Premier League weekend: Five talking points

Following the conclusion of the ninth round of Premier League matches, Sports Mole selects five of the biggest talking points.

A 2-0 victory for Queens Park Rangers over Aston Villa last night at Loftus Road brought an end to the ninth round of Premier League matches.

In total, 23 goals were scored over the course of 10 matches, with one red card also being brandished.

Here, Sports Mole has picked out five of the biggest talking points to have arisen from all of the action.

1. United score in 'Van Gaal time'

Manchester United Manager Louis van Gaal gives a thumbs up prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Chelsea at Old Trafford on October 26, 2014© Getty Images

Just how important Robin van Persie's stoppage-time equaliser was as far as the remainder of the season is concerned, only time will tell, but it certainly had a familiar feel for those of a Manchester United persuasion. Their efforts against title-chasing Chelsea had seemingly gone unrewarded when the Dutch striker slammed Marouane Fellaini's effort back past Thibaut Courtois to send Old Trafford into raptures.

Of course, it would be both too early and totally inaccurate to suggest that United, under the management of Louis van Gaal, are back to punching at the weight that they were with Sir Alex Ferguson at the helm, but it could be an ominous sign for their rivals where future campaigns are concerned. Radamel Falcao's strike against Everton in the 62nd minute was the latest goal that United had scored until Daley Blind popped up in the 87th minute to claim a point at West Bromwich Albion last Monday. Then, Van Persie bettered that against the West Londoners - potentially a sign that United's fighting spirit is returning.

2. Dejected Mannone needs a break

Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal rounds goalkeeper Vito Mannone of Sunderland to score histeam'ssecond goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland and Arsenal at the Stadium of Light on October 25, 2014© Getty Images

The goalscoring impact of Connor Wickham late last season was rightly credited as one of the major reasons as to why Sunderland miraculously retained their Premier League status, but the form of Vito Mannone between the posts was certainly deserving of more plaudits than the goalkeeper received.

Such performances are a far cry from Saturday when the Italian stopper looked close to tears as he headed down the Stadium of Light tunnel. With the 8-0 defeat away at Southampton still fresh in the memory, Mannone committed a catastrophic error which allowed Alexis Sanchez to wrap up the points for the visiting Gunners. While banishing Mannone from the starting lineup would be harsh, resting him for a week or two, with Costel Pantilimon waiting in the wings, is perhaps beneficial for all parties.

3. Saints continue to march on

Sadio Mane of Southampton celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Southampton and Stoke City at St Mary's Stadium on October 25, 2014© Getty Images

There may only have been nine matches played this term, but there is a growing belief that Southampton could well be difficult to budge in the battle for European places. The 1-0 win over Stoke has moved Ronald Koeman's charges up to second and while it is highly unlikely that they will finish the season as runners-up, they may not drop too much further than that.

What was impressive about the result against the Potters was that it was achieved on the back of scoring eight unanswered goals against a hapless Sunderland. Expectation levels, understandably, would have been high among the Saints faithful, but they shouldered that burden positively to record a solid, yet comfortable victory. Played nine, won six, drawn one, lost two, scored 20 and conceded a league-best five - not too shabby for a side that was tipped by many to struggle following a summer of uncertainty and upheaval.

4. Stuttering champions

Manchester City's Chilean manager Manuel Pellegrini watches the action during the English Premier League football match between West Ham United and Manchester City at Upton Park in London on February 11, 2014© Getty Images

It's not too often that those connected with Manchester City have punched the air with delight upon seeing rivals United find the net, but there will have been a large number that did just that as Van Persie fired in. Without that goal, the champions would have been eight points behind Jose Mourinho's Chelsea, which even at this relatively early stage of the campaign, seemed a huge gap to bridge.

It was a potential scenario that arose because Saturday's lunchtime encounter saw City lose 2-1 away at an impressive West Ham United. While City hit the woodwork on two occasions, on reflection, it is difficult to begrudge the hosting Hammers all three points. There was a real lack of sharpness and fluidity, particularly in the first half, that will be a major concern for Manuel Pellegrini, who confusingly started David Silva on the left-hand side of a four-man midfield. It wasn't until the pint-sized Spaniard was moved centrally that City started to move through the gears. Six points split City and Chelsea - the former cannot afford for that to grow.

5. Relief at Loftus Road

Charlie Austin of QPR celebrates scoring the opening goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Queens Park Rangers and Aston Villa at Loftus Road on October 27, 2014© Getty Images

Just when Harry Redknapp needed a positive result from his Queens Park Rangers players, they provided one. A defeat to Aston Villa would have left Redknapp's men bottom of the table and some five points from safety. There was a real danger that along with struggling Burnley, they would soon be cut adrift. However, two goals from Charlie Austin secured a much needed three points for the R's.

It was the team's first victory since the end of August and brought them back to within touching distance of those that are fighting to stay out of the relegation zone. Next up are matches against Chelsea and Man City, so a defeat to Villa could well have spelled the end of Redknapp's tenure at Loftus Road. As it is, he lives to fight another day.

Charlie Austin of QPR celebrates scoring their second goal with Eduardo Vargas of QPR during the Barclays Premier League match between Queens Park Rangers and Aston Villa at Loftus Road on October 27, 2014
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