Ralph Hasenhuttl may have raised question marks about the reverse gears in the Manchester United engine room, but the ones in the boardroom are the more important and need to start operating pronto. While everybody else seems to be going backwards – or at the very least staying still – Manchester City cruise on thanks to a previously discarded spare part while it turns out a bit of petrol money can buy you success. Express Sport’s Matthew Dunn looks through all the big stories in his latest Premier League talking points column.
UNITED NEED TO GO BACKWARDS TO GO FORWARD
Why would you track back for Ralf Rangnick, a manager with perhaps just 16 games left in the hot seat with a board that would not back him in January?
Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl may have stunned many by openly questioning the shoddy reverse gears throughout the United side, but the ones that need looking at are actually upstairs.
If United cannot find the strength to go back on their ludicrous Rangnick appointment as manager, they at least need to find a way to shunt him into the boardroom as soon as possible and bring in a manager who the players will run for.
And no, not Ted Lasso.
STERLING EFFORT DIRECT RESULT OF STERLING REST
A short while ago, Raheem Sterling was an extravagance who City had no room for in the team and was rumoured to be on his way out of the club.
This weekend he overtook Didier Drogba in the all-time Premier League goalscoring lists and has now bagged more hat-tricks than Mohamed Salah.
Pep Guardiola denies all credit for the fact that Sterling is now playing the best football of his career after sitting out much of the end of last season and the beginning of this.
But the reason City will again win the title by a country mile is that Guardiola finds a way continually to refresh his biggest talents so they are firing when he needs them.
KLOPP CAN NO LONGER RELY ON THE OLD FIRMINO
After filling Liverpool’s attacking void during the Africa Cup of Nations with just one goal to his name, another lacklustre performance from Robert Firmino suggests his time at the club is coming to an end.
Jurgen Klopp has cleverly reinforced behind Mo Salah and Sadio Mane with Diogo Jota and Luis Diaz – players who will score goals as well as create assists.
Firmino’s brilliant eye for a pass is no longer enough with City continuing to set the bar so high – Klopp needs his front three to all be hitting the back of the net regularly and his record simply has not been good enough of late.
CONTE NEEDS TO MIND THE GAP TALK
Since Antonio Conte spelt out how big the gap is with teams like Chelsea at the Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, it has just got wider.
Still it is hard to know what Conte was trying to achieve in the dressing room by painting Tottenham’s situation quite so starkly.
They have since struggled to beat Morecambe, came within a minute of losing to Leicester and just about saw off Brighton. The other five games they just plain lost.
Unless Conte gets that it was only Mauricio Pochettino’s belief that enabled them briefly to close that gap, there certainly does not seem much point in travelling to the Etihad on Saturday.
NEWCASTLE CAN’T AFFORD NOT TO FIGHT
Liverpool, Manchester City, Arsenal then Turf Moor. If Newcastle fans need any reminding not to get carried away by three wins on the bounce, it is a glance at the club’s run-in.
Eddie Howe’s side are looking good for the momentum they have built but the relegation dogfight this season could go right down the wire, and the teams that can keep that fighting spirit going right to the wire are the ones who will survive.
To that end, Kieran Trippier’s broken foot is a massive loss to the dressing room – it is precisely his gritty professionalism the players need right now and not the owners’ billions.