1. United gift City the title with dreadful display
In the end, all Manchester United achieved with their magnificent derby comeback was to postpone Manchester City’s coronation for eight days and to ensure they did not have to witness the celebrations. In every other respect, they undid all their fine work at the Etihad Stadium with a wretched display at home to West Bromwich Albion. Having beaten the top side, they lost to the bottom one. City are officially champions.
And while Jose Mourinho complained on Friday that United are denied the credit he believes they deserve, this highlighted much of what is wrong with his side. Paul Pogba reverted to being a frustration, taken off on the off-chance he would be sent off, rather than repeating his derby heroics.
AS IT HAPPENED: Manchester United vs West Brom
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Mourinho’s tactics, featuring three central midfielders, were too timid. United started too slowly. The Stretford End was reduced to chorusing “attack, attack” because United were not venturing forward often enough or effectively enough.
A home defeat was rare, let alone one to an Albion team with one win in their previous 31 league games, but United have to be dramatically better if they are to dethrone City next season.
2. City show the character of champions in Wembley win
The day before they officially became champions, City showed they are worthy winners. They have displayed their ability throughout the season. They have probably demonstrated their character more than may be acknowledged – wins away at Old Trafford, Wembley, Stamford Bridge and the Emirates Stadium are not secured by talent alone – but after three consecutive defeats, a Champions League exit, a recent habit of losing leads and conceding goals in swift succession, their resolve and temperament were questioned. Pep Guardiola, with a fine line in understatement, called a trip to Tottenham “a good test”.
READ MORE: Manchester City battle back to winning ways
IN PICTURES: Tottenham v Manchester City
City passed it in some style. Tottenham had not lost in the Premier League since December. They had not lost at home in the division since August. City outplayed them. They scored three and had the chances to get six goals. Guardiola, criticised for some of his tactical choices in the two legs against Liverpool, out-witted Mauricio Pochettino.
And while his team let a goal in after going ahead, they ensured there was no comeback this time. Instead, they added their third goal, proving incisive, inventive football was allied with determination and a collective commitment to halt the losing run.
3. Arsenal’s away record is simply embarrassing
Plenty of people have reasons to remember New Year’s Eve. Arsenal have grounds to hark back to December 31, too, even if they are distinctly different ones. They drew 1-1 away at West Bromwich Albion. It was the last time they took a point on the road. And while they do boast a victory at San Siro in the meantime, the embarrassing fact is that 91 of the 92 clubs in the Premier and Football Leagues have at least one away point in 2018. The other is Arsenal.
READ MORE: Ritchie extends Gunners’ wretched away run
As they lost 2-1 at Newcastle, they could plead mitigating factors as they concentrate on the Europa League: a first Premier League start for Joe Willock, only a second in three months for Rob Holding, a list of absentees including Mesut Ozil, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Laurent Koscielny, Hector Bellerin and the kind of line-up that has never played together before and never will again.
They may mention Newcastle’s outstanding recent form, with a fourth straight win meaning they are in the unexpected heights of the top half. Yet Arsenal’s away record is abysmal and highlights defensive deficiencies, a lack of character and cohesion and an inability to grind out results.
4. Alexander-Arnold shows both sides of his game in a week
All eyes were on the scorer. Understandably, too: Mohamed Salah has been a captivating sight all season and the feat of becoming only the third player to score 40 times in a season for Liverpool added to the list of his remarkable achievements. But when he doubled Liverpool’s lead against Bournemouth with a header that the beaten manager, Eddie Howe, thought completed the best team goal of the day, it was also significant who his supplier was.
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Trent Alexander-Arnold whipped in a wonderful cross. He flourished going forward all evening. It highlighted both sides to his game. The teenager had been honest enough to admit Manchester City probably targeted him as a potential weak link in their Champions League tie.
Instead, he defended superbly against Leroy Sane in both legs. He is developing in every respect. Earlier in the season, Jurgen Klopp tried to limit him to one game a week, rotating him with Joe Gomez. Now, with his rival injured, Alexander-Arnold has started four out of five matches in two weeks and was among Liverpool’s most powerful players in the 3-0 defeat of Bournemouth.
5. Giroud shows why he is a superb substitute
It is the tag few want, that of the super-sub. It is a mixed blessing. There are times when Olivier Giroud has suffered because he is such a superb substitute. Equally, it is also a reason Chelsea signed him, with the club-record £57 million investment in Alvaro Morata dictating that he has to be given a chance to be the first-choice forward.
So Giroud began on the bench at Southampton and upstaged Morata with a game-changing cameo. He struck twice, his first goal coming nine minutes after his introduction, to turn a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 lead. His first goal was a header that shows the aerial ability that is useful as tiring defences retreat into their own box.
It gave him a notable, if perhaps unwanted, distinction. He has now scored 19 Premier League goals as a replacement, a total bettered only by Jermain Defoe. To put it another way, he advanced beyond Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the definitive super-sub of the era.
Of course, the Norwegian’s most famous goal did not come in the Premier League, as Bayern Munich can testify, but it says something about Giroud’s capacity to make an impact in a bit-part role that he has left Manchester United’s most famous replacement behind him. And, sadly for him, it may only encourage Antonio Conte to name him on the bench again.