Patrice Evra is mystified by how easily Manchester United have been written off in this season’s Barclays Premier League title race.
Despite wrapping up their 20th championship with four games to spare last season and eventually finishing 11 points ahead of their nearest challengers, Manchester City, United were only third favourites in most bookmakers’ lists. That situation remains the same, even after their impressive 4-1 win at Swansea on Saturday, with Chelsea and City tipped to scrap it out for the main prize instead.
Given Paul Scholes is the only departure so far and Wilfried Zaha has been added, it is a strange situation, and one for which the only explanation is the exit of Sir Alex Ferguson and appointment of David Moyes. Yet, according to Evra, it is not a new phenomenon.
“It is not just this season,” he told MUTV. “It is every year. I have been here eight years now and every year people say we are going to finish fourth or fifth in the league. It is unbelievable.”
Two assists by Wayne Rooney following his introduction as a second-half substitute underlined what a positive contribution he can make to the United cause. But he also took a heavy blow to his Achilles and it was noticeable he did not celebrate with his team-mates either. So until the transfer window closes on 2 September there remains the potential for Rooney moving on.
Robin van Persie’s brace matched his contribution to the Community Shield win over Wigan, and Danny Welbeck has already doubled his league tally for the whole of last season.
Arsene Wenger says his bruised Arsenal squad cannot afford to feel sorry for themselves if they are to bounce back from a nightmare opening day defeat by Aston Villa and keep alive their Champions League dream in Turkey on Wednesday.
The Gunners were booed off after they lost 3-1 at home to an industrious Villa side, who were helped by a controversial second-half penalty which was swiftly followed by the dismissal of defender Laurent Koscielny for a second yellow card. It was hardly the ideal warm-up for the first leg of a crucial Champions League play-off against Fenerbahce at the intimidating Sukru Saracoglu stadium.
“The next game becomes very important when you come out of a game like that,” said Wenger. “You must not let the disappointment gain in the spirit of the players. The resolute attitude we had against Villa we have to keep and bounce back, that is what it is about.”
Everton boss Roberto Martinez and Norwich manager Chris Hughton were split on whether the 2-2 draw at Carrow Road was a fair result.
Scotland full-back Steven Whittaker opened the scoring for the hosts before Everton hit back with goals by Ross Barkley and Seamus Coleman. Norwich debutant Ricky van Wolfswinkel then headed in a 71st-minute equaliser with his manager Hughton declaring he felt his side did enough to warrant a draw.
“I thought it was a fair reflection of the game,” he said. “Today we were up against a full-strength Everton side.”
But Martinez felt his side deserved to head back to Merseyside with the win.
He said: “Overall, from a neutral point of view, probably we deserved the three points and we did enough.”