• Guardian contributor Jonathan Wilson wins writer of the yearThe Guardian enjoyed a successful evening at the Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF) awards in London, winning Newspaper of the Year for the fifth time in succession. Football Weekly picked up the prize for Podcast of the Year, while regular Guardian contributor Jonathan Wilson was named Writer of the Year at the ceremony held at the Tower of London. Continue reading...
• Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho named the Player of the Year The Guardian has been named the Newspaper of the Year at the Football Supporters’ Federation awards for the fourth year in a row. Continue reading...
• Jamie Carragher is Pundit of Year
The Guardian has been named Newspaper of the Year at the Football Supporters’ Federation awards for the third year in a row. At the awards in London, Arsenal’s Alexis Sánchez was named Player of the Year and Sky Sports’ Jamie Carragher Pundit of the Year. Continue reading...
• Guardian’s Football Weekly takes Podcast/Radio Show of Year
• Chris Cook wins Racing Reporter of the YearThe Guardian won the Newspaper of the Year, Writer of the Year and Podcast/Radio Show of the Year awards at the Football Supporters’ Federation’s awards night on Monday. The paper’s citation for the newspaper award read: “With a real ear for fan issues, it’s no surprise to see the Guardian shortlisted. Let’s not forget its commitment to top-class coverage of European football either, with great copy from the likes of Raphael Honigstein and Sid Lowe. Continue reading...
The picture on today's front pages of The Times and The Independent of Luis Suarez consoling Steven Gerrard at the end of the World Cup match summed up the game's emotional drama.
"Don't cry, Kai. If Italy beat Costa Rica today... then Suarez & Co lose to Italy.. and Daddy scores a couple (or maybe more) against Costa Rica..."Continue reading...
The world governing body perceives technological assistance for referees to be as dangerously undermining as transparency
The thing about the Luddites, apart from the thing that made them a byword, is that there was a perfectly reasonable explanation for their opposition to new technology. They didn't like it because they thought it was going to take their jobs.
That's why they took against superlooms and whatnot: because they could see those newfangled devices were going to do them out of employment, or at best relegate the odd lucky one of them to the role of machine supervisor, the 19th century equivalent of the supermarket assistant whose job is now wearily to override the peeves and prejudices of the electronic tills which took their former colleagues' jobs, and to allow the bananas or packets of parsley to proceed expectedly to the bagging area.
Perhaps the top-down opposition to even properly trying video technology in football can be similarly explained. Of course, the introduction of replays would not swiftly see Andre Marriner replaced by a Japanese-engineered robot beetling around the pitch looking for code infringements, or even some dystopian law enforcement cyborg whose circuitry would somehow malfunction and see him kill anyone who commits a handball. No, if we somehow get to the stage of football being policed by robo-referees, you can be sure there will be other jobs for the likes of Marriner – and certainly more pressing concerns for society as a whole than whether or not a couple of seconds of delay took the shine off a London derby.
But Fifa's resistance to technology is overwhelming, and must stem from profound insecurity. Even if it can't quite put its finger on why, top brass smells a threat to its fiefdom. Hawk-Eye's officiating replay system in Dutch football is reportedly likely to be phased out, due to a lack of interest fostered by Fifa's chronic resistance to the idea. So football will lag behind almost every other major sport in its backward insistence on keeping everything just as it is.
The longer it goes on, the more it is impossible not to conclude the ruthless conservatism is born of the same tsarist impulse that is Fifa's defining characteristic. World football's governing body is autocratic, obsessed with shoring up the status quo that enriches it with minimal accountability, and pathologically averse to transparency. Thus the man in black is in some ways its earthly representative: a demonstrably fallible human who must nonetheless be invested with absolute power, because the alternative is viewed as the thin end of a wedge. Technological assistance is perceived to be as dangerously undermining as transparency. It starts with being able to question a refereeing decision; it ends with people imagining they have a right to know how billion-dollar tournaments are awarded. And that is obviously unthinkable.
When led like this, it's no surprise to find a similar authoritarianism permeating administration of the game at the national football authority level. Not that you can really call them football authorities, on account of the fact that they don't really have much authority – defined as the ability to get people to do things because they believe you have the right to tell them. Around the world, so-called football authorities are widely perceived to be either donkeys led by donkeys, or corrupt, or both. They should instead be called the football powers, because they unfortunately retain the ability to be able to tell people what to do whether or not they like it.
Our own FA and the bigger clubs may be pressing Zurich on video replays, but other forms of technology rattle them tellingly. Consider how they come down like a ton of bricks on any player with the temerity to speak his brains on social media. Ashley Cole was fined £90,000 for calling the FA a "bunch of twats". Eighty grand for an anti-Semitic gesture, ninety for impudence. I think they call that putting things into perspective. All dictators know there's nothing so dangerously undermining as a joke, meanwhile, which is why Ryan Babel was relieved of £10,000 for linking to a humorous mock-up of Howard Webb in a Manchester United strip, and some blazered old white guys took £20,000 off Carlton Cole for joshing that the England-Ghana friendly at Wembley was an immigration office trap.
Taking a step back, doesn't much of this feel part of the same thing – an instinctive, iniquitous fear of transparency or loss of control that does nothing for the game itself, only for those that run it? The single instance of openness in Fifa's purview of which I can think is the Ballon d'Or, where the normally obsessively secretive body which supposedly governs in our name allows the voting for a bauble to be made public. Thus we were permitted to see that neither Lionel Messi nor Cristiano Ronaldo voted for each other this year – a most convenient version of divide and conquer for Fifa, because it pits the junior employees against themselves, and allows the power brokers to continue operating in the shadows.
So it is not for the game's proletariat personnel to have recourse to some notional third umpire, any more than it is for its mere consumers to have information on how it is really run. Wherever those that rule football can centralise power, they will, and it is increasingly difficult to imagine that Fifa's aversion to trialling technology properly stems from anything other than reflexive terror of what it might represent.
Manchester City were not just content with moving directly behind Chelsea at the top of the Premier League. Manuel Pellegrini's team played as though determined to make Manchester United suffer and by the time they had finished, David Moyes may have heard the first isolated shouts behind his dugout to get out of the club, and preferably through the back door.
For now it still amounted to a show of restraint considering he inherited a team, lest it be forgotten, that won the league by 11 points. The regression is nothing short of remarkable and the indignities continue to stack up. United certainly lived up to Sir Bobby Charlton's admission about having played "really, really badly" this season and Mancunian humour has a brutal edge on these occasions. "Worst champions we've ever seen" was the chant from the away end, expletive removed.
Moyes' new system, forfeiting width in an attempt to pin down City's midfield, failed within the first minute and Edin Dzeko's goal, officially clocked at 43 seconds, was followed by a performance of almost total superiority from Pellegrini's men, easing above Liverpool into second place with two games in hand on Chelsea and three points to make up.
City played like champions whereas United looked what they are these days: a team in seventh position, grubbing around for points to qualify for the Europa League, but in trouble as soon as they come up against one of the top teams. Dzeko's second goal arrived after 56 minutes and Moyes should probably be grateful the crowd did not let out more frustration after Yaya Touré completed the scoring.
United are now guaranteed their most undistinguished points total in the Premier League era and it is the first time City have beaten them three times running at this ground for more than 40 years. It is shocking to see the scale of deterioration at Old Trafford.
Pellegrini's men started like a team in a hurry, inflicted the necessary damage and coasted through the final half an hour before Touré drilled in the third goal just as the electronic board was flashing up the added time. They moved the ball quickly, with invention and clarity. There was not a flicker of trepidation and as soon as they took that early lead everyone must have sensed this could be another ordeal for the home team.
A blur of speed and movement culminated in Samir Nasri's shot ricocheting off a post for Dzeko to score from inside the six-yard area. United were all over the place and, straight away, there was the hard evidence about where these old rivals currently stand. The truth – and it is undeniable – is that the gulf in talent was evident all night.
More than anything, City had the speed to hurt the home team. Jesús Navas was a formidable opponent for the creaking Patrice Evra. On the opposite side, Rafael da Silva looked just as vulnerable. City simply overpowered the home team. David Silva was tremendous, such an elusive and clever player. Touré demonstrated why Pellegrini had described him beforehand as "the complete midfielder" and Dzeko played with the sureness of touch that occasionally deserts him.
The irony was that Moyes had shoehorned in another central midfielder, Tom Cleverley, at the expense of a right-winger to try to cope with City's superiority in this area. Still, however, Pellegrini's men poured through the gaps. Cleverley was removed at half-time and is in danger of becoming the player the crowd trust the least. Shinji Kagawa could not make any real difference and Marouane Fellaini continues to look hopelessly out of his depth. The player Moyes signed from Everton for £27m offered little in a passing sense and, not for the first time, the crowd revelled in his substitution.
As for the elbow Fellaini delivered into Pablo Zabaleta's jaw, half an hour in, it really was a dereliction of duty from the referee, Michael Oliver, not to show a red card. Fellaini has previous for these kind of offences and this one looked premeditated.
If City had been more clinical they could have wrapped up the game in that opening half. Wayne Rooney was determined not to let the game pass him by and United did at least create a couple of chances before the break.
Yet this was not a fully coherent football team. In defence there were more lapses than they will care to remember. United's midfield was laboured. They have scored 18 league goals here all season – even in the year of the infamous "Ta-ra, Fergie" banner, they managed 26 – and it does not reflect well on Moyes that Paul Scholes' analysis, in a television role, was much clearer than the manager's.
Early in the second half the outstanding Vincent Kompany headed on a corner and Fernandinho flashed the ball over the crossbar. There was a warning there for United and it went unheeded. At the next corner, Rio Ferdinand started tracking Dzeko but ran into Fellaini. Dzeko, left alone, ran on to Nasri's cross and expertly volleyed in his shot.
Touré's goal was a low diagonal drive into the bottom corner and that was the moment City's fans celebrated the Moyes era, in schadenfreude, again. "Five more years" they sang, toasting a night that could go a long way to determining whether they are reunited with the Premier League trophy.
• First sign of open revolt against Moyes' managership
• Defeat guarantees fewest points in Premier League era
Manchester United supporters vented their anger at the former manager Sir Alex Ferguson at the end of the shambolic 3-0 derby defeat to Manchester City at Old Trafford. In the first signs of open revolt at David Moyes, fans furiously questioned Ferguson's decision to appoint the Scot as his replacement.
With Moyes also receiving verbal abuse from supporters and stewards being asked to guard "The Chosen One" banner that hangs at the stadium's Stretford End after the 167th Manchester derby, the ire shown towards Ferguson, who is a club director, will cause serious questions at boardroom level.
Moyes has consistently spoken of how the support has stood by him throughout his overseeing of a dismal title defence. This defeat guarantees United will end with their poorest ever points tally in the Premier League era, with their previous lowest being 75.
City took only 43 seconds to take the lead through Edin Dzeko, who also scored again in the 56th minute, before Yaya Touré sealed United's humiliation with a third for City at the end. That provoked fans to target Ferguson as he sat in the directors' box at the final whistle.
The 72-year-old was the driving force in Moyes being appointed as his successor at the end of last season, with the former Everton manager being summoned to Ferguson's house to be offered his job.
While the loss made it six home defeats in the league for the first time since the 2001-2 season to leave United 18 points behind the leaders, Chelsea, and 12 from a Champions League berth, Moyes refused to blame his players. Asked to explain how a squad minus only the retired Paul Scholes has gone so far backwards this year after winning the title by 11 points, the manager said: "I take responsibility. I have to be the one who plays them, picks them and that is what it is. I think there are a lot of really good players there, some can play better, but there are a lot of really good players in the squad, a lot of international players and players who I think on their day can be a match for most players."
Of the defeat to City, which means they have now been defeated by their city rivals three consecutive times at Old Trafford in the league for the first time in more than 40 years, Moyes said: "We never gave ourselves a great opportunity to get into the game. Manchester City started really fast and conceding a goal after 30-40 seconds made it difficult. We had to try and make sure we got through that 10-15 minute period. After that we weathered it and got ourselves back into the game and finished the half quite strong. The key to it was not to concede a second goal so we could always give ourselves a chance [to get] back in there.
"I didn't think we started the second half well. We brought pressure on us by our play and in the end we conceded a corner just before that and there was another one and then that led to the second goal. It was obviously poor marking and we should have done much better.
"I just think we never came out of the blocks. You prepare the players, you warm them up, you do all the things to have them ready but we just never started. It gave them a real big lift to get a goal so early on."
In a comment that may further anger fans, Moyes stated that City are the side he wants his United team to emulate. "I think we've played a very good side and it's the sort of standard and level we need to try and aspire to get ourselves to at this moment in time," he said.
City are now only three points behind Chelsea with two games in hand. Yet Manuel Pellegrini refused to concede that it is his team's title to lose. "No I don't think so," said the manager. "The title race continues, we continue fighting with all the other three – Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool. We have two games postponed but we have to win those two games. Tomorrow I start thinking about Arsenal [who City visit on Saturday] and then I think about the end of the season."
• 'Title is not our biggest worry, we must look behind us'
• Mathieu Flamini own goal earns Swansea point in 2-2 draw
Arsène Wenger suggested he was more concerned with securing a top-four finish than winning the Premier League title after Arsenal suffered another setback in the 2-2 home draw with Swansea City.
Arsenal were unhinged by a 90th-minute own goal by Mathieu Flamini and they might even have lost but for the referee Lee Probert's decision to blow for full-time as the Swansea midfielder Jonathan de Guzmán had the scent of a one-on-one chance.
After Saturday's 6-0 loss at Chelsea, Wenger admitted the draw "hurts us a lot" and it left Arsenal, in fourth spot, not only six points off the lead held by Chelsea, and possibly more if Manchester City were to win their games in hand, but just six clear of fifth-place Everton. Roberto Martínez's side have a game in hand and they face Arsenal at Goodison Park on Sunday week.
Arsenal play City at home on Saturday with Everton going to Fulham on Sunday.
"The title is not our biggest worry at the moment," Wenger said. "We just have to try to be realistic and we have to come back in the next game. We have to look behind us. Of course we also have to look in front of us but as well behind us. Everton won [at Newcastle United] so we have, of course, to focus. It will be open until the end. We can still have surprises. Manchester City had a good result [at United] ... they look a bit unstoppable and they are the favourites because they still have two games in hand.
"Them and Chelsea are the favourites for the title. We don't have too much room to come back into it. We have to get some players back. It's difficult to fight with half the team out."
Wenger has lost Theo Walcott for the season and he pointed out that Aaron Ramsey, Laurent Koscielny, Jack Wilshere and Mesut Özil are not "close to coming back".
"Koscielny is out for a while," he continued, "and Özil is at least two or three weeks. Ramsey is maybe the closest, he is maybe two weeks. He had a setback. He's had some scar tissue and then you have to slow down. The tendon is in a sensitive place."
The Swansea head coach, Garry Monk, left London with mixed feelings after Probert's decision to whistle for full-time in the fifth minute of injury-time. A minimum of four additional minutes had been signalled but Monk felt that as Flamini's own goal had come seconds before the 90th minute, Probert ought to have added an extra minute.
"We scored and they have to restart the clock, so it would be five minutes minimum," Monk said.
"Then, we are clean through on goal and 99% a goalscoring opportunity is going to come and they blow up 30 seconds short. It was a poor decision. I don't understand it. It is very strange. I have never had it like that in any game I have ever played in."
When the killer blow for Arsenal came, with mere seconds of normal time remaining, it seemed somehow appropriate that it should be cloaked in black comedy. Three precious points appeared to be theirs and they stood not only to crown a fightback that had hardly been trailed, but to soothe the pain of the 6-0 humbling at Chelsea from last Saturday.
But Swansea City, and fate, had other ideas. When Leon Britton drove into the penalty area, after a one-two with Angel Rangel, Per Mertesacker dived in to challenge and briefly chaos reigned.
Mertesacker's tackle diverted the ball at Wojciech Szczesny and after it hit the goalkeeper it squirted back at Mathieu Flamini. Flamini, sliding towards his net, could do nothing as the ball ricocheted off him and trickled in for the most sickening of own goals. Everybody in red was gripped by that sinking feeling.
Arsenal's comeback had been fired by the substitute Lukas Podolski. He scored one goal and made the other for Olivier Giroud as Arsenal stood the game on its head inside 60 second-half seconds and looked set to banish the demons of Stamford Bridge.
Yet the late sucker punch seemed to catch the downbeat mood at Arsenal, the sense that their Premier League title challenge has come apart. It might have been even worse for them at the bitter end but for a refereeing decision that incensed the Swansea head coach, Garry Monk, and his players.
Jonathan de Guzmán was through on goal, being chased by Thomas Vermaelen and with Szczesny to beat, when Lee Probert decided to blow for full-time. Four minutes of injury time had been signalled and the game had entered the fifth but Monk argued that because the Flamini own goal had come virtually on 90 minutes, an extra minute over the four ought to have been added.
He also expressed his amazement that Probert should blow up when a major opportunity knocked. It was the first time in his career, Monk said, that he had seen such a situation. De Guzmán stuck the ball home, although both Vermaelen and Szczesny had stopped, and angry Swansea players surrounded the referee at full-time.
Monk's delight at the point that he would have taken beforehand, and also after Giroud's goal, was sorely tempered, and Arsène Wenger talked afterwards of how deeply the result had hurt.
He complained about a foul in the build-up to the Swansea equaliser and he took issue with Monk's argument about the De Guzmán controversy. Vermaelen, Wenger said, was in position to catch him. Nobody was happy. Arsenal have now drawn after each of their Premier League drubbings – Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea – but this one seemed like a defeat.
The main thing that has sustained Arsenal throughout the assorted pitfalls of their season has been the ability to beat the teams that they ought to be beating, namely those in the bottom half of the table. Not here and, as the dust settled, Wenger was more concerned with the threat to his club's top-four ambitions from Everton.
This was yet another occasion when Arsenal's nerves jangled and there was the collective offering-up of prayers from the home seats when Wilfried Bony flexed those mighty neck muscles to thump an early header down and into the near corner of the net.
The goal was the definition of simplicity. Neil Taylor ambled up the inside-left channel before hanging over a cross for Bony to attack. He beat Vermaelen to bring up his 20th goal of the season. The £12m invested on him last summer looks extremely smart. His all-round performance was immense. Monk described him as a "beast".
Arsenal had plenty of the game but they laboured for a cutting edge despite the best efforts of Santi Cazorla. He had the pick of the limited crop of first-half chances when he took a ball from Tomas Rosicky, skated past a couple of challenges and forced Michel Vorm into a save.
The home fans wrestled with a familiar internal struggle, between bellowing their backing and venting their angst. Every misplaced Arsenal pass, and there were plenty, drew howls, and there were loud boos at half-time. Swansea's centre-halves, Ashley Williams and Chico Flores, were excellent and as the second-half minutes ticked by, Arsenal stared disaster in the face.
The pendulum swung in what seemed like the blink of an eye. Wenger's team went from wondering where the inspiration might come from – with Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Mesut Özil and Theo Walcott injured – to saluting Podolski's impact. Kieran Gibbs was the architect of the equaliser, accelerating past Rangel to cut back from the byline for Podolski, whose body shape was perfect to execute a difficult side-on volley.
Swansea lapsed again at the restart and, rather abruptly, another committed performance under Monk looked as though it would count for nothing. Angel gave away possession and when Cazorla nodded forward for Podolski, his cross was made to measure for Giroud.
The drama, though, was just beginning.
• Uruguayan has been model of brilliance, says manager
• Chelsea's Eden Hazard seen as player-of-year rival
Biting a fellow professional did little for Luis Suárez's player-of-the-year candidacy last year. Eleven months and one rehabilitation later, however, Brendan Rodgers believes there is no disputing the striker has been "a model of brilliance" for Liverpool this season.
The Uruguay striker equalled Robbie Fowler's club record of 28 goals in a Premier League season with a hat-trick against Cardiff City on Saturday. He has eight games remaining to break the league record of 34 goals held by Andy Cole and Alan Shearer – both over 42-game campaigns, with Newcastle United and Blackburn Rovers respectively – despite missing the first five league matches of the season through suspension.
That punishment stemmed from a bite on the Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic last April, an act that resulted in Suárez's second lengthy suspension in English football and ended his chances of beating Gareth Bale to the player-of-the-year award. The Uruguayan was not in contention for the honour in 2011-12, the season of his ban for using racially abusive language towards Patrice Evra, but having avoided major controversy, improved his already outstanding form and worked on his public image this season, the 27-year-old Suárez has few rivals outside Anfield, according to his manager.
Rodgers, whose team can move to within a point of the Premier League leaders, Chelsea, with victory over Sunderland on Wednesday, said: "I wouldn't have thought there are any reasons against him this year. I think he was well on the way to winning it last season when he had that unfortunate incident towards the end, which may have curtailed that, but this year he has been a model of brilliance. On the pitch his quality has never been questioned and if anything he has improved on that level this year.
"But I think it's been nice for people to see the other side of him. People don't see he's really quite a humble guy off the field who becomes a gladiator when he crosses the white line. A few people have seen the other side of him this year. In this country I think we like to see good people doing well so certainly for him it would be a wonderful step forward in his life and his career, if he gets it."
Aside from Eden Hazard at Chelsea, the Liverpool manager believes Suárez's only challengers for the annual award come from the same dressing room thanks to the club's unexpected pursuit of a first league title in 24 years.
Rodgers is taking nothing for granted. "Listen, nothing surprises me in this country. There are some outstanding players in this league so you never know because nothing surprises you. They tell me the young player of the year goes up to 23, which I find remarkable. You're 23 years of age and getting the young player award? I'm not sure how the voting works but if it's down to the majority of football people and supporters, I'm sure they'd vote for someone like Luis. In terms of ability he is right up there.
"Hazard has been great and of our own boys Steven Gerrard has been brilliant, and Jordan Henderson. And Raheem Sterling, a young player of 19, in terms of the impact he's had. Look at the goals Daniel Sturridge has scored too but Luis consistently, from when he came back into the team, has been remarkable. He's up for every game. He's a real strong pillar of our team. He's really dominant and that's why I had no hesitancy at the time making him skipper against Tottenham. He's a player of dominance on the field and off it he's very supportive and encouraging of his team-mates."
Suárez has scored 58 goals in 73 appearances for Liverpool since Rodgers became manager in June 2012 and focused the team's attacking style around the former Ajax captain.
The Liverpool manager said: "At first when I came in I thought we needed to get more goals into the team, not for any individual but for the team. I looked at it from the season before, saw the type of player he is and how he would suit the way I wanted to work. So we structured the team around his qualities and built around that.
"Obviously, as time goes on, you focus on the team, of which he's a very important member. The ability and fluency really help him. We have the ball for long periods and that gives him more of it in dangerous areas.
"He's been brilliant for me on and off the field. Of course, he makes me earn my money at times but he is a good man and has been incredible for Liverpool in my time here."
Nigel Pearson was back in the stand after his health problems at Blackburn on Saturday, and the Leicester City manager saw his side's unbeaten run, which has now stretched to an impressive 18 games, preserved in the most dramatic fashion.
The game was deep into added time when the City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, who had come up for a corner, headed against the underside of the Yeovil bar and saw the ball bounce down and over the line before being turned back in by the substitute Chris Wood.
Initially announced as being Wood's goal, it was subsequently announced as being Schmeichel's. While his goalkeeping father, Peter, was well-known for his goalscoring exploits, scoring 13 times in his career, this would have been his son's first. Unfortunately for Schmeichel Jr, the referee Andrew Madley subsequently confirmed that play had continued and he had not blown his whistle until Wood's secondary effort crossed the line. The dubious-goals panel may yet be called into action.
While automatic promotion remains nigh on certain for the Foxes, Yeovil's splendid effort was a sharp reminder that nothing can be taken for granted.
"I'm proud of what we did tonight," said their manager Gary Johnson, who played two up front throughout and having seen his side take the lead through the Cardiff loanee Joe Ralls, declined to then 'park the bus'. "I've got to keep their heads up, they're down and yet they've come to a side full of Premier League players and nearly beaten them," said Johnson.
Leicester's assistant manager, Craig Shakespeare, confirmed Pearson had spoken to his players before the match, at half-time and after final whistle.
"It was business as usual. It's well documented Nigel was in hospital on Saturday night and Sunday, but when someone's ill it's a private matter and it's up to him whether he wants to say anything further about it when he next speaks to the media," said Shakespeare.
"Credit to Yeovil, but credit to us too. We kept going and you saw what preserving our unbeaten run meant to everybody by the celebrations at the end."
That both sides were unchanged was a reflection on the fact that Yeovil, despite their precarious position in the relegation places, have been in form almost as impressive as Leicester's of late.
Johnson's side came into the match having lost only two of their previous nine games, a record that has given the Glovers at least a modicum of hope that they might yet avoid the drop.
City's top scorer, Jamie Vardy, should have made it 17 for the season as early as the third minute. The fact no flag was raised when he found himself well clear of Yeovil's backline seemed to surprise Vardy as much as anybody, because with only Marek Stech to beat he shot, almost gently, straight into the goalkeeper's body.
The chance presaged a period of solid City pressure, as might have been expected, and during which the Foxes missed further chances, but having failed to offer a threat in the first 20 minutes, it was Yeovil who took the lead. A free-kick won around 24 yards from goal was touched to Ralls and the midfielder curled a sweet left-foot shot beyond the reach of Schmeichel.
City should have been level within moments, but Riyad Mahrez scooped the ball over from no more than six yards.
Ishmael Miller missed a glorious chance to put his side two up after turning on Dawson's low cross at the start of the second half, though Schmeichel deserved considerable credit for blocking the left-footed close range shot.
Johnson must have been tempted to take off one of his forwards to bolster midfield, but his bravery in keeping two up front was almost rewarded when Ishmael Miller curled another effort fractionally wide of Schmeichel's right-hand post.
Pearson did change formation, sending on Lloyd Dyer and going to three at the back. Soon afterwards he replaced both strikers, but although Wes Morgan headed just wide, the breakthrough would not come.
City were reduced to desperate appeals for penalties that were never going to be answered in the affirmative, though as time ran out they did create more opportunities.
The substitute Kevin Phillips failed to make clean contact and Danny Drinkwater shot straight at Stech before the late, late show from Schmeichel and Wood.
The former England manager Glenn Hoddle emerged on Tuesday night as favourite to be asked to revive Nottingham Forest's flagging fortunes. Defeat to relegation-threatened Charlton extended the Championship club's winless run to eight league matches and left them two points shy of the play-off places they have occupied for the majority of the season.
Hoddle, 56, is known to be keen on ending an eight-year hiatus from management – his last post was with Wolverhampton Wanderers – while the challenge of reinvigorating a promotion push knocked out of kilter in the final month of Billy Davies's second coming is bound to appeal. Some bookmakers priced him as low as even money after Neil Warnock snubbed an approach from the Forest owner, Fawaz al-Hasawi.
Warnock said: "I wanted to keep my own direction. If I can't go into something 100% manager as I like to manage, I cannot commit to it. There are a lot of things that made me want to do it but in the end it didn't add up to me, really." Stuart Pearce, the former City Ground favourite, appeared to share Warnock's concerns on player recruitment and team selection. "Those are probably the two golden rules for any manager," he said.
However, Hasawi, who revealed his respect for Hoddle, Gianfranco Zola and Malky Mackay, said: "I never interfere with the manager, I am chairman and owner full stop. Previous managers know I never interfered in their job. I never told them what to do. If I say: 'Why we don't play this player? Or that player?' it's just opinion. In the end, it's his call."
The academy head, Gary Brazil, directed operations from the Forest dugout but three alterations in personnel after the weekend humiliation at the hands of Derby could not instigate a change in fortunes when play got under way a quarter of an hour late, after Charlton were held up in traffic.
"You could see the anxiety in the players as the game went on," conceded Brazil. Lack of confidence around the City Ground was also reflected in their lowest league gate of the season – 17,951. These fans witnessed fairly woeful fare, and the biggest surprise when Jordan Cousins converted a rebound in the 81st minute, after the substitute Jonathan Obika hit a post, was that the visitors had not scored earlier. It would have been no injustice had they taken the lead with the first half's one clearcut chance; Cousins's vision created it but Marvin Sordell could only side-foot the 20th-minute assist against the upright.
Forest also struck the woodwork near the interval when Simon Cox dinked past the onrushing Ben Hamer. They departed down the tunnel in the ascendancy yet their chances after the break were limited to a couple of powerful Jamaal Lascelles headers late on.
"We knew the context of this match and we expected a reaction from the players of Forest but based on good organisation we secured the result," said José Riga after his second win since replacing Chris Powell at the helm earlier this month.
David Moyes keeps on suffering at Old Trafford as City take one of Manuel Pellegrini's 10 steps towards the title
1 Moyes suffers at Old Trafford. Again
Verses of "Fergie give us a wave, Fergie Fergie give us a wave" and "Moyesie give us a wave, Moyesie, Moyesie give us a wave" were quickly followed by "He's the Chosen One" from the gleeful visiting Manchester City fans as the United manager felt 75,000 pairs of eyes burn into him. This was a scoreline that looked close for a large part of the game but make no mistake: Moyes's side were run off the park for most of the contest. Before kick-off the Scot had said: "We will be doing everything we possibly can tonight to avenge the disappointing result we had at the Etihad Stadium earlier this season.
"At this present time, we sit behind City in the Premier League table, but that is something we will look to rectify in the future. The title race is something we're aiming to be involved in he future, just as we have in the past." This feels a long way away at the moment.
2 Dzeko steps up to score another two 'heavy goals'
Cometh the 167th Mancunian squabble, cometh Edin Dzeko, the maligned striker who, as David Platt once said, scores "heavy goals". Here he was at it again, netting twice with the aplomb sometimes glaringly missing from his game. Not this night. As with the rest of his colleagues Dzeko coasted through the match and it is must have been with some satisfaction that when he wandered off with 11 minutes left it was Álvaro Negredo, the man he has usurped in the XI, who came on for him.
More materially, the 28-year-old's finishes hand City a vital victory. "Winning today is one of ten steps that we must take towards the title. We hope that we can play as well as we did at the Etihad in September." So said the City manager, Manuel Pellegrini, who also claimed in his pre-match interview that City were not favourites for this match. If they win at the Emirates this weekend, it is their crown to lose.
3 Has anyone seen Juan Mata's Chelsea form?
The Spaniard scored an impressive 19 times for the west London club last season yet since his club record £37m transfer to United in January Mata has hardly had a sniff of a debut strike despite his stated intention to start piling them up. "Of course I want to score goals – that is a big aim for me, and I will try and provide more assists. But it is all about winning for us. The collective aim of the team is more important than any personal ones. As long as we win every game until the end of the season, I will be very happy," he said very early on in his United career.
With that prospect ebbing away with every advancing minute, Mata must have wondered what had happened to the opportunity that supposedly knocked with Robin van Persie's injury. This was supposed to open up the stage for Mata to become orchestrator of a fluid United side. Instead, as has been the script so far, he was peripheral, at best.
4 Scholes spot on with criticism of Fellaini
The ghost of Paul Scholes haunted United's second-rate midfield as the retired midfield maestro said of Marouane Fellaini in a pre-match interview: "He's not been great, has he? You have to admit that. He did have problems with his wrist and I know he missed a lot of games but, for the money they paid for him, I'd be expecting a lot more, to be honest with you. I'd be expecting a few goals, at least. For a central midfielder at Manchester United for £27m, I'm expecting a few goals." Ouch. Scholes' dissection of the Belgian's contribution was underlined in a timid performance that was hardly the offering of a near-£30m player. In this he was not alone though, as Tom Cleverley, who with Michael Carrick made up United's midfield trio, lasted just the first half before being replaced: against Yaya Touré, Fernandinho and David Silva, their inferiority was clear.
5 43 seconds of United sluggishness set the tone
City needed less than a minute to plant their flag in enemy territory, with the Edin Dzeko goal that immediately crushed any optimism built up from the wins over Olympiakos and West Ham United in the home team's previous outings. For Moyes's team to hand their fierce rivals such an early present was hardly the best way to hope to narrow the points gap to their cross-town rivals from the yawning 12 it was at kick-off.
The sluggishness that allowed Silva, Touré and Nasri to walk through the defence ahead of Dzeko's opener offered yet more ammunition to those who see a United squad this year who are yet to be completely convinced of their manager and so are that vital fraction slower. To be fair to United – and Moyes – they rallied well following the initial shaky period but to let the enemy raid you after less than a minute is not good enough in a derby, or any other match for that matter. And if the start had been bad then the ending was equally gruesome, Touré scoring a magnificent goal to secure an easy 3-0 win.
United's players looked all at sea when asked to play an unfamiliar formation and that allowed David Silva to pull the strings for City
It takes a particularly dominant performance from an away side to prompt the home manager to consider changing his system within the opening 10 minutes – but that is precisely what happened as City took control with an astonishingly confident start.
David Moyes was seen preparing Antonio Valencia nine minutes into the game, and while Michael Carrick had taken a knock and was hobbling for a couple of minutes, it appeared Moyes was desperate for an excuse to make a change. The fact it was Valencia being readied, rather than a central midfielder like Darren Fletcher, underlined the fact that the manager would have completely reformatted his midfield.
Moyes had named a surprise starting XI for the game, playing a trio of Carrick, Marouane Fellaini and Tom Cleverley for the first time. That changed the shape of their midfield and the side as a whole – whereas they usually play with two deep midfielders and another connecting the rest of the side with the striker, it was a 4-3-3 with Carrick deepest.
At least, that is how it appeared – it was difficult to judge considering United were utterly dragged out of shape in the opening 10 minutes. Moyes presumably wanted numbers in the centre of midfield, perhaps to contain Yaya Touré, but David Silva made a mockery of that intention with a stunning display from the No10 position.
From the moment he brilliantly collected the ball to race through United's defence in the build-up to Edin Dzeko's first-minute opener, it was clear the Spanish playmaker was going to shine.
Whereas Silva is usually forced to drift inside from wide positions to provide creativity, as the No10 he is permanently involved in play and can shift from side to side, finding pockets of space between opposition central midfielders, centre-backs and full-backs. Silva's ability to lift the tempo of passing moves, receiving the ball on the half-turn before playing it to fellow attackers, meant United were simply unable to get close to him. He continually played the ball to City's wide players, who received support from the full-backs and overloaded the wide areas.
In the end, Moyes did not make that early substitution. But he did change the system after 10 minutes, with Cleverley pushed out to an unfamiliar right-sided role and Juan Mata becoming the No10. It was neither an attacking nor a defensive switch – it was simply a return to United's usual shape, with Moyes recognising his players were completely lost with the 4-3-3, and required reliable shape and structure. He eventually brought on Shinji Kagawa for Cleverley at half-time, the earliest he could introduce a player comfortable on the right without embarrassing the beleaguered England player.
In fairness, the change of system was successful in getting United back into the game, although the fact Moyes was simply reverting to his standard system, following a surprise starting XI, indicates he was fixing his own mistake. There were flashes of promise: Wayne Rooney dropped away from the centre-backs to cause problems between the lines and Danny Welbeck sprinted in behind from the left, troubling both Pablo Zabaleta and Vincent Kompany. But even then, there wasn't any cohesion to United's play.
The exact opposite was true of City, and while Silva was unable to provide a perfect penetrative pass to complete his magnificent all-round performance, the Spanish playmaker's constant probing continually put pressure upon the United defence, and eventually City extended their lead. Even set-pieces went badly for them – it was obvious City were continually thumping corners into the near-post area, with the taker often pausing to wait for a team-mate charging into that space. The pattern was clear by half-time, yet United left that zone completely open for Dzeko's coolly taken second.
Moyes went chasing the game at 2-0 down, introducing Valencia for Fellaini and shifting Rooney back into a central-midfield role. In truth, United were lucky Manuel Pellegrini responded to that substitution by introducing the holding midfielder Javi García for right-winger Jesús Navas – they no longer possessed such a counter-attacking threat, and Silva was less effective (and defensively suspect) on the right. Still, it meant Touré moved into a more advanced role, and he completed the thrashing.
• Wickham recalled from Leeds loan this week
• Sunderland to start striker against Liverpool
Gus Poyet knows that when teams are struggling significant change often proves to be the best antidote to relegation. Unable to sign a new star player and understandably unwilling to suggest his employer makes him the subject of a sacrificial sacking, Sunderland's manager has come up with another means of adjusting the agenda.
"It's about searching for a solution and it could be Connor Wickham," said Poyet, who recalled the England Under-21 striker from a loan spell at Leeds United this week and is expected to start him at Liverpool on Wednesday night.
Signed from Ipswich Town for £12m by Steve Bruce three years ago, Wickham has struggled on Wearside, scoring one Premier League goal, but he does not turn 21 until Monday and Poyet believes this could be the moment when he finally realises his potential.
"We need a big impact now," said the Uruguayan, whose side remain stuck firmly in the relegation zone and last won a Premier League game on 1 February when they beat Newcastle at St James' Park. "We need something to happen to change the mood.
"If you were in a lower division, you'd probably look to sign a player on loan to have an impact. Another club might sack their manager and bring in another one, although I obviously hope that doesn't happen here. But it's that type of thing we need.
"We need something to happen, and I need to find that season-changing moment. Between the Liverpool game and Monday against West Ham at home, I have to find something. It could be Connor Wickham because there is a big possibility he will start at Liverpool. Connor's going to get a great chance now."
Poyet thinks it might help if Wickham pretends to be a brand-new recruit. "I would like Connor to look at this as though we have just signed him for the first time," said the Sunderland manager. "He's a new player, nobody knows him, and he's a young English striker with incredible powers. He's coming to help us get away from relegation. If he has that impact, that will be fantastic. It will be the 'bang' we need."
Sunderland certainly require some sort of short sharp shock after several weeks spent sleepwalking towards the Championship while looking alarmingly drained by the effort involved in reaching the Capital One Cup final, which they lost to Manchester City.
"Sometimes, when you realise what's happening, you are gone," added Poyet, who accepts Jozy Altidore and Ignacio Scocco are struggling in attack and fears Steven Fletcher's latest ankle injury is serious. "I'm realistic; it's back to reality for the manager as well as the players. We need to compete better.
"The reality is there are no more [Wembley] dreams or special things now apart from getting the league wins we need. We've 10 games to go and I'm still convinced we have a great chance of staying up. But the most important thing is to convince the players that this is the right way to play and that we all need to work together."
Sunderland's manager hopes he will not have imminent cause to regret spending part of last summer persuading his compatriot and good friend Luis Suárez to stay at Liverpool rather than join Arsenal.
"I love Luis to bits," said Poyet. "I think everybody would like to have him in their team. If he was at Arsenal, Arsenal would be top now. If he was at Manchester United they would be up there. Without Suárez, Liverpool would probably be in mid-table. Stopping him will be tough."
Ross Barkley scored the sort of outrageously audacious virtuoso goal reminiscent of Diego Maradona in his pomp as Everton suggested they could only enhance next season's Champions League. If securing a place in Europe's premier competition still represents a fairly tough task for Roberto Martínez's beautifully, and bravely, constructed side, the daunting scale of the rebuilding job required at Newcastle United this summer was fully emphasised.
The home team may have left it far too late to liberate Hatem Ben Arfa from the bench but they would probably always have been second-best to a wonderfully cohesive Everton, whose gameplan left plenty of room for improvisation from Barkley and the equally eye-catching Barcelona loanee Gerard Deulofeu.
One place and six points behind fourth-placed Arsenal but with a game in hand, Martínez is a happy man at present. "I'm proud of the performance, we never allowed Newcastle to feel at ease," he said. "Not many players can score a goal like Ross did, technically he's as gifted as you're going to get but he's also got real physical power. I know Ross will be a phenomenon."
While Martínez believes the "mature" 20-year-old is "ready" to play for England at the World Cup, much more of this and Deulofeu will be wanted back at Camp Nou. "Gerard's quite unique," said Martínez. "I'd pay to watch him."
Perhaps noting that Martínez had only selected one natural defensive midfielder in Gareth Barry, Newcastle began at a ferocious tempo which temporarily unhinged their visitors.
This entirely deceptive early storm soon passed. Indeed once Luuk de Jong's shot had been deflected to safety and one apiece from Yoan Gouffran and Papiss Cissé were blocked, Everton regrouped to devastating effect. With Deulofeu and Barkley cleverly supporting Romelu Lukaku in attack, it was not long before Martínez's players were giving Newcastle quite a few frights. Deulofeu especially was giving the home defence, and the left-back Paul Dummett in particular, a torrid time.
Tim Krul made a splendid save to keep Lukaku's low shot out at the end of a gloriously slick build-up featuring Barry, Barkley and Leon Osman, whose adroit pass bisected two defenders.
The verve and vision of Martínez's ensemble were already making Newcastle appear dull, direct and, at best, two dimensional when the evening reached a key juncture as Deulofeu nudged the ball to Barkley.
Around 70 yards from goal, he embarked on a surging run. Leaving the badly positioned Dummett – looking an increasingly weak link – and the wrong-footed Fabricio Coloccini among the defensive platoon left trailing in his powerful yet poised wake, the 20-year-old then traversed the edge of the penalty area.
By way of proving he could most definitely finish what he started, Barkley concluded matters by curling a high velocity left-foot shot beyond Krul's grasp and into the roof of the net. It is no exaggeration to say the goal contained shades of Maradona at the 1986 World Cup.
Energetic, competitive and with Cissé appearing sharp, Alan Pardew's side had dropped regular hints that they could undo Martínez's sometimes vulnerable defence but they lacked Everton's subtlety, control and creativity.
Deulofeu may occasionally have overdone his beloved stepover routines but Newcastle supporters craved similar precocity. Mild Geordie optimism prompted by the sight of Ben Arfa warming up was soon crushed as Lukaku lashed Everton's second into the roof of the net from close range. Beginning with Osman's chipped pass, it arrived following a fine cross from Deulofeu – demonstrating he is as much about incision as fancy footwork – and was gratefully seized on by Lukaku.
John Carver, deputising in the technical area while Pardew served the final game of his stadium ban, wasted no time in replacing De Jong with Ben Arfa, and Martínez immediately ordered James McCarthy to keep a close eye on a newcomer who also had Leighton Baines to contend with.
Undeterred, the French winger helped Newcastle raise their game. Gouffran sent a volley whizzing fractionally over the bar and Vurnon Anita shot wastefully wide from a Ben Arfa cross, but Martínez's men were not quite done.
Shortly after Krul's excellent save denied Lukaku, Osman shot unerringly into the top corner following another gorgeous preamble, this time involving Steven Naismith, Deulofeu and Lukaku.
"I should have a black suit on," said Carver. "We've come up against a really good side. The way their manager has got them playing is a credit to him."