MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - The following are three talking points from the Premier League weekend:
Since taking over as Everton manager in December, following the sacking of Marco Silva, Carlo Ancelotti’s side have earned more points than any team in the Premier League apart from runaway leaders Liverpool.
The 17 points gained have moved Everton up to seventh place, in contention for a Europa League slot, and just five points behind Chelsea, who occupy the fourth Champions League qualification position.
Yet when the Italian was appointed there were some, including some Everton supporters, who wondered if Ancelotti was really the right man for the job.
The argument was that the Italian may have won the Champions League three-times but that those trophies with AC Milan and Real Madrid - and his Premier League title with Chelsea, all showed his strength was in managing already established top clubs and not building a side from mediocrity to success.
In fact, Ancelotti’s breakthrough as a manager, came when he turned an under-achieving Milan side into European champions without a massive overhaul, but by applying sound coaching and tactical principles, getting more out of the team than his predecessor.
Just as Turkish coach Fatih Terim had failed to turn Milan into an effective unit, so Portugal’s Marco Silva had been unable to craft the individuals at Goodison Park into a side that could compete in the top eight.
It still seems slightly fanciful to think of the Yorkshire side truly being in the race for the Champions League but the next run of games offers them a great chance to push into the top four.
Up next for United are relegation battlers Brighton & Hove Albion, Aston Villa and Norwich City -- an expected haul of points from those games could really set Bramall Lane alive with expectation.
Bournemouth’s 2-1 defeat by Sheffield United on Sunday leaves them 16th in the league, just two points above the relegation zone and having played a game more than three of the teams below them.
What will really have manager Eddie Howe worrying however is the fixture list - in the remaining weeks his side have to play eight of the top nine but none of the bottom six.
Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Christian Radnedge