has opened. We have a good recruitment department, we have targeted several players, we have had conversations about availability and non-availability. I would like to think that during the course of the window a couple of people will be coming in."
What they need: It has been business as usual at Stoke this season, with the defence looking solid but the attack struggling to break teams down. A creative midfielder to play behind Kenwyne Jones or Peter Crouch in a 4-4-1-1 formation would help in that respect, while Tony Pulis is also looking at St Etienne left-back Faouzi Ghoulam.
What they're likely to get: Stoke need to sell before they can buy, but with Kenwyne Jones and Cameron Jerome having improved recently there are few obvious names to ship out. Wilson Palacios has been linked with a move to Mexico and Stoke would surely accept any reasonable offer for the midfielder. There's an outside chance that Harry Redknapp could move for Peter Crouch and if Pulis approves the striker's sale he would have money to spend.
What's been said? Tony Pulis: "We are in that position where one or two may have to leave first. Last year we didn't freshen and we fell away but we have to try and wheel and deal to generate some money."
What they need: The odd thing about Sunderland is that they've spent an awful lot of money on their squad, but when you look at it there really isn't a great deal of quality there, beyond the first team. The first thing they need is another striker - Steven Fletcher's addition has obviously worked out rather well, but if he isn't around then they're looking at the ugly end of a Connor Wickham lone striker role. They've also looked a bit light in central midfield, but that's largely because most of them have been playing as full-backs. So a right-back might be handy. Oh, and someone to score goals from midfield, perhaps.
What they're likely to get: Another forward, but not necessarily for much money. If they can take advantage of Danny Graham's situation at Swansea (more on that in Part Four) then that could be an option, and the name of Guillaume Hoarau, who looks to be leaving PSG, has been mentioned. Tim Cahill's loan from the New York Red Bulls may have been confirmed by the time you read this.
What's been said? "If I feel a player is good value, I don't mind signing them. I did that at Aston Villa with Ashley Young and John Carew. Maybe there will be other short-term loans which would bolster us immediately. If you are going to pay for players, they would need to improve the team immediately and for the foreseeable future."
Matt Stanger and Nick Miller