- Premier League, What They Said
What They Said: We were title class says Ferguson
Roberto Mancini admits he has serious concerns about his Manchester City forwards after they slumped to a 1-0 defeat at Sunderland, leaving City trailing rivals Manchester United by seven points.
"We didn't deserve to lose, we dominated this game, I don't know how it's possible that we didn't win this game, but every year it is the same," Mancini said. "I'm frustrated at this because it's impossible that our strikers don't score but we have this problem, we don't score enough to win the game. This is a big problem at the moment."
Chelsea succeeded where their rivals failed this season in taking all the points away at Norwich and Rafa Benitez clearly used some of his famed grey matter in drawing up a contingency plan to deal with the Carrow Road pitch.
"We knew that was a difficult pitch, they won against Manchester United and Arsenal," Benitez said. "It was tough but I was really pleased with the performance of the players. The team are showing character. I am really pleased with the workrate and the style of play."
Sir Alex Ferguson saw championship quality in his side's 4-3 win at home to Newcastle - which they achieved without the services of the injured Wayne Rooney - despite chasing the game for the majority of the 90 minutes.
"December is always a big month," Ferguson said. "We dropped two points at Swansea but we made up for it today. It was a real championship performance. Rooney has done a ligament at the back of his knee and he will be out for two or three weeks. We are running out of ammunition."
Alan Pardew was frank in declaring Newcastle's loss a failure as they failed to bring home any points despite taking the lead against Manchester United at Old Trafford three times.
"To come away with nothing, in terms of the way we played offensively, was disappointing," Pardew said. "Regardless of being at Manchester United, with the history and traditions of the place, and late finishes and all that, we should have got something."
Days after drawing with Manchester United, Swansea could only record a 0-0 with lowly Reading but Michael Laudrup was happy that his team were up for some hard graft at the Madejski Stadium.
"What was very important for me was the reaction and performance from the team after the Manchester United match," Laudrup said. "Everyone talks about that game and you can only do well, but three days later you play the bottom team in an away game. I was pleased with what I saw."
Nigel Adkins believes Southampton's early-season defensive frailties are well behind them as they managed to survive a Dimitar Berbatov masterclass to steal a point at Fulham.
"Any point picked up in the Premier League is an important one especially after going behind and we put the ball in good areas," Adkins said. "We have a lot of players who have not played at this level before and we had to learn quickly, and we have done that. We are not getting punished as much as we were doing early on in the season."
Brendan Rodgers shared the blame and the praise out equally to explain how Liverpool failed to capitalise on a perfect start to lose 3-1 to Stoke City.
"We had a perfect start with our first penalty of the season," Rodgers said. "You couldn't ask for any more but we are very disappointed by how we defended. We failed to control the game once we scored, we didn't deal with the first ball forward.
"Stoke are really committed to the cause. You know you get a difficult game against them, but we never took a foothold in the game and that's really disappointing."
Meanwhile victorious manager Tony Pulis picked out his side's centre-halves for criticism after Stoke gave away a potential clean sheet inside two minutes when Ryan Shawcross conceded a penalty.
"We might not be last on Match of the Day," Pulis said. "Our two centre-halves were off it a bit but everyone else was superb. The response to going behind was the greatest thing. We were fantastic, and they were helped by 28,000 supporters."
West Bromwich Albion's 2-1 win at Queens Park Rangers owed a lot to a controversial own goal, seemingly created from a foul on Rob Green by Marc-Antoine Fortune. But Baggies manager Steve Clarke was not interested in even entertaining the idea.
"I don't want to talk about controversial decisions," Clarke said. "I want to talk about having 33 points after 19 games. Up until they scored we had complete control and people should give us respect. There was a gulf between the teams. We passed the ball well, created some half chances, while they looked like a team at the bottom of the table."
Reading's 0-0 draw with Swansea City was taken as a positive measurement of defensive progress by manager Brian McDermott after the point moved the Royals off the bottom of the table.
"It is progress," McDermott said. "We've been having 7-5, 4-3, 3-3 and 2-2 games here so to get a clean sheet is very important. "We move on and we're looking forward to the next game against West Ham. In the Championship we tried to win every single game because we were trying to entertain our fans. "Psychologically, it's a lift for us. We're off the bottom. They talk about the past, but this is doable for us - we believe it's doable, I believe it's doable. We're going to relish the challenge."
After conceding 12 goals overall in matches either side of Christmas, Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert admitted that his players had been 'beaten up' by first Chelsea (8-0) and then Tottenham Hotspur (4-0).
"People can get caught up in what happened at Anfield (Villa won 3-1) but I kept my feet on the ground," Lambert said. "You can get beaten up in this league and that is what has happened to us. "We have a few big players out and we will try and get them back as soon as possible. "I have never once got carried away. They [the players] are young and have done great for me."