Premier League MANual - 27th December

The penultimate round of fixtures before 2017 gave a few unexpected Christmas presents, none more so than Sam Allardyce’s return to the touchline with Crystal Palace. Chelsea showed that they could do it without Costa & Manchester United racked up another win. At the other end of the table, the bottom three are beginning to be cut adrift, although Leicester’s poor form means that last seasons champions are well and truly into a relegation battle.

5. Pardew Out, Allardyce In

A couple of months ago when Sam Allardyce left his post as the England boss, we wondered whether or not we’d see him on the touchline again. With Crystal Palace’s slump in form, dangling by a point above the relegation zone, Pardew was given the boot just before his two-year anniversary at the club. Whether or not Big Sam can do any better with a mediocre team is yet to be seen, it was hard to tell from a game where the only excitement came from Harry the Hornet. We're glad he's back though, it isn't the same without him.

4. No Vardy, No Party

Leicester’s season is going from bad to worse. The first game of Jamie Vardy’s three-match ban saw the Foxes plummet further down the table thanks to a tidy finish from Kevin Mirallas. He might have been there in spirit, and on 30,000 paper masks, but with the season he’s having he might as well have not been. It looks as though last season’s golden boy is on a mission to play Championship football again. Taxi for Vardy?

3. The Green, Green Grass Of Home

There was a time that Swansea were a power house at home, but after a 4-1 drubbing at the hands of West Ham it looks like the grass is greener for away sides this season. Notching their third win in three, it’s beginning to look like the Hammers are putting their early-season form to bed and become the formidable team that they should be. We can be forgiven for doubting Bilic's ability to have them blowing bubbles again, surely?

2. Dyche Betters ‘Boro Again

It’s an example of the modern day football rivalry, sparked by fighting for the Championship League title. It was a clash of big money vs big spirit for the duration last season and Monday’s game wasn’t any different. Sean Dyche got the better of Aitor Karanka’s men as legendary Barcelona stopper Valdes struggled to get to grips with a volley from struggling Andre Gray. I suppose there's a reason he never really made it to the Spanish starting eleven after all. 

1. United Sting Sunderland

Every time it looks as though Sunderland are going to string together their great escape, it all goes pear shaped. This time is was at the hands of Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United and a quickfire double from new boys Ibrahimovic & Mkhitaryan delivered the three points. Forget Zlatan’s continued goalscoring run, the real talking point was an acrobat finish from Henrikh Mkhitaryan in the form of the elusive scorpion kick.