A far-too-early preview of the Premier League sack race

Michael Steele

Everybody loves pointlessly early baseless predictions, particularly about David Moyes and Manchester United, so let's take a look at who could be the first manager out of the door as the end of the second international break heralds the beginning of real football.

The Premier League begins this weekend, with the pointlessness of the second international break out of the way. That marks the point at which games start to feel real, where points dropped begin to hurt, and where early leads begin to form. It is, however, still a stupidly early time in the season from which we can gain no meaningful information about tactics, form, competence or fitness.

That in mind, let's indulge in that quintessentially English brand of rubbernecking and have a look at the sack race. Predicting this sort of thing is impossible in Italy or Spain, where people seem to get sacked for winning things and chairmen seem to have been rigorously subjected to a Deranged And Violently Narcissistic Persons Test. So, if you're sitting comfortably, then let's begin.

David Moyes

David Moyes' Manchester United. It doesn't sound so strange now, but it's hard to gauge what it actually means. The three sides sent out so far in the Premier League have played like three completely different teams, but the worst part is that the best one was the first one, and the worst by a distance was the last one. We can pretty much say that United are "playing badly" without it being a gross exaggeration, even outside the context of this piece.

Fortunately, United have a few winnable games coming up, but they also have a clash with Manchester City against whom a heavy defeat could be catastrophic to Moyes' regime. Moyes needs to give the club and fans a reason to believe he has what it takes - defeating City in the right way could do that. But as it stands, things are looking off, if not particularly grim, in the short-term.

Odds: Unlikely to go before the end of the season barring a total meltdown, and very unlikely United will have the itchiest trigger-finger in the league.

Mark Hughes

Q: What do the longbow and Tony Pulis have in common? A: While both are deadly weapons, capable of dealing immense damage, ruining the lives of Frenchmen and act as images of nationalist defiance for England, symbolising all they hold dear, they are actually both Welsh inventions. The same will one day be said of Mark 'Choccy' Hughes, and for that reason signing for Stoke seems like the perfect move.

On the other hand, Stoke did basically nothing in the transfer window and Hughes now has to come to terms with the fact that his predecessor spent millions accruing what is essentially a relegation-bound collection of terrible footballers. The good ones, like Matthew Etherington, are past it, and the inconsistent ones, like Kenwyne Jones, are now just rubbish. It'll be interesting to see whether the inevitable floundering come January results in panic-buying or panic-sacking.

Odds: Tony Pulis was sacked last year for getting into a relegation battle, not losing one. If the same standards are applied to Mark Hughes then he'll have a job getting out of it, but it's hard to see him getting the boot unless they're actually in the bottom three.

Jose Mourinho

Very unlikely to happen, because he's José Mourinho, and therefore probably won't lose the dressing room, which usually does for most Chelsea manager. Also because he's José Mourinho, he won't be booted out of the door if his team don't look like winning by February. Also because he's José Mourinho, he'll probably build a very good team which will go on to win trophies and titles and keeping him the job for as long as he likes it or until he raises some minor criticism of Roman Abramovich.

Odds: Getting sacked first would be like lasting several years: A sheer miracle which has no possibility of occurring.

Manuel Pellegrini

Would have been more likely were Martin Demichelis not injured, giving him a considerable boost and buying him plenty of time before the Etihad faithful see what they've just spent £5m of their own hard-earned money on.

Odds: Probably directly proportional to whether or not he attempts to play three at the back for no reason again. His track record suggests this won't happen, so the worst he's likely to do is cruise along in third or fourth until everybody accepts it's not their year.

Roberto Martinez

The general mindset of the Everton faithful hasn't really penetrated the popular consciousness in quite the way that their cross-town rivals has, or even the likes of Arsenal. Now, however, we might have a better idea: a set of deludedly-fickle unofficial club PR interns. Marouane Fellaini wants out? Great, he's massively overrated anyway. Better off without him. David Moyes is leaving? Great, he was rubbish anyway. Roberto Martinez is his replacement? Fantastic, a great new brand of football as a breath of fresh air from the dour Moyes era.

Everton have drawn their first three games under Martinez, the first a 2-2 and the second and third both 0-0s. They've been, frankly, terrible, to the extent it wouldn't be a surprise to see them mired in a relegation battle by November. They have, however, also got several new faces into the team, so Martinez will have few excuses left if he can't mould them into something vaguely resembling a decent top-half side. The football hasn't been great so far, and he might not have too much time to change that by working in new signings with no pre-season. Could be grim.

Odds: Potentially very high - Bill Kenwright might not be as patient as Dave Whelan was.

Martin Jol

Fulham were a strange team last year, a rag-tag assortment of plodders, cloggers, carthorses, journeymen, water-carriers terrible footballers, past-it players who used to be good, past-it players who used to be alright, and square pegs in round holes. That was the eight in defence and midfield, and they were tasked to do the donkey-work for the louche thrills of Dimitar Berbatov and Bryan Ruiz up front.

In response to this, Jol has introduced Giorgios Karagounis and Alexander Kacaniklic into the fray. A step in the right direction that now needs a midfielder who can control a game, someone reliable, a couple of defenders perhaps... no, it needs Adel Taarabt, apparently.

Some people may hope Martin Jol never changes, but Fulham weren't a gloriously exciting team to watch last year. They were horrible a lot of the time, and one ingenious flick or touch even from the likes of Berbatov can't shine brightly enough to illuminate a whole 90 minutes of filth. They may have more players capable of doing that now, but they still look like being a team of individuals, and unfortunately that rarely works out to be actually exciting in football. It certainly doesn't work out to be effective, either, and unless Jol can find the right balance he might have problems, particularly with a new owner on the scene.

Odds: Probably quite likely given the money Fulham have and how poorly they've done under his tenure. The new owner also has more or less a free pass to get rid, so we have a winner.

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