Goals galore and the Toon Barmy
Few of us like Monday but The Fifth Official does, for it brings with it a chance for him to point the finger and laugh. Here he pulls out the pretty, the puzzling and the downright pig-ugly from a week brimming with potential victims.
Stuff the Superbowl
You know it's a special Premier League weekend when even the game between Wigan and Blackburn serves up a seven-goal thriller in a biblical downpour. It was so dramatic I half expected Noah to pitch up, hop out of his ark on the inside left channel and arrow one into the top corner from 35 yards. The local NHS will have to crack out a skip load of beta-blockers to calm the placid folk of Lancashire down. They're not used to such excitement, believe me.
It was a scene replicated all over the country as a string of goalkeepers emerged from barnstorming fixtures with goal pie smeared all over their faces. Steve Harper, Craig Gordon, Paul Rachubka, Wojciech Szczesny, Tim Howard, Boaz Myhill, Ali Al Habsi and Paul Robinson were all beaten at least three times as the net bulged on an incredible 41 occasions on Saturday.
In fact, the only man to keep a clean sheet on Saturday was Manchester City's 'keeper Joe Hart - a factoid that surely led directly to Roberto Di Matteo's sacking, because I'm at an absolute loss to explain it otherwise. What was the Baggies chairman's defence for executing a hatchet job on the likeable Italian? That the club doesn't often execute hatchet jobs. I'm guessing Jeremy Peace is not a lawyer.
A game of two halves
And so to tumultuous events at St James' Park, the unrivalled centre for Premier League comedy. Newcastle, humbled by the merciless flogging of their talisman (see below) managed to hold Arsenal at bay for a measly 41 seconds before the floodgates burst. Less than 26 minutes later it was 4-0. Their fans, who seemed to have sunk into their subordinate role as Ashley's battered wife, were so stunned they couldn't even bring themselves to slag him off.
But then came half-time. Whatever 'I beg your Pardew' said in Newcastle's dressing room will now take on Istanbul-like proportions. Perhaps Ashley promised he'd buy back Andy Carroll if they salvaged something, or have Joe Kinnear committed to an old people's home, perhaps they just had a 15-minute group hug, or perhaps they just all turned to Joey Barton and asked him to start kicking the s*** out of Arsenal's preening passers. Whatever happened deep in the bowels of St James' Park, it transformed 11 surrender merchants into 11 black-and-white-striped Rambos.
But it still needed a fall guy, and Abou Diaby was all too happy to play his part. The midfielder thought he'd do the world a favour and try and squeeze Barton's head off his body, the Toon stirred and Leon Best again dumfounded the laws of common sense to put in a noteworthy shift. The Gunners lost their rag, their heads and their defensive nous as a Newcastle side minus Carroll and Ameobi (!) somehow rattled in four goals and sparked pandemonium on Tyneside.
And of course, it was all the referee's fault wasn't it Arsenal fans? If Fabregas thought Everton paid the ref on Wednesday, then he must reckon Phil Dowd is Sports Direct's chief shareholder after Saturday.
Sell Carroll! Buy Insomnia!
That the Toon had any fight left in them is ridiculous given the mesmeric performance of their hierarchy this week. Ashley's resolve to keep Andy Carroll lasted all of five minutes on deadline day when Liverpool unleashed a stink bomb of his favourite scent - cash smeared in hot dog juice - under his nose. At which point, Carroll was bundled into Mike's helicopter having been instructed to hand in a transfer request, so the club could try and appease their enraged fans.
Stage two was to get their Sky Sports mouthpiece, David Craig, to spin events more than Alastair Campbell in his pomp. The club were ''reluctant'' to let him go and fans will ''surely understand'', he whined, pathetically, like the stooge he is.
Then with just hours left until the deadline and their talismanic striker on his way out, Newcastle realised they might need a replacement. So they tried to sign a left winger. Not just any left winger, a left winger who left the club two years previously because the senile manager Ashley employed got his name wrong and prompted his exit. Not only that, they offered double what they sold him for. How does this man ever make money?
The final insult for Toon fans was laid bare when loyal fans who had forked out for the club's official 2011 calendar flipped the page on February 1 to be greeted by the face of the man who'd just left. As is so often the case with Newcastle, you just couldn't make it up.
£50m? For that?
Carroll's purchase was made possible by a certain Fernando Torres, who'd be best advised to employ a particularly rock hard set of lads to retrieve his belongings from Merseyside, if his house hasn't already been torched that is. Plenty of replica shirts bearing his name have been and a predictable string of venom was spewed forth by excitable Liverpool fans who seemingly have nothing better to do than hang about outside the club's training ground.
It just all looked so wrong, Torres wandering into the tunnel in blue and greeting those in red like he hadn't seen them for weeks. Lucky he didn't get as far as Jamie Carragher or Stevie G - they would surely have unleashed a few rabbit punches to the kidneys or at least pulled his hair a bit. Maxi Rodriguez was fooled by his effusiveness though, almost laying on a debut goal for his former team-mate in a matter of minutes.
One block from Carragher later and Torres was spent, lost in a system designed to accommodate his presence. After 66 minutes he was hauled off to warm the bench as the red corner of Stamford Bridge rejoiced. King Kenny, clearly still smarting from the snub, could barely bring himself to speak Torres' name, as if by doing so he'd unleash a deadly strain of bubonic plague on Merseyside. Liverpool 1-0 Torres.
The Crap, err, Vincibles
They've limped on for 29 games but finally the Crap Invincibles have been kneecapped - at Wolves of all places. Yes they have been spectacular at times (Birmingham and Blackburn) but a measure of how they have prospered as an above average team in an average league comes with the realisation that had they defended one of two crosses better, they'd still be unbeaten and the world and his dog would still be purring over how brilliant they are.
In a number of games this season away from home, Fergie's men have escaped with the bare minimum - a lucky break here, a fortuitous decision there, an extra 16 minutes of injury time everywhere. But thanks to two set pieces, United ran out of puff. Their front two played like the identical twins of Rooney and Berbatov that got the rubbish DNA and even evergreen super-sub Paul Scholes couldn't alter the course of proceedings.
At least there was some good news for United this weekend, as the liability that is Gary Neville announced his long overdue retirement. For my money he should have announced it two seconds after he got away with that foul on Graham Dorrans during the West Brom match. In effect, Fergie announced it by replacing Neville at half-time. Cheerio Gary, you won't be missed. Now who else was on my retirement hit list? Ah yes, Carlos Tevez. One down, one to go ...
Don't forget, you can help The Fifth Official's bid to attract more followers on Twitter than Sepp Blatter at www.twitter.com/fifthofficial