Atletico Madrid, PSG, Gerardo Martino and Bayern Munich are the winners but it's the losers who are interesting. Wenger and Pellegrini made their mistakes in the summer...
A week later than everybody else - simply because we're contrary - we take our latest stab at who is in Roy Hodgson's thoughts. Raheem Sterling in, Andros Townsend out...
Manchester United scored three goals at a ground where the home side had conceded only three goals in their previous eight games. They have now won three successive Premier League games. They have come from behind to claim victory three times in this campaign alone. That all sounds pretty impressive, right?
And yet there was something so achingly mid-table about this victory over Hull. From the genuinely amateurish defending (an over-used phrase which is incredibly apt in this instance) that led to a 2-0 deficit through to the panicky final three minutes when a toothier side would surely have punished their ineptitude under high balls, via a stuttering attacking performance over-reliant on Wayne Rooney; this felt achingly mid-table. Rooney's description of a single-goal victory over a newly promoted side as a "massive result" said it all.
Victory over Hull was never a gimme - a reasonable target of ten points from four games against Aston Villa, West Ham, Hull and Norwich came with a suspicion that a dull draw would be acceptable at the KC Stadium. In a way, a dull draw might have been more impressive. Instead, United's weaknesses both in central defence and central midfield were highlighted, while they needed an own goal to claim a victory that seemed a long way away at 2-2 when Steve Bruce had belatedly come up with a plan to stymie Antonio Valencia.
Ashley Young spoke after the game about the 'momentum' gained from a third successive win and he's absolutely right. Never mind that the three vanquished sides are amongst the worst eight or nine in the division, belief will be growing amongst United players that they can stay within striking distance of the top four. Perhaps it's churlish to point out that United have only beaten two teams in the top half of the table because points are worth just as much against the mediocrity below. They had to toil to beat Hull but beat them they did and those three points take them closer to the adjusted but attainable aim of a Champions League place.
So why does it matter that victory came scrappily? Why does it matter that once again United's central midfield pair failed to create a single chance? Why does it matter that the defence looked ridiculously vulnerable? It matters because the morning papers came with talk of big-money January moves for Atletico Madrid's Koke and Borussia Dortmund's Marco Reus and those players (and others of the ilk required by United) will have been watching and wondering why they should leave their exciting and dynamic clubs for this pretty average United side. Aside from Rooney's blockbuster volley, moments of true quality were seriously lacking. This kind of victory might be good for team morale but it doesn't scream 'come and join us'.
United discovered this summer that the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson has made it much, much harder for them to attract players; and that was when they were champions. In January they will try again to attract players with the added disability of being off the pace of the title race. What they didn't need was a deeply flawed performance with most of European football on their winter break and watching the Premier League.
Yawn...We came from behind to win and Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher are back from illness/injury, good enough for me at this present time. I still maintain that we can only judge this team at the end of the season and I believe we'll finish above Liverpool and Arsenal, but behind City.- spacelord