Manchester United sacking Jose Mourinho won't solve everything, but it's a start

Problem of the weekend

In the end, the only real surprise was that Jose Mourinho admitted Liverpool are a better side than Manchester United, rather than railing against some perceived slight or trying some other form of distraction.

But even then, that just emphasises what a bad job Mourinho has done in constructing his side. Liverpool fielded some wildly expensive talent, but on Sunday they also had three players bought from relegated teams: one scored twice (Xherdan Shaqiri), one was singled out for praise by Mourinho himself (Andrew Robertson) and one helped run the midfield that so outplayed United (Gini Wijnaldum).

In total the three of them cost about £5 million less than United paid for Fred this summer. Fred was nowhere to be seen this weekend, and according to the manager, apparently can't be trusted to start until the defence Mourinho put together is tighter. No wonder the board won't trust him with any more money.

Which does beg the question: what's the point in keeping Mourinho at this stage? If you don't have a formal sporting director but won't let the manager buy players, then the only reason to keep said manager is if he's getting results. United are now a point ahead of Wolves. They're eight behind Arsenal in fifth. They're 11 off the Champions League places. And 19 shy of Liverpool at the top. Liverpool would frankly have been embarrassed had they not won this game.

Sacking Mourinho wouldn't solve all of United's problems. But it would solve one.

Stat of the weekend

All of the 12 outfield players who appeared for Liverpool against Manchester United had an attempt at goal, a total of 36 efforts to United's six. This wasn't quite so much a football match, more 90 minutes of shooting practice.

Of course statistics usually don't tell the whole story, but sometimes they illustrate it. This time, it was an indication of just how dominant Liverpool were. Shaqiri's two goals may have benefitted from deflections, but that shouldn't detract from the scale of their superiority.

Happy manager of the weekend

"How we played was just perfect," beamed Jurgen Klopp, about his side's performance in the opening half hour of the game.

There speaks a manager who knows he has something special. It's a point worth repeating: for a team to even be in touch with a Manchester City side this good, at this stage of the season, is a significant achievement. To be ahead of them is extraordinary. Hopefully both teams keep up this pace and we have the first genuine, hell for leather title race in a few years.

Impact of the weekend

The difference between the grey, lifeless Southampton side who were drifting down the table under Mark Hughes, and the vibrant, aggressive (sometimes overly so) side that beat Arsenal after just over a week with Ralph Hasenhuttl was fairly startling.

Obviously it's good news for Southampton, who if they play anything like this for the rest of the season will stay up pretty comfortably. But it also might make the club wonder if they should have made this decision even earlier. In the summer, perhaps.

Football clubs are often squeamish about jettisoning "firefighter" managers, brought in as a last throw of the dice to save them from relegation. But had Southampton thanked Hughes for a job well done and sent him on his way, and brought in someone with fresher, more dynamic ideas in the summer, then they might not be attempting a salvage job after a wretched first half of the season.

Divisions within a division of the weekend

Depending on how generous you're feeling, the Premier League beneath the top five and above the bottom seven is either thrillingly competitive or a mulchy sea of dreck. Both might just be creative ways to say "there's not much between them."

Five points now separate Manchester United in sixth and Brighton in 13th. The Premier League can rarely have been split into three more defined sub-divisions, and at this stage it would be a surprise if the season didn't end that way.

All of which means a wide range of clubs have a realistic chance of breaking into the European places. Mourinho almost casually said that United will finish in the top six because...well, the top six clubs always finish in the top six, don't they? But with such a small gap separating those teams in the middle of the table, maybe he shouldn't be quite so sure.

Goal of the weekend

Moments of skill and cohesion were few and far between in Newcastle's win over Huddersfield, but the only goal of the game was one of them, and then some. A beautiful, flowing move swept from one end of the pitch to the other, each pass perfectly placed and weighted, before a pleasingly emphatic finish by Salomon Rondon.

Moment of the weekend

As we watch, comment on, get angry about and relentlessly consume football, it's easy to forget how much it means to the players involved. Domingos Quina's transfer from West Ham to Watford in the summer won't have made too many waves: after all he didn't make any league appearances for the Hammers and at 19 looked like a buy for the future.

But the unfiltered, pure joy from Quina, and his teammates for him, after he scored against Cardiff was absolutely wonderful to watch. Fans like to think the game always means more to us than to the players, but sometimes it doesn't.

Curious complaint of the weekend

Neil Warnock wasn't happy with referee Andy Madley in Cardiff's 3-2 defeat to Watford, insistent that Troy Deeney should have been punished more for a studs-up challenge on goalkeeper Neil Etheridge. Warnock echoed a complaint by Mark Hughes a few weeks ago about Simon Hooper, that the officials were "not experienced enough" in Premier League football to take charge of their games.

Which does rather beg the question: how do Warnock and Hughes propose these referees gain Premier League experience, if not by refereeing Premier League games?