Premier League Team of the Week
Goalkeeper-of-the-moment Shay Given operated to his usual level at Newcastle this weekend, and still ended up picking the ball out of his net twice. No-one in their right mind blames the amiable Irishman for wanting to get oot of Toon, but the longer he is there the better Newcastles chances of survival will be. Against West Ham he employed his customary rescue act, making a vital save from Mark Noble just before the break.
After a seismic thumping of Chelsea it will come as no surprise to find a hat-trick of Manchester United players in our Team of the Week. Nemanja Vidic loves a cheeky header on the big occasion and it was he who opened the floodgates against Chelsea at Old Trafford. Shaking off John Terry and ghosting in at the stick he took full advantage of the man less upright by bunting his effort right into bottom corner.
Ryan Giggs showed the legs have still got 80 minutes of superlative work in them as he linked play superbly and even rolled back the years with a jinking run or two of old. And finally, Wayne Rooney (who was on the right continent this time) displayed everything that is good and bad about his game; energy, commitment and style married with petulance, impatience and a vitriolic temperament. Some of his play was a joy to watch though and he capped it off by dangling his foot in between Ashley Coles legs to get his well-earned goal.
Its always nice to put one over on your old side - especially if you get the fearful stick from your former fans as Curtis Davies did at Villa Park. The ex-Baggie had to put with the usual stick but silenced the away contingent with a well taken header. He and Martin Laursen then provided a formidable barrier as West Brom cranked up the heat in the second half to ensure Villa hit the lofty heights of third.
Saturday's two postponements have limited choices somewhat, so welcome on board Matthew Upson. The Hammers may have conceded two goals at St James' Park but they'd have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory had Upson not dived in to deny Jonas Gutierrez a winner in stoppage time. A vital challenge at a vital time.
Mikel Arteta can hit a ball cant he? For anyone who may have forgotten the Spanish wizard was still at Everton hes announced his re-arrival (if, indeed, that is a word) with two fizzing free-kicks in successive games at Goodison Park. On the wrong end this time was hapless Hull City as Arteta smashed another venomous 30-yarder into the top corner.
In all the fuss made about Rory Delap's monster throw-ins the fact has been lost that the boy is actually playing some decent stuff. Yes, he can hurl the ball 40 yards - and flat - but he's also an industrious midfield general. There is always a caveat with Stoke City players, given the embattled style of football they play but no one can question Delap's work ethic, or the length of his chuck.
With the form Ashley Young is in this season we could just scribe a delicate little par eulogising over his pace, trickery, delivery and finishing and safely include it in TOTW every week. Against West Brom he terrorised Carl Hoefkens and regularly tested calamity merchant Scott Carson in the Baggies' net.
Its a good job Andy Carroll netted a late equaliser for Newcastle United on his Premier League debut as it gives me an opportunity to rinse him for THAT haircut. Are we seriously expected to swallow the yarn that at no stage during his four-hour appointment in Gateshead's branch of 'Curl Up and Dye' did he think having braids put in was a bad idea? Anyway, rant over. He can obviously head the ball mind, after he climbed high to nod his first ever Toon goal and rescue a valuable point for JFKs strugglers.
Ah, Craig Bellamy. You just cant help wishing something large and heavy falls on him at some point soon can you? He may be top of many peoples Most Hated Premier League Player table level on goal difference with Gary Neville but hes some operator when in form. A constant thorn in Newcastles flaky back line, Bellamy created numerous opportunities for his team mates, converting one when he dinked a delightful finish over Shay Given.
As for the gaffer, theres only one contender after the week hes had. After a full A4 sheet of abuse from Rafa the rant Benitez, poor old Sir Alex Ferguson found himself under the spotlight. But he cared little, going about his business in a usually brisk and matter-of-fact manner, stuffing three unanswered goals past Chelsea then labelling his opposite number at Liverpool angry'' and disturbed''. Just another run of the mill seven days in the life of the Premier Leagues longest serving boss.