With Arsenal riding high, are United (and Bertabov) now in crisis?

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “If we’d had a proper referee we’d have come away with something. It was a blatant foul, a blatant push prior to the penalty, and he ignores it. Johnson completely pushes Cacapa out of the way – straight hands, just a push. Sure, he went over a little bit too easily for a centre-half and then [Coloccini] has made a silly challenge. But it was just a Mickey Mouse ref doing nothing.” – Joe Kinnear.

Runner-up: “Everybody likes to watch beautiful football but to play beautiful football without points is… I don’t think it’s worth it. Arsenal is one of those teams that just plays beautiful football but at the end of the day they don’t get the points that they want to. For me, I don’t care. To be rough and get three points or play well and get three points – win ugly or beautifully – I don’t care.” – Michael Essien.

Today’s overview: One match and the tables are turned. After a week of articles criticising Arsene Wenger, the Frenchman is returned to his former position as untouchable in the majority of today’s offerings, while questions are now being levelled at Manchester United and Dimitar Berbatov in particular.

On Arsenal’s victory, David Pleat poetically claims that the Gunners “ended this game with battered limbs, brave hearts and renewed hope for their title challenge.” Writing for the Telegraph, Hull’s manager Phil Brown served up the usual Wenger fanfare saying “nobody in the game of football, certainly not at my level, can criticise him for what he has done for Arsenal over the past 10 years.” Taking up the middle ground, Martin Samuel contextualises Arsenal’s victory penning: “Wenger will also know that one win against United is no more significant than one defeat by Stoke City, no matter the hyperbole prematch.”

Alan Hansen, quick to say United are not in a crisis, argued that “Ferguson just needs to get to the source of the problems, from the lack of a killer touch to the defensive frailties that have seen them concede five goals against Arsenal and Hull in their last two League games, and eradicate them.”

Steven Howard picks up on Dimitar Berbatov’s influence for Manchester United, arguing the Bulgarian is “an actor still in search of the right part,” a thread also picked up by Stan Collymore who wrote “Dimitar Berbatov still does not convince me that he can score and be a success at the very highest level for Manchester United.” Oliver Kay reports that Sir Alex is fuming over the fact that “all six of United’s six Champions League group matches have been or will be followed by tough away assignments.”

How much pressure is Mark Hughes facing? According to Hughes has the support of most, if not all, the senior players at the club and while the manager is not under immediate threat, City’s ambitions changed when Sheikh Mansour bought the club in September, with Champions League qualification the target.”

But trouble is brewing according to Shaun Custis, who writes “Mark Hughes is fighting for his Manchester City future as the club’s superstar Brazilians turn against him.” Jon Culley offered a far more reasoned take on matters at City writing “the notion of Hughes being replaced with Darren Ferguson, as was mooted at the weekend, or anyone else sometime soon seems fanciful.”

Nick Hornby wrote of watching John Barnes’s debut for Liverpool at Arsenal in 1987 when Barnes was pelted with ‘banana after banana’ – and that was from the Liverpool supporters. They were the same fans, presumably, who had daubed ‘No Wogs Allowed’ on to the gates at Anfield on the day that Barnes signed.”

Rumours are abound over possible sales of Premier League clubs, Rob Stewart linking one of Philip Anschutz (the billionaire owner of LA Galaxy), Mark Cuban (owner of the Dallas Mavericks), or Paul Allen (Microsoft’s co-founder and owner of the Portland Trailblazers) as buyers for Newcastle. Portsmouth, meanwhile, are being tracked by a South African consortium according to

In other news, Sam Wallace calls on Chelsea to roll out Frank Arnesen’s kids in the Carling Cup, When I was at Middlesbrough he [Tony Mowbray] was a legend as a no-nonsense centre half. He’d kick his own grandmother, people used to say.”) while Tom Dart, speaking to Declan Hill, looked into match-fixing in the English game. And keeping on match-fixing, the Irish Independent report that “St Patrick’s midfielder Gary Dempsey is facing a lengthy ban from Irish football after he admitted over the weekend to having bet on a game involving his own club.”