Premier League Team of the Week
As the roar of the crowds dim, the floodlights darken and the moneyed superheroes return to their palatial pads we have reached that inevitable point of the weekend.
Yes, as surely as death must follow life and a prolonged visit to the toilet will accompany the climax of any lavish feast, the moment has arrived when the weekend's action has been deliberated, cogitated and digested upon by ourselves. So here for your delectation, dear reader, are the greatest players in the history of the weekend.
Arsenal are swift becoming a goalkeepers favoured opponent. Stop the Gunners scoring and it will look good on the CV and impress their mates down the pub afterwards. Marton Fulop was the man gleefully rubbing his hands this time round as the Sunderland keeper became the third keeper in a row to keep out Arsenal after a flawless display. Craig Gordon may be kicking his heels for a while yet.
The lack of consideration Kevin Nolan showed Victor Anichebe's leg was passed on in kind to the Newcastle defence by the early red card his disgraceful tackle warranted. Jose Enrique stepped up to the mark though and put in a sterling (if you will forgive all the negative associations with the currently almost worthless British currency that term implies) shift at the back for the home side with a succession of well won tackles.
The deployment of Jose Bosingwa on Saturday was an interesting feature of Chelsea's game against Aston Villa. Bosingwa appeared to curb his attacking instincts at times, with he and Paulo Ferreira on the opposite flank taking it in turns to drop back. A deliberate piece of tactical genius by Guus Hiddink with Saturday's opponents in mind? Perhaps. If so, Bosingwa stuck to his task well and snuffed out the threat of the pacy Ashley Young who rarely got a look in.
When Ryan Nelsen's desperate intervention succeeded only in helping the ball on its way to a perfectly placed Wayne Rooney to score the opening goal at Old Trafford most of those watching would have assumed the worst for Blackburn Rovers. The United juggernaut was revving ominously into gear but it is to the immense credit of Nelsen and his fellow defenders that some roadblock defending slowed United down considerably.
Nelsen was alert and on duty at the back post to stop Michael Carrrick applying what would have been a simple finish in the first half, and he was so close to scoring himself when he smacked a shot against the post during one of his frequent forays into attack.
Cristiano Ronaldo scored possibly the best goal of the weekend - an outrageous piece of dead ball expertise which soared like a comet past both Blackburn's wall and Paul Robinson. However…....
Matt Taylor also scored a beauty from a free-kick, a trademark long range cannon of a shot, and the Bolton man neither kicked a West Ham player nor took an attention-seeking tumble.
Taylor's saintly credentials when set against the red devilish Ronaldo were further enhanced with a headed goal-line clearance (perhaps it struck his halo). So it's a trip to the naughty step for the Portuguese diva and a step outside to play nicely with the other kids for the Trotters man.
West Ham will be asking themselves how they lost to Bolton on Saturday. The selection of David Di Michele perhaps?
A Scott Parker clone in place of the misfiring striker and Saturday's result at the Reebok could have been oh so different. Parker started the move that led to his goal but rather than sit back and admire what he had begun, his momentum drove him forwards to get on the end of Jonathan Spector's pass for a deserved Hammers goal. He had a good shout for a penalty shortly afterwards but fortune was not favouring West Ham.
Frank Lampard pulled strings for his Chelsea side in the manner of a harp-playing puppeteer at Villa Park as the Blues went some way to showing Martin O'Neill's upstarts just who really is the third best team in the land. Lampard's shook his thang through the Villa defence to set up Nicolas Anelka for the first and win himself some big brownie points from the new boss.
The rigours of the Russian league may differ somewhat from the Premier League but Andrei Arshavin will recognise the sound of disgruntled supporters whatever the accent of those booing.
The Arsenal fans who voiced their disapproval at full-time would surely have spared the Russian this collective ire if they could have, following a stand-out performance from their new man that offered a glimpse of a brighter future at the Emirates amid the current fug of bewilderment.
Not putting Roque Santa Cruz in Team of the Week would be a little bit like telling someone who has just climbed Everest to ''calm down - it's been done before hasn't it?'' His nifty finish made him the first man in over a quarter of a year to breach United's defence (''BUT NOT ME!!!'' cried an understandably indignant Edwin Van der Sar) so for this he should surely receive some sort of award (well Roque, here it is! Hope you enjoy it.)
The stunned reaction that spread through the United team for a while following this setback showed too that they are far from The Untouchables some have suggested recently (let's face it though, who is? Even Elliot Ness lost a man or two).
As Manchester United finally saw their proud defensive record broken, so too came the passing of a more unwelcome Premier League statistic this weekend.
After over 29 hours of Premier League football, Fulham's Bobby Zamora finally remembered what it is he gets paid for. It took the visit of bottom club West Brom for the ex-Hammer to rediscover his scoring touch (with a goal from a yard out). Perhaps realising he won't be playing them for a while, Zamora then busily went in search of a second. His hard work benefited Andy Johnson though who fired in after Scott Carson has blocked Zamora's effort. Welcome back Bobby.
It would be churlish to begrudge Wayne Rooney a place in the starting line-up after two goals in four days following a five-and-a-half week lay-off. He announced his comeback against Fulham in midweek after coming off the bench and it only took him 22 minutes to find the net on Saturday against Blackburn.
Alex Ferguson will be just as pleased that not only did Rooney last the ninety minutes on Saturday, he seemed to improve in the latter stages of the game as he went in search of a decisive goal which says all Sir Alex needs to know about his fitness and appetite ahead of a crucial week for the champions.
Guus Hiddink spent the week spelling out, with the sort of reassuringly calm Dutch tones that would have drawn Steve McClaren's undoubted admiration, his idea of what he expects from his new side over the next five months (whatever!).
Aston Villa away is as tough a test as he could have asked for and the execution of the victory from his side suggested that Hiddink has already stamped his mark on the team. He called for his big players to produce and they responded perfectly. The very public show of unity from the Blues at the end of the game suggests too that talk of dressing room disharmony may well be as wide of the mark as a Hull City medical prognosis.