Okay, so we all know that this is a Premier League season like no other, but nobody was predicting some of the crazy results that occurred over the weekend just gone. Even casual observers of the beautiful game sat up and took notice as the score-lines from the Manchester United and Liverpool games started to filter through.
Let’s take a look back at a couple of the most shocking results in the 28-year history of the Premier League.
Aston Villa 7 – 2 Liverpool
Liverpool were rated at odds of around 1/2 for the win prior to kick-off on Sunday, while you could find odds of up to 17/2 on Villa pulling off an upset victory. The fact that Aston Villa managed not only to beat the Reds, but did so by a stunning seven goals to two, left even the most seasoned of Liverpool-watchers struggling to find excuses:
To put this result into some kind of context, the last time that Liverpool shipped seven goals was back in April of 1963, when a starry Tottenham side beat them by the same result. A certain Mr Jimmy Greaves notched four on that occasion, whereas this time out it was the less-garlanded Ollie Watkins who banged in a hat-trick. In fact only the crossbar prevented him from matching Greaves goal-for-goal, while throughout the game his teammate Jack Grealish was lording it over his hapless opponents in red.
Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp simply said that “a game like tonight should not happen” in his post-match interview, hoping that this bizarre match will prove to be an isolated aberration rather than an ominous sign of what’s to come. Meanwhile, the only disappointment for the Villans is that they weren’t playing in front of a packed house as they pulled off one of the greatest Premier League upsets of all time.
Manchester United 1 – 6 Tottenham Hotspur
On the contrary, a sliver of comfort for the Red Devils is that they did not have to endure their own humiliation to the background of a cacophony of boos from the stands at Old Trafford. Certainly, Spurs were expected to give United a stern test, with most oddsmakers favouring Manchester at odds of around evens, while Tottenham were rated as 3 to 1 shots to take home the victory.
The Red Devils have suffered an identical defeat in the Premier League era, which was 2011’s 6-1 defeat to arch-rivals City. But you’d have to go all the way back to 1953 for the last time United conceded four goals in a half of league football, with Spurs being the opponents on that occasion too. If they’re looking for excuses, United can certainly feel aggrieved at being on the wrong end of one of the softer sendings off we will see this season.
On this evidence, one fears that Erik Lamala’s prospects of some day making it as a professional boxer appear slim:
But at the end of the day even a ten-man side should have been able to muster up a better performance than this. They certainly weren’t pulling any punches over at the Daily Mail sports-desk, where player ratings of 2 from 10 were awarded to Bailly, Shaw and Pogba, while Anthony Martial’s not-so-happy slapping earned him a season-low rating of 1.
Now the pressure is mounting on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who has moved into first place in the Premier League sack race. Ole seems like a decent sort, and was quick to take the blame in his post-match comments, although the truth is that he was royally let down by his players.
Freak Results or a Sign of the Times?
So can we just write off these results as simply more crazy events in one of the craziest years in living memory? Maybe. Or perhaps it’s simply the case that fans really do have more influence on the outcome of games than they are often given credit for.
Would those United players really have thrown in the towel so meekly had they been playing in front of 75,000 baying supporters? Surely Liverpool would have showed more fight as mocking chants rained from the rafters of Villa Park. Football without fans has seemed quite bloodless at times, with some top-flight games feeling more like training matches.
Penalties have been more easy to come by this season too, now that the Premier League has been forced to take on FIFA’s forward-friendly handball rules. This alone can’t explain Sunday’s results, but we have already seen as many penalties for handballs after 30 games (six) as over the course of 380 games in the 2017/18 season.
For now all we can do is put the United and Liverpool results down as freak occurrences, although the feeling persists that these aren’t the last crazy games we can expect to see this year.
Liverpool certainly won’t have an easy ride in their next game after the international break. The Reds travel to resurgent Everton and although Liverpool are strong
5/6 favourites to steady the ship with a win, this one will be no walk in the (Goodison) Park.
Meanwhile Solksjaer will be hoping that United can live up their billing as
5/7 favourites for the win when they visit Newcastle on October 17th. He will also have to hope that the United owners remain patient before them, or else we could be seeing a new manager leading the Red Devils out the tunnel at St James’ Park.
Could they make such a high-profile managerial change at United before then? Who knows, but as we have all come to realise during this craziest of years, stranger things have happened…
*All odds correct at time of writing.