The last look at the weekend
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 five-star weekend.
So, Big Al sauntered into Toon like the proverbial White Knight, deposing two battered old donkeys but he ended up ruminating over an Argentinean ass.
The Toon's legendary number nine said all the right things pre-match, and no doubt headbutted the tiles in the home dressing room at 2.55pm just to prove he bleeds black-and-white and make his point, but even "Sheeearer!" can't legislate for a South American perma-tanned calamity queen.
To give the quivery-haired, she-lass her full name, Fabricio Coloccini undid 60-odd minutes of reasonably stout defending with a bad touch, a dawdle, then a complete bottle of a 50/50 to finally etch his name into a Geordie Defending Folklore list that comprises Boumsong (1), Marcelino (2), and Bramble (3).
On this form he'll be top of the list come the season's end when he's desperately trying to negotiate a return to Deportivo La Come And Get Me.
For 80 minutes at Old Trafford this United team played like mortals.
The United bench drew murmurs; what were their options? Carlos Tevez had toiled at altitude in Bolivia and seemed to be acting strangely in the opening twenty minutes, losing his footing and committing to diving tackles with his head.
Gary Neville was pulled from the firing line as United trailed and toiled against John Carew and inswinging crosses all afternoon. Put out to graze at right back, he then found himself mesmerised by Villa's pace. Fergie's face was beetrooting right up.
Referee Mike Riley, Manchester United benefactor par excellence, seemed determined not to blow his whistle, even when Ronaldo asked him nicely. United were creaking.
On 61 minutes, and 2-1 down, Fergie threw on a lanky seventeen-year-old Italian no-one's ever heard of, to play two up top. He looked game, but the ball wouldn't stick. Villa appeared more dangerous.
Then a moment of brilliance from Ronaldo seemed to restore normal order at Old Trafford. The officials managed to pluck five added minutes from somewhere, Riley nodded like a man recognising an old friend and played six, and the instant legend of Federico Macheda was born.
Yossi You Beauty
Surely three words the Israeli midfielder hasn't heard many times before, but the finish he produced when all seemed lost at Fulham has propelled him to supermodel status, despite his looks, and kept Liverpool right in the race.
Rafa's mob returned from the international break with a swagger and should have been four up at half time. Dossena twice managed to hit the bar when a barn door beckoned, Torres hit the post after more playground sublime with Stevie G; and Xavi Alonso, despite looking increasingly like the Coldplay drummer, hammered against the bar from 25 yards with exquisite technique.
Liverpool sat continentally deep to nullify the pace of Johnson, and with and without the ball it looked like it would be a stroll in the spring sunshine at Craven Cottage where United had so recently spluttered with title flu.
This is the kind of game the old Liverpool would lose. Let's face it, in the second half, we watched the old Liverpool; the supporting cast fluffing their lines and self doubt palpable.
But this time, they won, and my word they won ugly [no pun intended]. Yossi rifled home after the ball squirted into his path, celebrated like Marco Tardelli, and in the euphoria could have kopped off with anyone he wanted.
It's all a bit Mental
"It's a bit of mental doping for the whole Newcastle area," Wenger said of Al. Professor Arsene has no peer when it comes to climbing inside the minds of others, and now it seems whole regions of the nation. He's right of course, it is madness.
The "dope" certainly hasn't reached Blackburn though. Big Sam's big chip is there for all to see, "It's easier for (Shearer) because of his status and I think his support from everyone at Newcastle will be 1000%". Chewy Sam's Newcastle sack really rattled him, towards the end of his tenure he was convinced 50,000 Geordies were singing 'you don't know what you're doing' at the ballboys.
Fair dues to the Premier League's most overblown head though; when he brought centre back Ooijer on for striker Roberts with his side one down in a must win game, eyebrows everywhere perked up.
But Chris 'Sutton' Samba turned number 9 to play like a marauding Ian Marshall in his prime, and yes, that man Ooijer snaffled the three points to leave Sam and Blackburn suddenly peering down from the promised land of 14th place.
Sam may have played it 1000% right, but the referee's second yellow for Palacios was 1000% wrong.
Wee dram-a please
Just popping North of the border for a minute, aptly named Scottish FA president George Peat has ordered a probe into the drinking session that resulted in Barry Ferguson and Allan McGregor being dropped from the Holland game, and led to their schoolboy chinny-V-signs from the bench in the Iceland game.
The Scottish FA has been inundated with complaints from a fuming public, and Peat knows better than anyone that there's no smoke without fire when it comes to Scotch.
The Rangers pair, aged for 31 and 27 years respectively, will never play for Scotland again (until their international pardon anyway) and strict disciplinarian Walter Smith has also cast doubt over their Rangers futures (until their club pardon in two weeks time).
The duo have since come out with remarkably coherent expressions of regret. Hamish Husband (this is actually his name), spokesman for the teetotal West of Scotland Tartan Army, represented the feelings of the vast majority of Scotland's proud fans, in supporting the lifetime ban (and maybe deportation too).
Am I alone in thinking this is all a little melodramatic? Lowly Falkirk nearly became the unlikely beneficiaries of Scottish football's moral revolution, as a toothless Rangers struggled to win 1-0 on a very, very sober Sunday.