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Paul Scholes' masterclass against Newcastle at Old Trafford set us thinking about the best individual performances from the opening round of Premier League fixtures.
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Only informed at 1pm that he would be starting in place of the apparently injured Mark Schwarzer, it was understandable that a few nerves would manifest themselves in some fumbles and ropey handling. However, those errors were shunted aside quite quickly, keeping the unusually threatening Johan Elmander at bay with confidence. "The biggest compliment I can pay him is that Schwarzer wasn't missed," said Owen Coyle after the game. Quite so.
You don't see much cheek in the modern day Premier League. It's all ostentatious trickery, speed and brute force. So what a joy it was to see an impish Jones flick up a free-kick and volley past Thomas Sorensen. A nudge to the money men at Molineux perhaps? It will certainly have done his new contract negotiations no harm at all.
The performance of Blackpool's new signing and the team as a whole can probably be summed up thus: It won't be that good every week. Harewood has frustrated fans of Forest, West Ham, Aston Villa and Newcastle over the last decade, showing occasional flashes of the raw talent that has persuaded a succession of managers to give him a chance. That flash was burning bright at Wigan on Saturday, scoring twice (albeit with the help of Chris Kirkland's very accommodating glove work) and generally making a pest of himself. If his previous work is anything to go by, he'll barely look like a professional footballer next week, but that won't concern those on the coast for the moment.
This time last year, a left-back whose early promise looked to be fading slightly. Now, having been given his chance in the first team thanks to injuries last season, Bale is one of the finest attacking talents in the Premier League. The surprise about Manchester City's half-time substitution was that it was left-back Alex Kolarov, rather than right-back Micah Richards, that was removed, so torrid a time was Richards given by Bale. The interesting thing is that, should our suspicions about Harry Redknapp's tactical plans be correct, he might even find himself out of the team or back in defence for some games.
It was notable that, rather than receiving the opprobrium expected for a man who has declared his intention to leave, the Anfield crowd offered a rousing reception for Mascherano when he was withdrawn on Sunday. It was a combination of his three years tenacious service, that he's looking for a better life for his family and not necessarily a career boost, and a terrific performance against Arsenal that inspired this ovation. Christian Poulsen is certainly a perfectly solid replacement, but as Christian Purslow commented on Sunday, Mascherano is the best in his world in his position, and showed Anfield what they would be missing.
While Drogba, not famed for being terribly understated, was probably being something of a drama queen when he claimed he's fit for the first time in six years, his delayed hernia operation is bound to have a positive impact on his play. It wasn't the most taxing opposition, and there was an Andy Reid-sized portion of luck about his third goal, but boy did Drogba look impressive against West Brom. That's 32 goals in 32 league games in over the last year or so. Not bad at all.
For all the jokes about the ages of players like Kanu, should we not be asking to take a look at the Scotsman's birth certificate? Apparently he's 24. If that's true, he either spent his early years working 18-hour days at the docks, or has been punched in the face every lunchtime for the past two decades. 'Weathered' would be an appropriate description of Adam's fizzog, but that didn't prevent him from carrying on where he left off last season, probing and passing and creating everything good that Blackpool did. And against a shambolic Wigan, they did an awful lot of good, making naysayers like those who predicted they'd get 12 points this season look foolish.
The Daily Mail commented on Monday morning that most Aston Villa fans would never have heard of the young winger before Saturday, but they clearly don't know too many Villa fans (Why don't they ask Dave Cameron? Or Prince William? Oh, hang on...). Anyone with a mouth and a claret and blue shirt has been foretelling the arrival of this white Garrincha for a good while now, and boy did he arrive at the weekend. Darting around like a blonde hummingbird, Albrighton had a hand in all three Villa goals against West Ham, and suggests that if Randy Lerner feels the need to sell James Milner or Ashley Young, there'll still be some good attacking talent at Villa Park.
It's been suggested that many observers have been somewhat hyperbolic about Hart's performance at White Hart Lane on Saturday, that he made very few exceptional saves and merely did a solid job. Indeed, perhaps only his reaction stop from Jermain Defoe's close-range swivel could be accurately described as outstanding, with the rest shots one would expect Hart to keep out. However, in the first half he looked to not just be City's last line of defence, but their only one.
Given Scholes completed more passes on Monday night than England managed as a team in South Africa, it's fair to say Fabio Capello is probably thinking he maybe should have made that call himself in the summer. Those present at Old Trafford were treated to a masterclass as Scholes' distribution was immaculate, like a puppet on a string he had the ball play to his every whim. There was even a trademark ill-timed tackle to make the day complete.
Paul scholes has been an outstanding player throughout his career, but how he''s not been sent off more is beyond me. His tackling ability is shambolic and most of the time referees treat his tackles as "a strikers challenge" which is farcical considering he''s a midfielder. Andy gray winds me up when commentating a man utd game, he always has a giggle to himself about schools'' "typical" challenging. But let''s say it was Huddleston, felliani, or even mascherano that committed the amount of fouls scholes has then I''m sure Andy gray would be screaming for a card to be branded. Anyway, rant over.
Posted 06:35 18th August 2010
Pepe Reina? :) Seriously, I agree with Greg Cole. Berba had a magnificent performance.
Posted 06:01 18th August 2010
Agree with Greg Cole, Berbatov was fantastic against Newcastle.
Posted 01:19 18th August 2010
Where''s Berbatov?? Isn''t that what Fergie asks during every game?
Posted 00:33 18th August 2010
Paul Scholes was magnifico!! Uncomparable u can just think may be he is 22 years or so, he is the new signing to United,infact we know that bigger things are yet to come, bravo Scholes bravo Man Utd fo sho!!
Posted 22:34 17th August 2010
@Greg cole typical Man U fan, only watched one game on the weekend obviously. a good article all the players mentioned played well and berbatov was good but not great. considering the players mentioned in the article how can you say berbatov was as good? stockdale made very good saves even though no one has heard of him, Jones scored a great free kick, marlon harewood hasnt played in the prem for about 2 seasons and scored twice, even though most people never gave blackpool a chance, Bale played great in midfield again, mascherano put in a solid display even though he wants to leave, drogba got a hatrick, charlie adam was good even though blackpool were clear underdogs, i was at the villa game and albrighton was amazing, joe hart made 5 world class saves and scholes played well. what did berbatov do??? he scored and that was all he did against a defence that was shocking
Posted 22:31 17th August 2010
give it a rest you two... scholes could play those "immaculate" passes because he wasn''t pressed at all. as soon as you come up against a side that can shut down the midfield he''ll be as useful as an ice machine in iceland. muppets.
Posted 22:24 17th August 2010
where is van der sar? he made some terrific saves on monday, and for his age he''s super!
Posted 21:46 17th August 2010
As much as i would love it to be true, the statement that Paul Scholes made more passes last night than the entire England team in South Africa is rubbish. Scholes made 104 passes last night. England made 1578 over the 4 games in SA. Though 98% of England passes were probably the wrong ones. Or in Steven Gerrards case, passes aimed down a team mates throat.
Posted 18:40 17th August 2010
Joe Hart''s whole performance was exceptional!! Not just one or two of his saves! He was the main reason City got a point out of the game. He was teriffic throughout the whole match, not just bits of it!
Posted 17:39 17th August 2010
i hope the man u fans finally see the class in berbatov the best talent on show in the league
Posted 17:34 17th August 2010
what a player scholes is best midfielder in the premiership by miles for years kept it up
Posted 17:01 17th August 2010
Where''s Carragher on the list eh?
Posted 16:16 17th August 2010
Scholes and Giggs, its an honour to watch them in action.
Posted 16:07 17th August 2010
Oh how the City bashing continues...how can you say that Hart was merely solid whilst Scholes performed a masterclass?? Both did what was expected of them...their job. The hyperbole is anything in red that can pass a ball!! Sky sports really need to remove their rose tinted spectacles and give us all a break from Man U... To say Drogbas hat trick was against a team that wasn''t taxing is idiotic as Scholes also played against a team that were equally non taxing and that doesn''t get taken into account....Sky, you are hypocrites.
Posted 15:06 17th August 2010
Long Live King Scholes... Zidane once quoted "he is the most intelligent player he has ever seen..." Genius & slightly bonkers...but breath-taking to watch
Posted 12:24 17th August 2010
Yeh, Masch was unbelievable..priceless performance! hoping we can keep him for 1 more season:)
Posted 12:17 17th August 2010
Scholsey the Magican! ! ! what more can you say, I really do believe he is the best English playmaker ever, bar none! Amazing what he can do with that ball at his feet, just hope we are able to see him do this for a lttle longer than I expect! COME ON UNITED! 19 league titles here we come!
Posted 12:04 17th August 2010
Where is Berbatov? He put up a great performance.
Posted 10:49 17th August 2010
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