Louis van Gaal running out of excuses: Five things we learned from the Premier League
While Manchester City continue to impress and score a hatful of goals, on the other side of the city Manchester United are struggling when it comes to the final third of the pitch. Here are five things we learned from the weekend Premier League action.
JACK BUTLAND IS THE REAL DEAL
There have been no shortage of false dawns among English goalkeepers, so it made little sense to get excited about Jack Butland's potential until the chance arose to judge him in the Barclays Premier League.
Asmir Begovic's departure for Chelsea finally gave him a first-team chance at Stoke and, so far, he has demonstrated exceptional ability. In Saturday's 1-1 draw at Norwich, Butland, 22, was by far the most influential performer on the pitch; without a succession of fine saves Norwich would have been victorious. The timing could be perfect for him, too: Stoke's summer recruitment suggests they are likely to challenge for European football and, with Ben Foster and Fraser Forster both injured, England need another goalkeeper to provide competition for Joe Hart.
IT MIGHT BE TIME TO GIVE UP ON ERIK LAMELA
There is little doubting that Tottenham's Lamela is blessed with natural ability. However, the club's supporters are entitled to expect far more than simply potential for £25.7million.
The appointment of his compatriot Mauricio Pochettino as manager, after his disappointing first season in London, looked likely to be the making of him. By then, he had had 12 months to experience Premier League football and a manager to whose 4-2-3-1 system, in the same way Jay Rodriguez was at Southampton, he was suited.
Lamela was again disappointing in the 1-1 draw at Leicester, though, and by now he has had more than enough chances. As with the recently-departed, and similarly-talented, Roberto Soldado, Lamela's malaise at Spurs could be too far gone. The only solution looks a clean break for each party.
CHELSEA ARE UP AND RUNNING
As important to Chelsea as earning their first win of the season is Pedro's arrival and the performance he gave on his debut, scoring once and assisting another goal, in the 3-2 victory at West Brom.
Jose Mourinho's use of Oscar and Cesc Fabregas, and his decision to sell Juan Mata in January 2014, had reduced Chelsea's previously-significant attacking potential. Pedro's arrival restores much of that, not only in his individual ability, but the intelligence and movement that will also help his team-mates.
Fellow new signing Baba Rahman also appears to have lifted the mood at the Premier League champions, who suddenly look far stronger than only a week ago. Assuming Diego Costa stayed fit, Chelsea mounting a strong defence of their title was always a near-formality but now they could challenge for the Champions League.
VAN GAAL IS RUNNING OUT OF EXCUSES
It no doubt takes time for a club and new signings to assimilate a manager's ideas but, as a team, manager Louis van Gaal has scarcely improved Manchester United and is now into the second season of his expensive reign.
Juan Mata, Ander Herrera, Michael Carrick, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Memphis Depay and Wayne Rooney is an attacking unit as impressive as almost any on the planet, so why, as in Saturday's 0-0 draw with Newcastle, do they so rarely appear to share an understanding?
PATIENCE AND STABILITY IS REWARDED
Both Eddie Howe, the Bournemouth manager, and Alex Neil, at Norwich, have remained loyal to the players who earned them promotion last season. In doing so, they have also backed their ability to improve those players to the extent needed to survive in the Premier League.
It would have been easy to panic when previous results were disappointing but each stuck to their beliefs and has started to be rewarded with the outcomes their previous performances deserved. Contrast that with QPR's approach to recruitment while in the Premier League, and the outcomes that followed, or Sunderland's annual overhauls, and there is little doubt which approach makes more sense. Both Bournemouth and Norwich have enough to survive.