Two mammoth events happened in the Premier League. The top half was shaken and the bottom was...shooken. Shaked. Shanked. Manchester United turned back time and so did Sunderland. United recalled the delights of 2011, imploding majestically in front of a blue mob and an impressive Manchester City, while for nostalgia's sake, Sunderland were absolutely rubbish and began their traditional descent back to The Championship.
Manchester City vs Manchester United
With Robin Van Persie
checking the small print of his contract injured, it was a chance for Danny Welbeck to prove whether or not he has it in him to be a Manchester United striker. And prove it he did. Welbeck was, along with everyone else, useless, but it did demonstrate that his best position is on the wing of a three man attack. David Moyes had the chance to prove whether or not he was a bold and aggressive manager. And prove it he did, twice over, neither starting with nor introducing Nani or Shinji Kagawa, preferring to place his faith in sh*thouse nonpareil Ashley Young for starters, then Tom Cleverley for sicking your starters up all over your shoes. On the other wing, he picked Antonio Valencia, whose improvement from last season is a handy illustration of the dead cat bounce.
Wayne Rooney had the chance to prove that he was worthy of the new contract he was apparently due as a result of not merely standing statuesque in the last three games. And prove it he did. His first touch and build up play was uninspired, missing Van Persie and unable to provide his own spark. Even the traditional gobbing off at the referee lacked any verve or zest. He may have scored an excellent free kick to make it 4-1, but that's still 4-1. When Wayne Rooney is United's best player, you know United will have lost. Still, he was rubbish and energetic, which is enough for most papers.
Manchester City, however, looked just a little bit like the City side that Roberto Mancini had before he upset everyone by criticising his players publicly and calling your mum a dick. Samir Nasri seemed to enjoy himself, perhaps having being persuaded by Manuel Pellegrini that our time on Earth is like sand in an egg-timer - it might drain imperceptibly slowly, Samir, but it will all come to an end regardless - and that he might as well be remembered for something of value. Something of value as opposed to flicking a Van Persie free kick into his own goal in the last minute of the corresponding match last year. Something of value as opposed to being seen on MTV Cribs: Djibril Cisse, floating by in the pool. Anyway, Yaya Toure, Vincent Kompany, Alvaro Negredo (or is it Roberto Soldado? Pls check, editor) and even Joe Hart played with assuredness, invention and determination. United played like a drab United without Alex Ferguson to bollock them onto improvement. City looked like winners, United looked like Bolton.
It's too early to conclude that David Moyes is now a man under pressure, but he definitely, definitely is. He started like a man out of his depth and so it has continued. This is a man whose second priority in the transfer window was Leighton Baines. People laughed and said that he was aiming to recreate Everton at Manchester United, and if he's earned one plaudit, it's that he hasn't let his inability to nail his transfer targets hold him back.
Di Canio goes the way of his hero Benito
Some would say it was on the cards when Sunderland spent £115 million, recouping £70 million, buying 14 new players and selling 400 in the summer. Some would say it was when Di Canio decided to ban ketchup, mayonnaise and Coca Cola, but not brown sauce. And yet others would say it was when Sunderland decided to appoint a man with explicit fascist sympathies, who made fascist salutes to the crowd, picked fights with his players in public, and was a deeply unsympathetic man, was the moment when Sunderland signed their death warrant and made Di Canio's exit inevitable.
Against Southampton, Sunderland were garbage. Against Crystal Palace, Sunderland were garbage. Against West Brom, Sunderland were garbage and Stephane Sessegnon, formerly Sunderland's best player until the Dear Leader's management methods alienated him to the point of apathy and inertia, inspired the Steve Clarke Experience to their first win. Emanuele Giaccherini, bought by Di Canio for £8 (that's EIGHT) million from Juventus to provide comparable zest and inspiration, was substituted at half time. It's as if nobody had any idea what they were supposed to be doing.
Still, who cares? This is a happy ending. Sunderland - who, under normal circumstances, are one of football's more tolerable clubs - appointed a man with obviously horrendous views, who had a hero in life as the leader of one of the most murderous regimes in the second world war, all so they could keep their poxy heads up above water. We're sinking, Ellis! Throw the morals overboard! Now, they're going to get relegated for employing such a fool and indulging him witlessly. Boo hoo. Paolo Di Canio, said man, is out of work having been treated with a respect he is afforded only because he did a special volley, and caught a cross he wasn't scoring from anyway. Fascists and their collaborators, punished deservedly. Up the resistance! Enjoy unemployment, Paolo! Bye bye.
Andi Thomas and Alexander Netherton