UNLESS you’re a Manchester United fan, and there are a few billion of those around the world (mostly outside Manchester) it was a brilliant weekend for the Premier League.
In fact Mothering Sunday marked the end of the mother of all weekend’s for football fans who love genuine competition.
Most of us know-alls have been predicting yet another runaway triumph for Fergie and his fabulous five-star outfit but suddenly the quintuple looks a lot further away.
Defeats by Liverpool and Fulham, a none-too impressive performance against Inter Milan, Vidic, Scholes and Rooney all sent off left the manager as red faced as the wine he prefers.
He’ll have been gnashing his teeth at the sight of greatest rivals Liverpool thrashing Aston Villa in the wake of their triumphs over his own side and Real Madrid.
Suddenly it’s game on again and that’s got to be good news for the neutrals who’ve found the Premier League boringly predictable in recent times.
This week’s international break might turn out to be perfectly timed for the shell shocked United players needing to recharge their batteries.
It might also have the effect of stalling Liverpool in a charge that’s seen them score 13 times in thrashing three of the greatest clubs in the game.
Let’s not forget either that Chelsea lost and Arsenal won so we’re guaranteed a few more weeks of intense excitement at the business end of the season.
Steven Gerrard, now free of the assault charge distraction, is slugging it out where it matters, and after the small business of Slovakia this weekend will be highly motivated to pick up the baton again when Liverpool play Fulham.
In a reversal of the fixtures it’s Manchester United against Aston Villa next time out and Martin O’Neill will relish pitting his wits against the most successful manager in the business.
World Cup qualifiers are fascinating but somehow don’t carry the aura of the best league in the world.
Dreaded rule hands England success
MUCH was made of the farcical nature of England’s one-day cricket win over the West Indies in Guyana, but it was the sport itself that was the loser.
In case you missed it, coach John Dyson brought his players in at the first sight of bad light believing they could rejoice in victory under the dreaded Duckworth Lewis rule.
Mercifully his maths was found to be wanting and England sneaked it by one run instead of the other way round.
As David Lloyd on Sky said with correct, if slightly irritating, repetitiveness: "Play the game."
When Lancashire beat Gloucestershire in a Gillette Cup match donkeys years ago, it was so dark umpire Arthur Jepson famously asked a batsman appealing against the light "What’s that up there?"
The bemused batsman said: "The moon"
"Well how much further do you want to see?" came the retort – and they got on with the game.
Players should remember people have paid good money to be entertained – not cheated out of an authentic finish.
IF YOU’D said to me five years ago a group of women might win the Team of the Year Award I’d have thought you were barmy.
Now it might just happen (unless Manchester United do claim five trophies) in the shape of our World Cup winning cricketers in Australia.
It was a terrific effort by Charlotte Edwards and her side who swept all before them and, hopefully, killed off the misconception once and for all that women can’t play the game.
Wasim Akram confessed to being amazed at the high level of skill in fielding and catching, in particular, which reminded me of the Women’s Under 17 Football World Cup in New Zealand last year, when no less a luminary than Franz Beckenbauer said he was staggered at the quality of the players on view.
Women’s sport has come on in leaps and bounds with Annika Sorenstam, Rebecca Adlington and Victoria Pendleton just three of a host of stars revealing unprecedented expertise that has to be recognised by males and females alike.