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Hox in the Box: A bad case of the jitters
With the Premier League season now in full swing, it's clear based on some of the hapless performances we've seen that some clubs are already suffering a serious case of the jitters.
For Sunderland, Paolo Di Canio's abrasive, bordering on hilarious, approach to man-management appears to have left many in the Stadium of Light boardroom misty-eyed at the memory of Martin O'Neil's measured and serene approach to the game - not that it worked.
The feisty Italian will certainly be missed in the Premier League, not least of all for his often bizarre post-match interviews, during which he frequently referred to himself in the third person while explaining what 'Di Canio' thought about the game.
What his players won't miss, by the sounds of it, were his post-match 'team talks,' which resulted in the entire Sunderland squad becoming so utterly demoralised that they played as though suddenly afflicted with a zombie-like curse which prevented them from behaving, even slightly, like Premier League footballers.
I suppose his demise as Sunderland boss was not entirely shocking. Perhaps the timing raised a few eyebrows, but it did seem a relationship that was destined to hit the rocks very early on.
The honeymoon period that saw the Black Cats thoroughly embarrass their fiercest rivals, Newcastle, by beating them 3-0 on their own turf, ran out at the end of last season following an appalling run of results.
It does seem counter-intuitive to openly question the commitment, ability, and leadership of your own squad, yet demand performances that encompassed all of the very same attributes. It was an obvious attempt to inspire them into producing the kind of gritty performances needed to propel them up the table.
Paolo Di Canio on hearing of his sacking
To say it didn't work would be a gross understatement, but he will be missed, if only for his innate ability to say what most people are thinking and actually get away with it.
Slightly further up the league Manchester United sit forlorn and weary after a summer spent trying to keep Wayne Rooney at the club.
That he remains seems the only positive to draw from what has been an underwhelming start to the season.
The humiliating, crushing defeat to local rivals Manchester City underlined a suspicion many thought would take at least half a season to rear its ugly head: that David Moyes may simply not be up to it.
The City of Manchester stadium bore witness to a display of power, speed and breathtaking skill, combined with a superb tactical display. Unfortunately for United fans, it came from the side managed by Manuel Pellegrini.
It was all all over when the Chilean started to sing
Rooney is the only player to come away from the game with even a hint of dignity, apparently having regained his appetite for the club and his ability to dominate on the pitch.
But with the two of the least effective wingers in the league in their starting line - Valencia and Young - and predictable formation that essentially stifled what little creativity United had, it was always going to be tough.
It is too early to make any bold assertions about the credibility of a sustained title challenge for the champions, but with losses to both their closest rivals already, David Moyes has a long and rocky road ahead of him.