Proving their Newcastle credentials by bringing life-sized Ant and Dec mascots to St James’ Park, this was the start of a long-awaited era for Amanda Staveley and her crew. Meanwhile, at the other end of the table, there was more woe for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer while Express’s Matthew Dunn was as transfixed by Mo Salah’s footwork as half of the Watford defence.
OUT OF TOON WITH NATION’S FEELINGS
As artificial as the celebration in the directors’ box when Newcastle took their lead in the second of the game was the very real sense of, ‘Oh no!’ when they pulled that late goal back against Tottenham.
The shudder that ran round the country at Eric Dier’s own goal was one of dismay, not excitement – were Spurs really so Spursy that they were not going to strike a petulant blow of comeuppance to the Saudi regime?
Thankfully, they clung on to leave Newcastle second from bottom.
Those Newcastle fans old enough to remember the Kevin Keegan era used to love being considered everybody’s second favourite team. Going forward, they need to be used to the sentiment being very different.
And if they have got any sense, Ant and Dec will heed their own advice – “I’m a celebrity… get me out of here!”
OLE? RONALDO’S GOT HIS CLAWS INTERIM
When Cristiano Ronaldo was made to acknowledge the fans following the 4-2 defeat against Leicester by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, one man moved a step closer to waving goodbye for good.
The signing of the Portuguese has become a battle of wills at the top of the club and it is Super Sub Solskjaer who will again find he is benched if the results continue.
And the current show of support from the Manchester United board could actually work against him.
Because if the things drag on later into the season before the axe falls, the temptation would be to go with an interim solution.
Perhaps if there were a club legend to perform the player-manager role Ryan Giggs undertook in April 2014?
Think of any possible candidates?
How enticing, indeed, would that sort of appointment be were Sir Alex Ferguson were to indicate he were happy to accept an office back at the training ground if Ronaldo needed a mentor figure…
Et tu, Fergie?
There are periods in great players’ careers where even they must surprise themselves with how good they are.
Right now, Liverpool’s Mo Salah is untouchable. Just ask any Watford defender.
The sublime goal he scored on Saturday could have been choreographed in Hollywood – the football action on celluloid always looks that impossibly ridiculous.
This is the real deal, though, and such a different player to the one who struggled last year to reach such highs.
With Atletico Madrid and Manchester United to come this week, Liverpool are lucky to have the Egyptian right on top of his game.
TIME TO TALK FRANKLY
Something Real is happening at Brentford. Or perhaps something Barca?
More intriguing – why not something Newcastle or something Manchester United?
Patrick Vieira will make an emotional return to Arsenal tonight (Monday) with no sentiment other than to win.
Should he do so, he will become the third member of their famous Invincibles side to be coaching a side higher than the Gunners are currently in the Premier League.
Kolo Toure is at Leicester and Ashley Cole is helping out at Chelsea – passing on the culture that made Arsenal such incredible record-breakers. Thierry Henry has helped hone Belgium into the best team in the world.
Arsene Wenger “started the fire” in his players to become coaches, Mikel Arteta said at the weekend.
He himself draws on his own five years of under him, scraping into Champions League qualifying places and narrowly beating Hull in an FA Cup final.
True, 2004 alumni Freddie Ljungberg is still on the staff, but in Vieira Arsenal fans will recognise once more than Invincibility of spirit that has been lacking ever since the club moved to the Emirates.