Tag Archives: results

Scottish football results – is it time to ditch them from the classifieds?

Forfar 4 East Fife 5… who cares I'd rather watch Britain's Got Talent, it's time to ditch the meaningless Scottish classified results (and bin the Welsh ones too!)

By
Graeme Yorke

PUBLISHED:

10:26 GMT, 16 April 2013

|

UPDATED:

13:17 GMT, 16 April 2013

The voice: James Alexander Gordon reads out the classified results on Sports Report every week

The voice: James Alexander Gordon reads out the classified results on Sports Report every week

And finally…

Bala Town 4 Afan Lido 0

At least that’s what I think the presenter reading the football results said on the radio about 5.05pm on Saturday evening.

To be honest I’d switched off a long time before he got to that riveting scoreline.

In
fact, as soon as he said ‘Wycombe 2 Aldershot 1’, the final fixture in
League Two on Saturday, football as we know it was over.

It
had nothing to do with the fact that Aldershot are the club I’ve
supported man and boy and that they are heading for the Conference. It
had everything to do with the fact that nobody gives a monkey’s about
results outside the 92 top clubs.

Have
you tried listening to the Scottish results lately No, neither have I.
It’s a complete waste of time. Celtic win everything now that Rangers
are competing in the Shetland Isles Division Four. No amount of whisky,
let alone Irn-Bru, could make you think having the full rundown of
results from north of the border – and Wales, come to think of it – is
worthwhile. Not even for the fabled Forfar 4 East Fife 5.

I’d
rather watch Britain’s Got Talent (can’t believe I’ve just written
that!) than see meaningless scoreline after meaningless scoreline pop up
on the videprinter. Or listen to the shipping forecast than hear them
on the wireless.

Scroll down for the classic BBC Sports Report theme

Waste of time: Celtic win everything while Rangers compete in the Shetland Isles Division Four

Waste of time: Celtic win everything (above) while Rangers compete in the Shetland Isles Division Four (below)

Waste of time: Celtic win everything while Rangers compete in the Shetland Isles Division Four

What we want is the football of the real world. In these days of Messi and Ronaldo and the Champions League we need to know about La Liga, Serie A, Bundesliga and, now that Becks is just a Channel hop away, Ligue 1.

It’s time for the Beeb and Sky to realise there’s a new viewer and/or listener out there. Gone are the days when we all gathered round the wireless at 5pm on Saturdays to listen to the familiar introductory music for Sports Report and then the distinctive tones of results readers, John Webster and James Alexander Gordon.

Empty seats: The stands are hardly packed for Hamilton Accies v Falkirk

Empty seats: The stands are hardly packed for Hamilton Accies v Falkirk

Anyone interested – there can’t be anyone, can there – in how East Stirling, bottom of the Irn-Bru Division Three, got on against Annan Athletic can easily phone or tweet of one the team’s half-dozen loyal supporters to find out.

And don’t give me the old line about
needing to give all the results because of football coupons. When was
the last time you saw someone filling in one

More interesting: Britain's Got Talent is a more worthy watch than seeing meaningless scores on the vidiprinter

More interesting: Britain's Got Talent is a more worthy watch than seeing meaningless scores on the vidiprinter

The move for Scottish independence is to be welcomed. Cut them adrift and let them have their own results programme and while we’re at it they can take the Corbett Sports Welsh Premier League results with them.

They can then drone on about Cowdenbeath and Stenhousemuir to their Hearts’ content and leave us to soak up the results that really matter.

Results that matter: Now that Beckham is at Paris St Germain, we need to know the Ligue 1 scores

Results that matter: Now that Beckham is at Paris St Germain, we need to know the Ligue 1 scores

VIDEO The classic BBC Sports Report theme

Chelsea are the world"s best team according to statistics

REVEALED: Chelsea are the best team in the world… the news that will get United and City fired up

and February 28 2013, have produced some results that seem bizarre.

Another accolade: Chelsea should enjoy being No 1 in the world while it lasts

Another accolade: Chelsea should enjoy being No 1 in the world while it lasts

In second place are Atletico Madrid and third, Chelsea's vanquished Champions League final opponents Bayern Munich.

Fourth are Club World Cup champions Corinthians, while the mighty Barcelona are down in fifth.

The rankings are calculated by including results from national league matches, continental and intercontinental competitions and the most important national cup competition, ignoring results before the last 16 phase.

Nothing special: Cristiano Ronaldo and his friends are down in seventh

Nothing special: Cristiano Ronaldo and his friends are down in seventh

Results are awarded points depending on the level of competition. A draw in a national league game is worth two points and a win is four.

Champions League draws and wins are worth seven and 14 respectively, while Club World Cup semi-finals are worth the same.

A win in the Club World Cup final is worth 21 points – which explains how high up Corinthians are.

Lowly: Manchester United are only 19th, according to these bizarre rankings

Lowly: Manchester United are only 19th, according to these bizarre rankings

Celtic are level with Manchester United in 19th, while Liverpool are 25th, Tottenham 37th and Arsenal 50th.

Premier League Champions Manchester City languish in 56th, largely because of their shoddy Champions League showings.

Off target: Man City are low down after poor European showings

Off target: Man City are low down after poor European showings

The top 20 sides in the world

1. Chelsea (307)
2. Atletico Madrid (304)
3. Bayern Munich (292)
4. Corinthians (287)
5. Barcelona (283)
6. Boca Juniors (281)
7. Real Madrid (277)
8. Juventus (241)
9. Inter Milan (234)
10. Sao Paulo (230)
11. Universidad de Chile Santiago (223)
12. Fluminense (222)
13. Basel (220)
14. Fenerbahce (216)
= Lazio
16. Dortmund (215)
17. Lyon (214)
18. PSG (210)
19. Manchester United (205)
= Club Libertad Asuncion
= Celtic

Other English sides in the top 100

25. Liverpool (200)
37. Tottenham (186)
50. Arsenal (169)
56. Man City (161)
65. Newcastle (152)

Top 400 teams here

Harry Redknapp says Queens Park Rangers can beat Manchester United and blow Barclays Premier League title race open

We'll blow the title race wide open by beating United, says Redknapp

By
Mark Bryans, Press Association

PUBLISHED:

14:15 GMT, 19 February 2013

|

UPDATED:

17:28 GMT, 19 February 2013

Harry Redknapp is confident QPR can beat Manchester United and open the door for Manchester City to close the gap in the race for the Barclays Premier League title.

Rangers go into their clash with United on Saturday bottom of the Premier League table and seven points from safety.

But Redknapp has used recent examples of a victory over west London rivals Chelsea and a draw over previous employers Tottenham as proof they can pull off a shock win at Loftus Road.

Redknapp roar: Harry reckons QPR will beat table-topping Man United this weekend and re-open the title race

Redknapp roar: Harry reckons QPR will beat table-topping Man United this weekend and re-open the title race

‘You can’t predict results,’ Redknapp told the Fulham Chronicle.

‘We’re playing Chelsea away on the back of being smashed to pieces by Liverpool. What’s the score going to be you might ask 3-0, and 4-0 to them I was surprised as you were.

‘We then play Tottenham at home who’ve beaten everybody away and have scored in all away games – and they don’t score against us.’

Struggling: QPR are rock bottom of the Premier League with vital fixtures coming up against Southampton, Sunderland and Aston Villa after United

Struggling: QPR are rock bottom of the Premier League with vital fixtures coming up against Southampton, Sunderland and Aston Villa after United

With other decent results picked up in the hunt for Premier League survival, Redknapp is certain QPR will be able to take all three points from Sir Alex Ferguson’s side.

‘Against Man City who are champions, we get another great point and then another at West Ham, which is a hard place to go,’ he said.

‘So we’re just as capable of getting something against Man U as anyone else.’

Jack Collison says West Ham are looking up the table not down

Collison says West Ham are looking up the table and not thinking about a relegation scrap

By
Laurie Whitwell

PUBLISHED:

00:10 GMT, 1 January 2013

|

UPDATED:

00:10 GMT, 1 January 2013

Jack Collison says West Ham are still targeting a top-half finish despite a recent slide down the table.

Three defeats in four games mean the club are only six points above the relegation places but the midfielder, who returned from six months out with a knee injury in the 1-0 loss to Reading, believes that as players come back to fitness results will pick up.

The Welsh international played 36 minutes at the Madejski and Ricardo Vaz Te also returned after a lengthy lay-off to provide manager Sam Allardyce with a boost.

Looking up: Jack Collison says West Ham are eying a top half finish

Looking up: Jack Collison says West Ham are eying a top half finish

'It is all about getting games under my belt now and just concentrating on getting fitter and fitter,’ Collison told the club’s official website. ‘Obviously for me personally this season was not what I wanted, with the injury, but full credit to the boys, who have been fantastic. What we want to do now is kick on and enjoy an equally good second half of the season.’

West Ham play Norwich at Upton Park today (New Year’s Day) and Collison believes the opposition provide a blueprint for success.

Missing out: West Ham lost to relegation threatened Reading last time out

Missing out: West Ham lost to relegation threatened Reading last time out

He said: 'We can look at what Norwich did last season. They had got promoted the year before and stayed up. As a promoted side ourselves this year, we want to do that and more and finish in a good place.

'I am sure it will be a cracking game to start the New Year off, but the most important thing for us is getting the points. Myself and Vaz have returned and I know there are a few of the other injured boys not too far away.

'Our form and results since August mean we have given ourselves a chance to be around the top half of the table and we want to make sure that stays that way. We have targets and over the next three or four games we will be looking to meet those targets so we can push on.’

Sir Alex Ferguson hits back at criticism of his treatment of officials by slamming Newcastle manager Alan Pardew

Pardew's the worst! Ferguson hits back at criticism for haranguing officials with attack on manager of 'wee club' Newcastle

|

UPDATED:

11:33 GMT, 28 December 2012

TODAY'S POLL

Do you agree with Fergie – is Pardew worst with refs

Yes, Pardew's the worst

No, Fergie's No 1

VOTE

Alan Pardew

POLL RESULTS

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Sir Alex Ferguson has launched a withering attack on Alan Pardew and Newcastle after the Manchester United manager was criticised for confronting referee Mike Dean during the Boxing Day clash at Old Trafford.

Ferguson was furious that Dean overruled his assistant and allowed Jonny Evans’ own-goal to stand because Papiss Cisse, standing in an offside position, was not interfering with play.

Pardew criticised Ferguson afterwards but the United boss hit back this morning, accusing his opposite number of hypocrisy after he shoved a linesman in a match with Tottenham in August and branding Newcastle ‘a wee club in the north-east’.

Angry protests: Sir Alex Ferguson remonstrates with referee Mike Dean after Jonny Evans put through his own net with Newcastle's Papiss Cisse apparently in an offside position during the Boxing Day match at Old Trafford

Angry protests: Sir Alex Ferguson remonstrates with referee Mike Dean after Jonny Evans put through his own net with Newcastle's Papiss Cisse apparently in an offside position during the Boxing Day match at Old Trafford

The worst: Ferguson claimed his Newcastle United counterpart Alan Pardew is the worst for haranguing officials

The worst: Ferguson claimed his Newcastle United counterpart Alan Pardew is the worst for haranguing officials

Point to make: Newcastle assistant manager John Carver gets in a barb at assistant Jake Collin as fourth official Neil Swarbrick restrains him

Point to make: Newcastle assistant manager John Carver gets in a barb at assistant Jake Collin as fourth official Neil Swarbrick restrains him

Ferguson said: ‘Alan Pardew has come
out and criticised me. Alan Pardew is the worst for haranguing referees.
His whole staff, every game. He was at it the whole game on Wednesday.

‘He shoved a linesman and makes a joke
of it, and then has the cheek to criticise me. Unbelievable. He forgets
the help I gave him by the way,

‘The press have had a good field day out of it. They’ve addressed every avenue, the only one left is Barack Obama.

‘It’s because I’m the manager of the
most famous club in the world. I’m not like Newcastle, a wee club in the
north east, but that’s life.’

Harangued: Ferguson also protested with assistant referee Jake Collin during the Boxing Day encounter

Harangued: Ferguson also protested with assistant referee Jake Collin during the Boxing Day encounter

Complaint: Ferguson has words with Mike Dean after a Jonny Evans own goal was allowed to stand despite Newcastle's Papiss Cisse standing in an offside position

Complaint: Ferguson has words with Mike Dean after a Jonny Evans own goal was allowed to stand despite Newcastle's Papiss Cisse standing in an offside position

Ferguson defended his protestations to
Dean and praised the referee for his handling of the incident in
United’s 4-3 win. The referee did not include it in his report so
Ferguson will not face any action from the FA.

‘There was no ranting and raving from
me,’ he added. ‘I was demonstrative, but I’m always demonstrative.
Everyone knows that, I’m an emotional guy. That isn’t to say I was
abusive to the referee, I wasn’t.

‘Some managers shove linesmen on the
pitch and make a joke. I’m not making a joke of this, it was serious
decision and I think it should have been disallowed.

Surrounded: Manchester United players Michael Carrick, Ryan Giggs, Jonny Evans and Patrice Evra confront Mike Dean

Surrounded: Manchester United players Michael Carrick, Ryan Giggs, Jonny Evans and Patrice Evra confront Mike Dean

‘He was walking towards the tunnel and
I shouted him over. He came over towards me and I came over towards
him. I wasn’t on the pitch for more than three or four yards and then we
walked together.

‘I thought the player was interfering
with play, Mike didn’t think it was. He handled it well because he’s a
mature, experienced referee.’

When managers collide…

Today's spat between Ferguson and Pardew is, of course, not the first time managers have been at loggerheads. It's not the first time the bosses of Manchester United and Newcastle have come to verbal blows either. Who can forget Kevin Keegan losing it live on air as Ferguson's mind games took their toll during the 1995-1996 title run-in…

And 20 years before that, there was no love lost between Brian Clough and Don Revie. Clough took over from Revie as manager of Leeds United in 1974 but lasted just seven weeks in the job. Never one to go quietly, he went head-to-head with his predecessor live on TV just after his dismissal.

Manchester United to win the Premier League – our experts" verdict

Will anything stand in the way of Man United and a record 20th title As Fergie's side sit seven points clear, Sportsmail's experts deliver their verdicts…

PUBLISHED:

11:14 GMT, 27 December 2012

|

UPDATED:

11:56 GMT, 27 December 2012

TODAY'S POLL

Will Man United hold their lead to win the title

Yes

No

VOTE

Man United

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Manchester United are now seven points clear at the top of the Barclays Premier League going into the final game of 2012.

The Boxing Day comeback victory over Newcastle – coupled with Man City’s loss at Sunderland – tightened their grip on top spot.

So, just what can stop Sir Alex Ferguson’s side snatching the crown back from City Here, we ask Sportsmail’s team of expert reporters whether they think United can be stopped – and if so, by what…

Late show: Javier Hernandez is mobbed by his United team-mates after his winner against Newcastle

Late show: Javier Hernandez is mobbed by his United team-mates after his winner against Newcastle

IAN LADYMAN

The only team that can stop United winning this title is United. Manchester City’s challenge lacks the conviction of last season and that makes United clear favourites at this stage.

However, United are so unpredictable that I can envisage them dropping enough points to give their rivals a chance between now and the end of the season.

Yesterday’s performance – as thrilling as it was – was riddled with holes. Sir Alex Ferguson’s team once again defended poorly and failed to keep hold of the ball for long periods of time. These are the two issues that threaten United more than any other.

Great United teams smother teams by refusing them the ball. This one struggles to do that which means that their opponents will always have a chance. United are great to watch and have been involved in some breath taking games this season. This, however, only points to vulnerability.

This race is not run yet.

Follow Ian Ladyman on Twitter @ian_ladyman_dm

Leaky: Papiss Cisse scored Newcastle's third goal at Old Trafford on Boxing Day

Leaky: Papiss Cisse scored Newcastle's third goal at Old Trafford on Boxing Day

NEIL ASHTON

After throwing it away last season, there is no way Manchester United will allow the title to slip through their grasp this time around.

As Manchester City’s form begins to disintegrate, the main threat will come from Chelsea, but they have too much to do.

Despite their re-remergence under Rafa Benitez, United have matchwinners across every area of their forward line, which is why they will be crowned champions at the end of the season.

It barely feels like Robin van Persie has properly got going in a United, but he has still scored 13 times in the Premier League. Crucially, it is only 27 per cent of United’s goals and they can rely on Wayne Rooney (7) and Javier Hernandez (6), among others, to add to their attacking threat.

United have had 15 different goalscorers this season in the Premier League, another illustration of their firepower. Their biggest problem is at the back, but they are good enough to get away with it this season.

When Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho are in the Premier League next season it will be a different story.

Follow Neil Ashton on Twitter @neilashton_

Deadly: Robin van Persie struck again for United against Newcastle

Deadly: Robin van Persie struck again for United against Newcastle

MATT BARLOW

Manchester United have a magnificent spirit. The will to win they displayed (yet again) against Newcastle will have a psychological impact on the chasers. Their manager has incredible instinct and unrivalled experience in a title race. With Nemanja Vidic, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones fit again they will get stronger at the back, Robin van Persie will supply a steady stream goals and a seven-point gap will be difficult to close.

Yet not impossible.

Last season, United crumbled, perhaps a hint of inexperience from their younger players. Will this haunt them when it gets squeaky City are not as smooth as they were (won three of nine) but will feel the benefit when European competition starts again, while the real threat may develop from Chelsea, fast-improving under Rafa Benitez.

Chelsea would be eight behind if they won the game in hand (at home to Southampton). They have the Europa League to contend with and face some tough away fixtures, starting at Everton on Sunday. It will not be easy but they are likely to recruit next month.

A quiet confidence is growing at Stamford Bridge (won six of seven) that some of their long-standing problems are being ironed out. Rafa is relishing the prospect of a title duel with Fergie. This one is not quite over yet.

Follow Matt Barlow on Twitter @matt_barlow_dm

On the rise: Juna Mata is inspiring Chelsea's charge up the table

On the rise: Juna Mata is inspiring Chelsea's charge up the table

LEE CLAYTON

Alan Shearer, his wages paid by the taxpayer, told the BBC’s Match of the Day programme: ‘Manchester United will be happy’.

Seven points clear and happy. That’s some revelation.

They can’t defend, the goalkeeper looks less than happy, they’ve had to win 24 points from losing positions… and they’re STILL seven points clear. But surely it can’t be over on Boxing Day.

City are better than that. They have to start scoring soon and Chelsea’s record since losing at West Ham is 26-4 in all competitions and three straight wins in the league. Us neutrals need it to be more exciting, closer, tighter than that.

Maybe it won’t be last-kick-of-the-season-close like last time – and United clearly have it all to lose, as people like Shearer might say – but let’s hope they aren’t runaway champions.

Where is the fun, the drama… and the happiness in that

Follow Lee Clayton on Twitter @leeclayton_

Friendly face: Sir Alex Ferguson shakes hands with club mascot Fred the Red

Friendly face: Sir Alex Ferguson shakes hands with club mascot Fred the Red

DOMINIC KING

Will anything stop Manchester United now In the aftermath of the extraordinary game against Newcastle, it’s an understandable question but it is also highly presumptuous.

In word, there are plenty of factors that can halt United’s title bid. For a start, it would be wrong to dismiss Manchester City as busted flushes. They may not be playing with the same fizz as last season but they have enough class players to embark on a sustained winning run.

The same applies for Chelsea. Rafa Benitez’s side have started keeping clean sheets now and, again, they have excellent players. In this observer’s view, they are the most likely challengers to United and a win at Old Trafford when the teams meet would certainly make things interesting.

Another aspect to consider is United’s defence. They keep conceding goals, they look vulnerable at some point in every game and there will come a point when Robin van Persie doesn’t always rescue them. And what will happen if Van Persie happens to get a lengthy injury

United, unquestionably, are hot favourites for the title and their sustained presence towards the top of the table speaks volumes for their manager’s brilliance.

But are they past the post already Not by a long shot.

Follow Dominic King on Twitter @dominicking_dm

Setback: Man City suffered yet another defeat at Sunderland in a blow to their chances

Setback: Man City suffered yet another defeat at Sunderland in a blow to their chances

JOHN EDWARDS

The way this season has unfolded, it’s easy to see Manchester United letting slip a seven-point lead but difficult to see Manchester City overhauling one. It’s almost as if the two Manchester clubs are doing their best to lose the title race, rather than win it.

United look more vulnerable than for years. Injury problems have caught up with Nemanja Vidic, age with Rio Ferdinand. In midfield, they look distinctly limited by their normal high standards. It would be unthinkable to describe any United side under Sir Alex Ferguson as a one-man band, but where would they be without Robin Van Persie’s goals

City have scarcely been any more convincing. Remaining unbeaten for longer than any other Barclays Premier League side sounds impressive, but the performances behind it were not. The spark just doesn’t seem to be there.

With both teams misfiring, could there yet be an opportunity for Chelsea to break the Mancunian monopoly There surely must be, and if they take it, no-one should be surprised, given three of their back four are England defenders and their attacking creativity is the envy of the land.

They have an even bigger gap to make up, though, and I still expect United’s never-say-die spirit to drag them over the line, if only because Ferguson will demand nothing less.

Follow John Edwards on Twitter @JEAlty

Suspect: Nemanja Vidic (right) is recovering from a serious knee injury

Suspect: Nemanja Vidic (right) is recovering from a serious knee injury

LAURA WILLIAMSON

The only thing that has been consistent about the top half of the Premier League this season is its inconsistency. You can lose three in a row like West Brom and still stay in the top six, concede 28 goals and be seven points clear or experience a supposed crisis a la Arsenal and still be in the mix for a Champions League spot. It's madness.

How Manchester United fare against Real Madrid in the Champions League may impact upon their domestic fortunes, but I can't see anyone putting together a sustained run to challenge Sir Alex Ferguson's side for the title.

United have won 52 per cent of their points after going behind in matches, after all. While that says a lot about their experience, determination and dodgy defending, it says even more about the quality – or not – of the opposition.

Follow Laura Williamson on Twitter @laura_mail

Danger: Much will depend on how United fare against Ronaldo and Real Madrid

Danger: Much will depend on how United fare against Ronaldo and Real Madrid

CHRIS WHEELER

History tells us that United have failed to retain the title at the first attempt only once in the Premier League era. It also shows that when Sir Alex Ferguson’s side hold this kind of advantage at the halfway stage they go on to be crowned champions.

Will it be a similar story this season Probably. Are they unstoppable No.

Ferguson has often bemoaned his team’s tendency to make life difficult for themselves, and there will be a few twists and turns yet.

Manchester City’s early exit from Europe will be an advantage when the Champions League starts up again in February, and United are still conceding far too many goals. Could they afford to lose Robin van Persie to injury

If City and Chelsea are still in contention when the Old Trafford derby rolls around on April 6, it will be very interesting. Three of United’s next four games after that are against Chelsea, Arsenal and away to Stoke. They are definitely favourites but there’s still everything to play for.

Roaring success: Jonny Evans celebrates scoring against Newcastle at Old Trafford

Roaring success: Jonny Evans celebrates scoring against Newcastle at Old Trafford

SAMI MOKBEL

You only have to look at last season to realise the title race is far from done and dusted. Yes, seven points is a pretty sizeable gap but Manchester City have proved they have the minerals to close it – even though it does seem unlikely.

Keeping Robin van Persie fit will be key for United. He’s taken to life at Old Trafford like the proverbial duck to water and his all round game, not just his goals, will be pivotal.

Follow Sami Mokbel on Twitter @samimokbel81_dm

MIKE DICKSON

United’s remarkable resilience and superior firepower to anyone else means they are sure to win the title. The squad deserves a collective horsewhipping if they blow it from here.

Chelsea will come second and Benitez will get the chance to blow some of his owner’s money when he gets the job permanently at the end of the season, with the hate mob (temporarily) silenced.

Mancini will be fired for coming third, while Arsenal will keep Wenger on as they edge Everton for fourth.

Follow Mike Dickson on Twitter @mike_dickson_dm

Under threat: Roberto Mancini may pay a big price if he fails to win the title again

Under threat: Roberto Mancini may pay a big price if he fails to win the title again

COLIN YOUNG

If you were at the Stadium of Light on the final day of last season, you didn’t see Sergio Aguero’s championship winning goal. You just heard about it.

The moment that news came through, the Manchester United players on the pitch had to suffer the very public humiliation of handing the Barclays Premier League trophy to their city rivals. They were mocked by Sunderland fans, and in that moment I felt the destiny this season’s title was decided.

Revenge. That is what motivates Sir Alex Ferguson. he has signed Robin van Persie just to bring even more goals to his side when it matters. And it really matters now and, after seeing them squander so many chances at Sunderland yesterday, it’s hard to see City catching them this season.

Follow Colin Young on Twitter @cyoungdailymail

LAURIE WHITWELL

This has been a highly peculiar season, even by United’s standards, and it can be viewed in two ways. Either you imagine the multitude of goals shipped will eventually prove their undoing or you figure that, as they have consistently shown, even conceding large numbers will prove no obstacle to victory. This United side have a resilience and spirit greater than any I can remember and some attacking displays have been breath-taking.

But they remain egg-shell fragile defensively and that will worry Sir Alex Ferguson. They have allowed 92 shots on target, only four fewer than QPR, and in conceding 28 goals by halfway, they have exceeded season-long totals in title-winning campaigns from 2008/09 (24), 2007/08 (22) and 2006/07 (27).

Undoubtedly Robin Van Persie is a huge player and were he to get injured City and Chelsea would sniff a chance. But goals are coming from everywhere. Jonny Evans and Patrice Evra have six between them this term having scored just three in 10 previous seasons.

Such quirky details, alongside dazzling comeback performances, tell you United want this title back badly and will win it by sheer force of personality.

Follow Laurie Whitwell on Twitter @lauriewhitwell

Helping hand: Patrice Evra (centre) has been a surprise name on the scoresheet this season

Helping hand: Patrice Evra (centre) has been a surprise name on the scoresheet this season

SIMON CASS

There are plenty of reasons why Manchester United are not certainties for the title and not just because I am a bitter Newcastle United supporter!

Take their shaky defence for example, Sir Alex Ferguson’s side have conceded more than any other side in the top half and twice as many as at the same stage last season. All very well when Robin van Persie is banging them in at the other end but will the Dutchman stay injury free until the end of the season

And despite seemingly having sown things up by the turn of the year, Ferguson’s men only have one more point than they head this time last year. Given the trials and tribulations of their rivals surely the gap to Manchester City should be greater than seven points. Lest we forget, City were five points back at the beginning of April last year and still did the business on the final day.

This year, Mancini’s men can concentrate fully on staying in touch with their Champions League chasing neighbours while Chelsea’s resurgence under Rafa Benitez means they are not out of it yet. Furthermore, Ferguson is adamant he will not be buying in January while City and Chelsea are sure to strengthen.

There’s still lots of life left in this title race.

Follow Simon Cass on Twitter @simon_cassdm

SAM CUNNINGHAM

What can stop United Well, Fernando Torres has been reunited with a manager who knows him well and knows how to get the most out of him. He’s scored seven goals in nine games under Rafa Benitez and that was after three matches getting his confidence back so that’s seven in his last six.

Add the real goalscoring Torres who was sensational in Spain and lived up to the hype initially when he came to England to Chelsea’s team and they have a side that can catch United. Three of Juan Mata, Oscar, Eden Hazard or Victor Moses behind a striker who can actually score is frightening.

Win their game in hand and Chelsea are eight points off top spot – that’s not out of sight.

Follow Sam Cunningham on Twitter @samcunningham

Robin van Persie kick: Ashley Williams will not be charged by the FA

What will Sir Alex say Swansea skipper Williams will NOT be charged over RVP kickFA won't take any action against WilliamsFergie fumed Van Persie 'could have been killed'Man United boss will not face disrepute charge over his comments

|

UPDATED:

11:17 GMT, 24 December 2012

TODAY'S POLL

Should Williams be banned for his kick at Van Persie

Yes

No

VOTE

Ashley Williams

POLL RESULTS

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The FA have confirmed they will NOT be charging Swansea City defender Ashley Williams for his ugly clash with Robin van Persie at the Liberty Stadium on Sunday.

Sir Alex Ferguson called for Williams to be handed a lengthy suspension for slamming the ball into the back of Van Persie’s head from point-blank range when the United striker was lying on the floor after a 74th-minute foul.

Ferguson, speaking after United were held 1-1, went on to claim the incident ‘could have killed’ Van Persie, but the FA confirmed to Sportsmail that no action will be taken against Williams as he was booked at the time by referee Michael Oliver.

Pain in the neck: Van Persie feels the force of Ashley Williams' kick

Head case: Williams lashes the ball against the neck of floored United striker Van Persie

Lashing out: Floored Manchester United striker Robin van Persie feels the force of Ashley Willaims' kick

Ref rage: An angry Sir Alex Ferguson complains to fourth official Lee Probert after the incident

Ref rage: An angry Sir Alex Ferguson complains to fourth official Lee Probert after the incident

It is the policy of the FA not to ‘re-referee’ incidents that have been seen by the match officials.

The FA also said it was ‘highly unlikely’ that Ferguson will be handed a disrepute charge for his comments on the matter.

The United manager had said: ‘The Van Persie situation you can clearly see that he could have been killed.

‘The FA has got to look into it
regardless that he has been given a yellow card. He should be banned for
a long time because that was the most dangerous thing I’ve seen on a
football field for many years.

Seeing red: Van Persie leaps up to retaliate with Williams after the incident

Seeing red: Van Persie leaps up to retaliate with Williams after the incident

Head-to-head: A furious Van Persie leaps up to vent his rage to Williams after the incident

Head-to-head: A furious Van Persie leaps up to vent his rage to Williams after the incident

Pulled apart: The pair had to be separated by their team-mates

Pulled apart: The pair had to be separated by their team-mates

So, was RVP at risk

GRAHAM POLL
Former Premier League referee

Sir Alex Ferguson’s reaction to Ashley Williams kicking the ball that hit Robin van Persie in the 76th minute sounded a little over the top, but Williams could well have been sent off rather than cautioned by referee Michael Oliver.

If, in the opinion of the referee, the ball was deliberately kicked at an opponent and used like a weapon, then he should have been sent off for violent conduct. As it was reasonable for Williams’s actions to be seen as natural in clearing a loose ball from his own penalty area, it was almost impossible for Oliver to determine with any degree of certainty what his intentions were – and so a caution was the sensible decision.

MARK LEATHER
Former Premier League physio

It's unlikely that being hit by the ball could have killed Van Persie. But being struck that hard from such a short distance could have knocked him out. I’ve seen players knocked out by free-kicks struck from 10 yards away.

If you are unconscious, there is then a risk of trauma to the brain. A blow that fierce is like being hit in boxing – the damage is unpredictable. It can lead to internal bleeding and permanent damage, or there can be just an aching head.

‘It was absolutely deliberate. The
whistle has gone, the game has stopped and he has done that right in
front of the referee – he could have killed the lad.

‘It was a disgraceful act by the player, he should banned for a long time.’

Williams played down the incident,
saying: ‘I tried to clear the ball, (but) it hit him on the head. I was
trying to clear the ball. He was obviously a bit angry about that.

‘It was a much ado about nothing.’

He added: ‘I tried to apologise but
there wasn't much time. I didn't see him afterwards. Obviously I would
shake his hand but it is no big deal.

'I just lashed at the ball and I
understand why he is angry but it is not like I am going to shoot and
hit him square on the head.’

The ugly scenes detracted from a thrilling draw. Patrice Evra had put
United ahead after 16 minutes but Michu hit back for Swansea with his
13th Barclays Premier League strike 13 minutes later. United twice hit
the frame of the goal as they tried and failed to restore their
six-point lead over Manchester City at the top of the table.

Wigan manager Roberto Martinez, meanwhile, says Ashley Williams is 'not a nasty footballer'.

He said: 'You see the incident and it is a very, very dangerous situation'.

'If you see one of your players with a bang on the back of the head it is really dangerous and it can have bad consequences. You can understand that.

In the book: Referee Michael Oliver booked Williams but Ferguson is calling for the defender to be banned

Yellow peril: Van Persie was also booked by Oliver for his part in the bust-up

In the book: Referee Michael Oliver booked Williams but Ferguson is calling for the defender to be banned, while Van Persie also received a yellow card for his part in the bust-up

'I signed Ashley Williams for Swansea
and I know his character inside out. I can guarantee you without even
looking at the incident that he is not a nasty footballer.

'He is a winner and fully committed, a
leader and a captain, and I don't for one second doubt that he did not
do that on purpose.

'It is an action of the game. He can
show frustration – it is an emotional game and it is very unfortunate
that it hits Van Persie in a part of the body where he could have been
hurt heavily, and you don't want to see that.

'But from my point of view, I know
Ashley Williams really well – when you sign a player you find out about a
player and I can guarantee you he is not the type of footballer who
would do that on purpose.'

QPR boss Harry Redknapp, speaking ahead of his side's Boxing Day clash with West Bromwich Albion, said of the Williams incident: 'I don't see how he was going to be killed.

'He kicked the ball at him. I have seen worse things on a football pitch.'

Steve Clarke hopes Chelsea loan signing Lukaku will not be recalled

Clarke hopeful of keeping Chelsea loan signing Lukaku in January window

|

UPDATED:

19:48 GMT, 22 December 2012

West Brom boss Steve Clarke is predicting a big future for on-loan striker Romelu Lukaku following his late winner in the 2-1 home success over Norwich.

The Chelsea player headed home a deep cross from Baggies left-back Goran Popov with eight minutes remaining for his sixth goal of the campaign.

Canaries singing: Robert Snodgrass receives congratulations after netting the opener for Norwich

Canaries singing: Robert Snodgrass receives congratulations after netting the opener for Norwich

Match facts

WEST BROM: Foster, Jones, McAuley, Olsson, Popov, Morrison, Brunt, Odemwingie, Gera (Long 61), Dorrans (Fortune 45), Lukaku (Tamas 83). Subs not used: Myhill, Ridgewell, Rosenberg, Jara.

Goals: Gera 45, Lukaku 82

NORWICH: Bunn, Whittaker (Martin 54), Bassong, Turner, Garrido, Snodgrass, Tettey (Jackson 83), Hoolahan (Howson 72), Johnson, Pilkington, Morison. Subs not used: Steer, Bennett, Barnett, Kane.

Goals: Snodgrass 23.

Booked: Turner

Referee: Martin Atkinson

Latest Premier League results, fixtures and table

It was a rare start for Lukaku who has been kept out of the side for most of the season by leading scorer Shane Long.

But he justified his selection as his
goal ended Norwich's 10-game unbeaten run in the Barclays Premier
League and moved Albion back into the top six.

Clarke said: 'Romelu has done well, he is a big talent, he has got a big future ahead of him in the game.

'The fact he couldn't get in the team
for most of the season is down to the form of Shane Long who shouldn't
be forgotten today.

'Shane made a difference when he came
onto the pitch, he tied up the other centre-back, has given a bit more
space to Romelu, and maybe that's why he has got the space for the
winning goal.

'It's a team effort and we don't like to single out individuals.'

Dead-ball king: Snodgrass (right) curls the ball home from a free-kick to give the visitors the lead

Dead-ball king: Snodgrass (right) curls the ball home from a free-kick to give the visitors the lead

A big gift: Norwich keeper Mark Bunn reacts after West Brom level

A big gift: Norwich keeper Mark Bunn reacts after West Brom level

Lukaku had chosen the rap song 'The
Question (What Am I Doing Here)' as his musical choice which was
broadcast before the game.

Clarke quipped: 'At the moment he is doing okay so that's the answer to that one!'

But the West Brom manager was non-committal when asked whether Chelsea will recall Lukaku in January.

On the slide: Peter Odemwingie evades Wesley Hoolahan's tackle

On the slide: Peter Odemwingie evades Wesley Hoolahan's tackle

Clarke said: 'He is on a season-long loan but there is an opportunity for the parent club to take him back in January.

'I can't affect it so I don't like to talk about it.'

Clarke felt Albion were below their best in securing their first win in five games.

He said: 'It was another performance where we were a bit scratchy. We are not quite flowing as we were early in the season.

'When you are coming in after four games without a win, there comes a bit more pressure on it.

Knees up: Anthony Pilkington (left) vies for the ball with Shane Long

Knees up: Anthony Pilkington (left) vies for the ball with Shane Long

Helping hand: Goran Popov shoves Snodgrass out of the way

Helping hand: Goran Popov shoves Snodgrass out of the way

'We spoke about it before the game. It was a big game for us today and it was important we got the three points.'

Norwich manager Chris Hughton felt
his side deserved a share of the spoils and was unhappy with the award
of a corner for the first Albion goal from Zoltan Gera just before
half-time which cancelled out Robert Snodgrass's 23rd-minute opener.

He said: 'I think we should have got a
point on the balance of play. Albion are a good footballing team, at
home, so you know they are going to have a percentage of possession.

Smash and grab: Popov leaves Snodgrass standing, despite the Norwich player's attentions

Smash and grab: Popov leaves Snodgrass standing, despite the Norwich player's attentions

'But I thought we had good spells in the game where we had real good possession, certainly for an away team.

'There weren't many clearcut chances and it was even and we deserved to come away with something.

'The first goal was frustrating
because they are a threat from set-plays and disappointing as it
shouldn't have been a corner in the first place and was a goal-kick.

Head we win: Romelu Lukaku heads his side's winner against Norwich

Head we win: Romelu Lukaku heads his side's winner against Norwich

'The timing of the goal gave them the lift they needed.'

Hughton added: 'We've been on a
fabulous run and it's now how we react to losing. To be unbeaten for
that number of games is a fair feat and testament to the group of lads.

'At some stage we were going to lose and it has to be about the next game.'

On the chase: Odemwingie puts Steven Whittaker under pressure

On the chase: Odemwingie puts Steven Whittaker under pressure

West Brom 2 Norwich 1: Match report

West Brom 2 Norwich 1: Lukaku heads late winner to end Canaries' unbeaten run

|

UPDATED:

17:09 GMT, 22 December 2012

West Brom striker Romelu Lukaku smashed Norwich's 10-game unbeaten record in the Barclays Premier League with a late winner at The Hawthorns.

Robert Snodgrass gave the Canaries an early lead after fit again Baggies keeper Ben Foster failed to keep out his dipping free-kick.

Canaries singing: Robert Snodgrass receives congratulations after netting the opener for Norwich

Canaries singing: Robert Snodgrass receives congratulations after netting the opener for Norwich

Match facts

WEST BROM: Foster, Jones, McAuley, Olsson, Popov, Morrison, Brunt, Odemwingie, Gera (Long 61), Dorrans (Fortune 45), Lukaku (Tamas 83). Subs not used: Myhill, Ridgewell, Rosenberg, Jara.

Goals: Gera 45, Lukaku 82

NORWICH: Bunn, Whittaker (Martin 54), Bassong, Turner, Garrido, Snodgrass, Tettey (Jackson 83), Hoolahan (Howson 72), Johnson, Pilkington, Morison. Subs not used: Steer, Bennett, Barnett, Kane.

Goals: Snodgrass 23.

Booked: Turner

Referee: Martin Atkinson

Latest Premier League results, fixtures and table

But Zoltan Gera ended West Brom's
near six hour goal drought just before the break and then on-loan
Chelsea player Lukaku headed the winner with eight minutes remaining to
leave Baggies boss Steve Clarke hoping the Blues do not decide to recall
their player during the January transfer window.

Victory ended Albion's mini slump from which they had collected only two points from four games after climbing to third spot.

They deserved their success after
looking the more threatening during the second period. But Albion were
also indebted to another rock solid display from central defender Gareth
McAuley.

The Canaries came close to a share of the spoils despite the absence of key striker Grant Holt with a hamstring injury.

In addition to his goal, Snodgrass
was always asking problems of the Albion defence Lukaku came close to
opening the scoring for the Baggies after three minutes.

Dead-ball king: Snodgrass (right) curls the ball home from a free-kick to give the visitors the lead

Dead-ball king: Snodgrass (right) curls the ball home from a free-kick to give the visitors the lead

A big gift: Norwich keeper Mark Bunn reacts after West Brom level

A big gift: Norwich keeper Mark Bunn reacts after West Brom level

The striker made good contact on his glancing header from Goran Popov's deep cross but it flew just over the bar.

Snodgrass connected with a volley
from the edge of the Albion box but it was directed straight at Foster
who returned after a seven game absence through injury.

The first clearcut opening fell to Lukaku after 21 minutes when he took a pass from James Morrison in his stride.

On the slide: Peter Odemwingie evades Wesley Hoolahan's tackle

On the slide: Peter Odemwingie evades Wesley Hoolahan's tackle

But Lukaku failed to make a clean contact on his cross shot and Mark Bunn saved with relative comfort.

It proved a costly miss as Snodgrass
put the Canaries ahead three minutes later after Peter Odemwingie
brought down the midfielder.

His curling free-kick contained
plenty of power and, although Foster got a hand to the ball, he could
only help it into the roof of the net.

Knees up: Anthony Pilkington (left) vies for the ball with Shane Long

Knees up: Anthony Pilkington (left) vies for the ball with Shane Long

Helping hand: Goran Popov shoves Snodgrass out of the way

Helping hand: Goran Popov shoves Snodgrass out of the way

The shake of the head from the former England international conveyed the impression he should have done better.

West Brom tried to retaliate and a
goal-bound effort from McAuley was blocked by the body of Bunn following
a Chris Brunt corner.

But after 43 minutes Gera brought Albion back on level terms with his fourth goal of the campaign.

Bunn parried Jonas Olsson's downward
header from a Brunt corner onto the crossbar but Gera was on hand to
volley home the rebound.

Clarke replaced Graham Dorrans with
Marc-Antoine Fortune for the second period. McAuley rescued Albion with a
superb tackle inside the box after Steve Morison took advantage of a
mix-up at a short free-kick by the home side.

Norwich centre-back Michael Turner
headed wide from Snodgrass' centre before being booked for hauling down
Odemwingie in full flight.

Smash and grab: Popov leaves Snodgrass standing, despite the Norwich player's attentions

Smash and grab: Popov leaves Snodgrass standing, despite the Norwich player's attentions

Odemwingie had a low shot saved at
the base of a post by Bunn but chances were now at a premium. Clarke
brought on West Brom top scorer Shane Long – in place of Gera – in a bid
to add more fire-power.

Then with eight minutes left Lukaku
showed his power and strength when climbing above Javier Garrido to head
home Popov's deep cross.

Popov was booked in injury time for a foul on Snodgrass but Albion held on to claim their seventh home win of the season.

On the chase: Odemwingie puts Steven Whittaker under pressure

On the chase: Odemwingie puts Steven Whittaker under pressure

Newcastle 1 QPR 0: Match report

Newcastle 1 QPR 0: Shola strikes to ruin Redknapp's run as Toon leave it late to take points

|

UPDATED:

17:16 GMT, 22 December 2012

Local hero Shola Ameobi came off the bench to hand Newcastle a welcome three points and manager Alan Pardew the perfect Christmas present.

The 31-year-old striker produced an assured 81st-minute finish just as it looked as though the Magpies would have to settle for a draw in a game they knew was a must-win affair.

It was no more than they deserved on a day when they dominated throughout, but too often lacked the guile of injured duo Yohan Cabaye and Hatem Ben Arfa.

Toon hero: Newcastle's Shola Ameobi celebrates scoring his sides winning goal with James Perch

Toon hero: Newcastle's Shola Ameobi celebrates scoring his sides winning goal with James Perch

Match facts

Newcastle: Krul, Simpson, Coloccini, Williamson, Santon, Anita, Tiote (Marveaux 77), Perch, Gutierrez (Obertan 60), Ba, Cisse (Shola Ameobi 61).

Subs Not Used: Harper, Bigirimana, Sammy Ameobi, Ferguson.

Booked: Tiote, Perch, Shola Ameobi.

Goal: Shola Ameobi 81.

QPR: Green, Da Silva, Ferdinand, Nelsen, Hill, Mackie, Mbia, Granero (Wright-Phillips 56), Faurlin (Derry 78), Taarabt, Cisse (Hoilett 64).

Subs Not Used: Murphy, Diakite, Traore, Onuoha.

Booked: Ferdinand, Hill.

Attendance: 50,180

Referee: Kevin Friend

Latest Premier League results, fixtures and table

However, thanks to Ameobi, they got there in the end to claim just their second Barclays Premier League victory in eight attempts and condemn Harry Redknapp to his first defeat as Rangers boss.

The match kicked off on a pitch soaked by persistent rain, which showed little sign of abating, but with referee Kevin Friend having had two looks at it and seeing no reason not to start.

As the first half unfolded, there was clearly surface water, but it did not affect the roll of the ball unduly as the Magpies set about the task of winning a game they simply could not afford to lose or even, in the eyes of their manager, draw.

Roared on by a crowd of 50,180, the majority of whom were well aware of what was at stake, they set about their task with relish and dominated the opening 45 minutes.

However, the lack of a final ball cost them dearly as they were simply unable to convert a wealth of possession into goals.

Left winger Jonas Gutierrez was particularly guilty of failing to produce a telling cross on the numerous occasions on which he took aim, while overlapping full-back Davide Santon got into some promising positions down the same flank, but repeatedly picked out a hooped, rather than a striped, shirt.

Leaving it late: Shola Ameobi scores to win the game for Newcastle

Leaving it late: Shola Ameobi scores to win the game for Newcastle

In the event, Rob Green was as under-employed as Tim Krul despite finding his penalty area repeatedly besieged by the Magpies.

The game started promisingly for the home side with striker Papiss Cisse heading into the side-netting from Gutierrez's cross, although he did so having nudged defender Fabio da Silva in the back first and it would not have counted anyway.

Stephane Mbia was in the right place at the right time to clear Mike Williamson's goal-bound header from a Vurnon Anita corner three minutes later, although the Dutchman's ball was the sole cross of note he or any of his team-mates delivered before the break.

Fight for the ball: Adel Taarabt vies for the ball with Newcastle's Mike Williamson

Fight for the ball: Adel Taarabt vies for the ball with Newcastle's Mike Williamson

Indeed, Green's only real save came with 31 minutes played when he plucked Cheick Tiote's shot out of the air, although there was more than a hint of a cross about the Ivorian's attempt.

At the other end, Krul was effectively a spectator and he was called upon for the first time to field Alejandro Faurlin's corner with 11 minutes of the half remaining before then collecting Djibril Cisse's 43rd-minute scuffed volley.

But in the meantime, Anton Ferdinand had blocked a well-struck effort from leading scorer Demba Ba, who later wasted two free-kicks in quick succession, blasting both high over the bar, much to the frustration of the home fans.

Midfield battle: Cheick Tiote is tracked by Esteban Granero

Midfield battle: Cheick Tiote is tracked by Esteban Granero

QPR produced more inside the opening three minutes of the second half than they had in the entire first with Cisse forcing Krul to turn his low drive around the post and Mbia heading the resulting corner high over.

But as the half settled down, the visitors packed men behind the ball to frustrate their hosts, and were content to try to hit them on the break, a ploy which prompted the introduction of Shaun Wright-Phillips as a 56th-minute replacement for Esteban Granero.

Pardew made a double change on the hour, replacing Gutierrez and, to the clear disapproval of the home fans, Papiss Cisse, with Gabriel Obertan and Ameobi in the search for a breakthrough.

Getting it right: Harry Redknapp gives instructions from the sidelines

Getting it right: Harry Redknapp gives instructions from the sidelines

But it was Anita who very nearly made the difference with a 63rd-minute free-kick which Green could only palm away, mercifully for him into a sea of blue, rather than black and white, shirts.

The Rangers goalkeeper had to scramble away Anita's near-post corner two minutes later and Ba saw a shot on the turn deflected for a corner before Ameobi completely mistimed a header as the Magpies made another concerted push.

Ba could not generate enough pace to trouble Green with his 73rd-minute header from Obertan's cross, but when Ameobi's big moment arrived, he was not found wanting.

Sylvain Marveaux slipped the ball into his path on the right side of the penalty area and he steadied himself before curling a left-foot shot across Green and into the bottom corner.

Substitute Marveaux might have added a second two minutes later after being denied by Green, but there was no way back for Redknapp's men.

Tiote will miss the Boxing Day trip to Manchester United after picking up his fifth booking of the season but even that could not take the smile from Pardew's face.

All smiles: QPR owner Tony Fernandes watches on at St James' Park

All smiles: QPR owner Tony Fernandes watches on at St James' Park