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Dec 24, 2012

Fergie loses his marbles

Few of us like Monday but The Fifth Official does, for it brings with it a chance for him to point the finger and laugh. Here he pulls out the pretty, the puzzling and the downright pig-ugly from a week brimming with potential victims.

R.I.P RVP

At this very moment South Wales police are sealing off the Liberty Stadium, slipping Sunday's match ball into a see-through polythene bag and etching a chalk outline round a prostrate figure on the turf that looks suspiciously like a £24 million Dutch striker. Or at least they should be according to Lord Ferg. You know that faint tinkling sound in the background during the Premier League Grandaddy's interview? Those were his marbles were slowly emptying themselves onto the floor.

Fergie's contention that Ashley Williams' hoof of the ball into the back of Robin van Persie's head could have "killed" his striker was on the Steve Kean scale of ludicrous. Was it naughty? Yes. Cynical? Of course. Nasty? No question. But lethal? Do me a favour. The only thing in danger of dying was common sense and Fergie's reputation. His wild rant almost acted as justification for the culture of baseless baiting that exists on social media networks.

His mission was clear: to divert attention away from a poor Manchester United performance and, admittedly, practically calling for an attempted murder charge is not a bad way to do it. Just for good measure he threw in a character assassination of referee Michael Oliver, which is tantamount to slapping a minor. The irony, of course, is that had Van Persie or the rotten Wayne Rooney's aim been as sharp as Williams', Ferg would have had three points in his Christmas cracker.

Eight-o-eight State

If we are talking attempted murder charges, look no further than Stamford Bridge. This was assault with intent alright and had Chelsea taken all the gilt-edged chances they were offered, we could have been talking a cricket score and witness protection schemes for Villa's broken youngsters. The only reason the tally didn't hit double figures was due to Brad Guzan, who essentially played Chelsea all on his own.

Villa were worse than woeful, but credit to the Blues - they duly despatched the lemmings in front of them. In fact, I'd go so far as to say Rafa Benitez is fast becoming the finest December 2012 Chelsea manager there's ever been. One masterstroke has been to try and push David Luiz as far away from his defence as possible, an extremely astute move. I'd still like to see him distanced still further - up front, say - just to be on the safe side.

Since starting with one paltry goal in the first 307 minutes of Benitez's reign there have now been 25 in the next 503, which equates to one every 20 minutes. Fernando Torres has six of them, underlining how he and Rafa truly are like peas and carrots. Such an emphatic victory, in which their formerly misfiring £50m seems to be returning to form, has truly confused Chelsea's fans, who revelled in their win while reaffirming their love for Roberto Di Matteo. Make your mind up people.

Royal heartache

It can't be much fun being Brian McDermott at the moment. Reading's trip to City played out like a twisted Superman movie, in that the bad guys eventually won, yet the Premier League's answer to Lex Luther still ended up on the losing side. After such a miserable season, Saturday looked like being their line in the sand, instead it was their Waterloo. Again.

Understandably, BMD went all WMD after suffering a heartbreaking last-minute sucker punch. Gareth Barry's injury time winner was obtained for Manchester City after the midfielder awarded himself a new job as Nicky Shorey's backpack. Perhaps in training Barry's new nickname will be Michelle, given his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles impression. Shorey was hardly blameless though, neglecting to jump for the cross in favour of playing statues.

"A joke," was how McDermott described City's winning goal, before adding people would forget about the injustice because Reading are "irrelevant." I disagree on the first point but tend to agree on the second. Now, what were we talking about again? Oh yes, a glorious fight from a bunch of overpaid millionaires to vanquish a bunch of slightly less well paid millionaires.

A Tayl of Mistel-woe

'Tis the season to be jolly. Unless Anthony Taylor is officiating your game that is. The ref's performance at Upton Park was less Miracle on 34th Street, more Mistel-woe and Whine. The only Christmas cards being handed out were mistaken red ones, and Mr Taylor may well be seeing one of his own if referees' gaffer Mike Riley has his wits about him.

Apparently, it is now a red card offence to try and kick the football. You know, that thing that gets zipped about the football pitch. The round, yellow object both teams try to stick in the opposition's net (unless you are Reading of course). A more suitable punishment for Carlton Cole and Darron Gibson would have been a compass, but having dismissed the striker first, Taylor had no choice but to repeat the feat for the midfielder. At least he was consistent. Consistently mistaken.

The ultimate indictment of Taylor's incompetence came when Sam Allardyce and David Moyes had a cosy touchline chat about his incompetence, agreeing neither player should have walked. I can only imagine the look of panic as both managers barged their way into the officials' room after the full time whistle. Now there is a Premier League duo you do not want after a slice of restorative justice: The Michelin Man and Stary Queen of Scots.

Help! I'm Downing

The Mayans may have been wrong but it did feel like the end of the world at Anfield on Saturday. The clocks stopped, time stood still, the rain sweeping the nation momentarily relented as, after 45 Premier League games in a red shirt and 80 shots, Stewart Downing finally grabbed his first top flight goal for Liverpool, after a year-and-a-half of trying.

Not only did the £20 million man (!!!!!) slot home a goal, he also laid on a pass for Steven Gerrard's goal that wouldn't have looked out of place had it left the boot of Lionel Messi. In fact, the Argentine's return of one goal this weekend pales in comparison to Downing's titanic goal and assist. Ironically, his decent shifts of late will probably only benefit Liverpool in that they may be able to claw a few extra million out of his sale when they hawk him round the Premier League in January.

But before everyone gets carried away, and Brendan Rodgers starts harping on about finishing second again, let's put this into context. Fulham put in one of the most passive shifts in Premier League history. They were abject. Useless. Disinterested. Overpaid and underwhelmed. Which means Jose Bosingwa would make a cracking signing when 'Arry tries to flog him in a few days' time.

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