Manchester United have won the Premier League

Manchester United have won their 20th title with four games still to play and could finish the season on 96 points.

It has been a very good season for Sir Alex Ferguson’s side and one that will be remembered, especially after last season’s heartbreaking ending. They clearly didn’t want a repeat of that this year and have only lost four games all season as well as having a much better goal difference than their closest rivals which was once again Manchester City. At times earlier in the season there were questions about their defence but in recent weeks it has tightened up brilliantly which has taken the pressure off their attacking players.

One of these attacking players is Robin Van Persie who in my opinion has been the difference this season from last year. It is not only his goals that has made him such a good signing but his movement and his ability on the ball, he drags defenders out of position giving other players opportunities to score and even when he was on a goal scoring drought, he was still playing pretty well. 28 goals in all competitions is a great return and he will be hoping to hit 30 before the season is out. The other two main strikers have also chipped in with goals and Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez will have profited from playing alongside the former Arsenal man. Although there may be a few concerns with Rooney as it is the first time he is not the main man for a long time. Another slight concern might be the goal scoring return of Danny Welbeck but he has played on the wing at times this season and some of his appearances have been off the bench. In my opinion though he is certainly good enough to be the fourth choice striker.

It has been quite a strange season for the clubs midfielders though as none of the attacking ones have really stood out for prolonged periods of time. Nani, Ashley Young, Shinji Kagawa and Antonio Valencia just haven’t quite been at their best this season and will be hoping they get another chance to impress next season because I am a little worried about the future of some of these at the club. However, Michael Carrick, whether rightly or wrongly has been included in the PFA Player of the Year nominations, has had a fantastic season and just proved why he should have more England caps than he does.

Yet again the defence has been good at times but there have also been mistakes in their defence that have not quite cost them but made a few games more difficult than they should have been. Rafael at right back looks very promising and in a few years could be considered the best in the world, as long as he improves his defending slightly. However, these days it seems more important to be able to attack from full back than to actually defend so he is ok in that respect. Also David De Gea deserves a mention because everyone was jumping on his mistakes but when he was keeping clean sheet after clean sheet nobody was praising him. He is another that will get better and I don’t think people consider his age when criticising him. He is only young (especially for a goalkeeper) and will make mistakes but he has bounced back from every one of them.

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Who will Christian Eriksen sign for?

Christian Eriksen could be set to leave Ajax this summer after rejecting a new contract which has alerted Premier League clubs.

The 20 year old midfielder is one of the hottest prospects in world football and he could become one of the best players in the world. It is remarkable that he is so good and played so many games at such a young age at a huge club like Ajax. In total he has played 143 times scoring 26 goals and assisting another 48 more. In the last two seasons he has been phenomenal, with him playing 44 times and getting eight goals last season as well as already having nine goals in 31 appearances this year. More remarkably though and this is why he should be getting a lot of praise, he got 21 assists last season and was instrumental in nearly every attack. Would he be able to cut it in the Premier League though, as we have seen in the past that some players can perform very well in Holland but not be good enough for England. I am sure the fact he has rejected a new contract it will make a lot of clubs sit up and take notice.

So who will he sign for? The favourites to sign him have to be Manchester United as he seems like the type of player that would fit into their style of play and would be a perfect replacement for Paul Scholes who will probably retire (again) at the end of the season. Eriksen could either play out wide for Alex Ferguson’s side or right in the middle alongside a holding midfielder. Personally, I think him and Michael Carrick could control a game very easily if they played together. Also, he is only young and would fit into their recent signings of young and upcoming players.

However, he may decide to join a different club and another team that should be looking at Eriksen is Tottenham Hostpur. They will be able to give him European football and possibly even a place in the Champions League and not only that he could be the final piece to the jigsaw and get the club challenging for trophies and league titles. A key factor in his signing could be that it could convince Gareth Bale to stay at the club and this would certainly show that they were wanting to be more ambitious.

The final team that will be linked with him is Liverpool. Although they aren’t one of the top clubs anymore they do still have a chance of qualifying for Europe this year and this may make the Danish international join them. He would be a great signing because he is better than a lot of their other midfielders like Stewart Downing, Jordan Henderson and Jonjo Shelvey. Also Steven Gerrard is getting towards the end of his career now and Eriksen would be a perfect replacement and although he wouldn’t be a direct replacement, he would deliver the same if not more goals and assists.

How important is Darren Fletcher to Manchester United?

Darren Fletcher made his return for Manchester United against Newcastle United in the Capital One Cup so will his return help the club win trophies this season.

Obviously he has only played one game so it is too early to see whether he will be able to play on a regular basis but it is a good sign that he was back on the pitch. Fletcher has been a vital part of the United side for a number of years now and has almost always been an automatic choice for the big games in Europe and Premier League. But why is he so important? I am going to compare the Scotland international with some of the other options Alex Ferguson has.

His rivals for the central midfielder spot are Shinji Kagawa, Michael Carrick, Paul Scholes, Anderson and Tom Cleverley. Nick Powell, could also be considered in the central role but he won’t be starting many games and will be utilised a lot from the bench if he does get the chance to shine. So, let’s start with the summer signing, Kagawa. This is a tough one to call because Kagawa has already proved that he can be very creative and make things happen but if they only play two central midfielders then he may be a liability if he doesn’t stick to his defensive responsibilities. So, in the bigger games I believe Fletcher will start over Kagawa if he is fit unless either Wayne Rooney or Robin Van Persie are dropped and they switch to three in the centre of midfield. But, in other games, particularly at home when they are expected to have a lot of possession, this could be the perfect combination as we all know Fletcher will work himself into the ground and let Kagawa dictate play.

In the big games I could see Fletcher starting alongside Michael Carrick as both are decent passers and like to keep the ball ticking over, so they will be vital in keeping possession, especially away from home in Europe. But, if these two lined up against a bottom half Premier League team it would be a shock as neither have got that many goals over the years, however, at times Fletcher has proved he can grab vital goals so this tactic could work. Paul Scholes shocked us all when he returned from his retirement part way through last season and I think out of the options his preferred partner would actually be Fletcher because of his work rate and determination, allowing him to play his natural game and control the tempo of the game while also being safe in the knowledge that Fletcher will cover enough ground for the both of them.

Onto the two players that I believe will once again find themselves far down the pecking order, Tom Cleverley and Anderson. The Brazilian has flattered to deceive at Old Trafford and nobody is really sure at what he is all about, even though he has been at the club for a while now. This because he isn’t disciplined enough to play the holding role and leaves big gaps in front of the back four and when he is played in the advanced role he doesn’t influence games enough, so if Fletcher can regain form and fitness then this could be the last season Anderson is at the club in my opinion. As for Cleverely, I am still not convinced by him for exactly the same reasons but he is definitely improving and if he played next to someone like Fletcher he would get even better because he would have to exert as much energy in defending when playing with someone like Anderson, Kagawa or even Scholes. In my opinion, he has also struggled slightly playing alongside Carrick because all of the creative responsibility is on him, and that is a lot of pressure for someone his age.

So, the good thing about Fletcher is that he can compliment any of his fellow midfielders and a lot of his good work goes unnoticed but the management team and his teammates will understand what he does and it is clear to see that they are all very happy to see him on the road to recovery.

 

Game, Team and Player of the Weekend

The Premier League kicked off this weekend and there is a lot to talk about but as from now after every weekend, I am going to decide on my game, team and player of the weekend. It will be difficult to narrow it down but I will try.

So onto the first thing, team of the weekend. This could go quite a few ways, should I give it to Swansea City under new manager Michael Laudrup, who destroyed QPR away from home 5-0 after being tipped as one of the teams to struggle this year (although it has only been one game and that may still be the case). Maybe, Fulham deserve it as they also won 5-0 against Norwich City, under difficult circumstances with their main man from last season Clint Dempsey not wanting to play. Although impressive, I have decided to go with Everton as they performed wonderfully and beat Manchester United 1-0. Everyone in their team played their part with Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin phenomenal at the back, Steven Pienaar and Marouane Fellaini causing problems from midfield and up front Nikica Jelavic worked his socks off. They may not have scored as many as the others but they certainly created a lot of chances and even hit the bar a couple of times. Defensively they didn’t put a foot wrong and each one of them, Jagielka, Distin, Baines and Hibbert all get at least nine out of 10 from me. It is a great start to the season for them but they must play like this in every game if they want to finish in the top six.

Player of the weekend is another tough one to choose as all of the teams that were in contention for team of the weekend obviously had stand out players. Michu obviously grabbed the headlines for Swansea and rightfully so, I don’t even think in his or his manager’s dreams his debut would have went that well. He grabbed two goals, one with a little assistance from QPR goalkeeper Robert Green and the other a fantastic finish. Mladen Petric also had a debut to remember by also scoring two goals but one of these took a massive deflection, however he has opened his account for the team so that will give him the confidence to push on and get more. He showed nice touches round the edge of the box and looks like he can create goals for others too. Hatem Ben Arfa of Newcastle United deserves a mention because he won the game for his team by winning and scoring a penalty, but he offered a lot more than just that with many mazy runs and great skills which forced the Tottenham players to bring him down. Yet another Premier League debutant is also a contender in Eden Hazard who in the first seven minutes of Chelsea’s game with Wigan Athletic showed why most clubs in Europe wanted him. Hopefully, he will show a lot more of that in the future. But, the winner for me has to be Marouane Fellaini who scored the winner for Everton, as I have already mentioned the whole of the backline got 9’s but this guy got a 10 and was fantastic from start to finish. He won everything in the air against both Michael Carrick and Nemanja Vidic, and was simply unplayable at times and he is definitely looking like he could have his best season yet in an Everton shirt. I prefer him to play in a more attacking role so he can do exactly what he did against Manchester United.

Game of the weekend isn’t quite as tough I don’t think, because 5-0’s are good but I would like a game to be less one sided and as I have said Everton played fantastically but Manchester United definitely weren’t great and couldn’t get out of first gear. So, my game of the weekend is Manchester City versus Southampton. The away side almost came away with a very unlikely win never mind just a point, after going 2-1 up but unfortunately couldn’t hold onto their lead and ended up losing 3-2. Both teams played the game in the right way and kept the ball on the floor and tried to pass through the opposition. When Carlos Tevez was brought down in the box for a penalty, I thought that was it for Southampton but Kelvin Davis managed to save David Siva’s penalty and there was renewed optimism, however, this didn’t last long as Tevez then did put City ahead. Game over? Not quite as sub Rickie Lambert scored with a fantastic finish and all of a sudden the momentum switched, and when fellow sub Steven Davis put them 2-1 up with an equally good finish, there was a feeling of worry growing round the stadium. But, just as he did against QPR on the last day of last season Edin Dzeko managed to get an equaliser, leaving enough time for Samir Nasri to fire home the winner. Good start from both teams but I think Nigel Adkins will be the happier of the two managers.

Which teams, players and games impressed you this weekend? How did your team do, were there any standout players?

Will Luka Modric stay in the Premier League?

Luka Modric is most likely going to be leaving Tottenham Hotspur this summer after an impressive Euro 2012 and some of the biggest clubs in Europe want the midfielder.

Modric has 17 goals and 26 assists in his 159 appearances for Spurs

Real Madrid are currently the clear favourites to sign him and I hope he doesn’t join the Spanish giants because he brings a lot to the Premier League. The Croatian joined Spurs in 2008 and has been a major reason why they have challenged for a place in the Champions league. He definitely doesn’t get the credit he deserves and is an example of players that are a lot better than there stats suggest, he hasn’t actually got that many goals and assists for the club but his performances have been sublime with his passing being accurate and usually the most important pass of an attack. He picks out his teammates time and time again which allows them to put in a cross or slide it through for someone else to shoot.

Although it is still unlikely at this stage he could still sign for a Premier League club and I think his style of football suits the English league rather than La Liga. So where could he go? Obviously, Manchester United would love to have him with their current midfield either ageing or not quite living up to their potential. Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs have been fantastic servants but they cannot play every game and sometimes you need younger legs in there and with Park Ji Sung leaving for QPR there may be extra strain on Michael Carrick and new signing Shinji Kagawa. Anderson and Tom Cleverley can also play in the middle but I just feel Anderson has been a waste and underperformed massively while Cleverely doesn’t have the required experience yet to be first choice.

Chelsea were linked with Modric last summer but couldn’t get him and now maybe they have moved on so I don’t expect them to try and sign him, however, he would fit into their style of play now and could be just what they need, especially when defending their Champions League trophy. Michael Essien will be back to full fitness next season and Frank Lampard will probably not get dropped. The only reason they may want to bring him in is that their new signings don’t have that much Premier League experience between them so they may struggle to adapt to the league and he wouldn’t certainly do a job for the team.

Finally, Manchester City have been linked with a move, however you have to take everything you read about City with a pinch of salt because the papers will link the club with any player that has had a good season. They have enough cover in the midfield anyway and it looks like they are prioritising the signing of Robin Van Persie at the minute. I think if they do make a big signing this summer (either instead of or along with Van Persie) then it will be a centre back as that is where they are weakest.

Norwich City’s hard work and team spirit pays off again

Norwich have finally kept their first clean sheet of the season with a gritty performance against Chelsea and it helped them to a fantastic point in a fantastic season. In my opinion Norwich have been the surprise package in the Premier League and this is down to their team spirit and hard work. They are essentially a team built of ambitious Championship and League 1 players with another in Jonny Howson close to joining the club from Leeds.

Looking at the team they were rightly favourites for relegation but the bubble still hasn’t burst from two consecutive promotions. Paul Lambert deserves great credit for bringing this team together and making sure everyone single player knows their job before they even step foot on the pitch. But if he wants to improve the team it surely has to be in the defence although the team performed superbly against Chelsea they have at times looked awful when defending.

In attack, they have two players who will battle for every ball and chase down every lost cause. It must be a nightmare to play against Steve Morison and Grant Holt because they do not give defenders a moments rest and when they come off the pitch they will probably discover a few bumps and bruises. This is not to say they are dirty players because they are clearly just very honest and committed professionals who will do anything to secure three points. They are both very good in the air and when the team is under pressure they know they can send the ball slightly longer as these two will have a good chance of relieving the pressure off the defence and make the ball stick up front.

Which allows the midfield to push forward and create chances and in Anthony Pilkington they have someone who can pick a pass or deliver an inch perfect cross with his left foot. He has also chipped in with a few goals this year which is a bonus but he also always provides plenty of cover for his full back when the team is defending. In the centre of midfield they have Bradley Johnson who has been linked with a call up to the England squad and although this is unlikely, he has deserved his praise this season. Alongside him against Chelsea was David Fox who does the simple things brilliantly and just keeps the game ticking over and very rarely gives the ball away. He just sits in front of the back four and doesn’t mind getting the ball even when he is under pressure, he doesn’t put in many tackles so he is similar to Michael Carrick in that respect.

The defence can be shaky but in Kyle Naughton they have a very good full back and was probably going to have a good career at Tottenham until Kyle Walker came along this season. But the rest of the defence could do with improving although Russell Martin deserves a special mention as he has performed admirably at both centre back and right back.

John Ruddy in goal has also been linked with an England call up and was given man of the match against Chelsea as he produced a few good saves in particular a brilliant save from a Fernando Torres effort.

Paul Lambert in my opinion deserves manager of the year and Norwich deserve all the plaudits coming their way. However, Blackpool were in a similar position last year and they ended up getting relegated so maybe it is too early for Norwich fans to be celebrating. They have enough togetherness in the squad to stay up but this is when promoted teams get found out and teams work out how to beat them. Norwich need to get to 40 points as quickly as possible and this point against Chelsea could be priceless come the end of the season.

Newcastle United vs Manchester United- Head to head battles

This result could prove to be very pivotal in both teams seasons with Newcastle only winning one of their last eight after starting the season with an 11 game unbeaten run and Manchester United now losing two games in a row and conceding six goals in the process. This isn’t very Manchester United like and the performance against Newcastle further highlighted the need for strengthening at Old Trafford with the Toon Army having firstly more drive and determination but also more skill and ability.

Demba Ba was a constant threat and should have had a penalty when he was blatantly took out by Rio Ferdinand in the box but this probably evens out what happened earlier in the season when Newcastle won a penalty against Ferdinand which was clearly a mistake by the officials.

The first two Newcastle goals were through a little bit of individual quality and they had clearly watched Manchester United’s previous game against Blackburn where they also looked suspect at the back. Newcastle deserved their emphatic victory as they had more shots and even under slight pressure they held strong and only really looked like conceding once or twice.

As a team, Newcastle won the battle obviously as the stats suggest but what about the individuals.

Krul vs Lindegaard

Krul didn’t have much to do in the game but has proved time and time again this season that he is valuable to the squad and that goalkeeper’s are so important in this league and can win you points almost singlehandedly in some games. He dealt with everything that was thrown at him quite comfortably apart from one Nani shot in the first half which he didn’t take cleanly but recovered quickly enough to get control of the loose ball.

Lindegaard must be quite a confused man this morning, conceding three goals, yet he also didn’t have much to do. The first two goals were unstoppable and even if him and De Gea had been in goal it still would have been 2-0 Newcastle. He does not look convincing though and when put under pressure he could struggle with Williamson putting a header over the bar after he came for a corner and got nowhere near it. Also, a worrying part of his game is his communication with his defenders which was shown when Phil Jones put the ball into the back of his own net.

Winner= Tim Krul

Simpson vs Valencia

This may have been Danny Simpson’s best performance in the Premier League for the Magpies as he attacked very well and attempted to support Ryan Taylor whenever he could, although his final ball at times was poor. But it was his defending that was most impressive especially after his shocking performance against Liverpool, he was strong in the tackle and his positioning for the most part was spot on. His goal line clearance was celebrated like a goal by the team and so it should have been because if the team from Manchester had scored then we would probably have been looking at a different result.

Got to feel sorry for Valencia, he isn’t a right back but always puts in a good shift wherever he is told to play and was no different in this game. He always looked to get forward and was probably their most attacking threat. Like Simpson his final ball let him down but his work rate, getting up and down the wing time and time again was commendable.

Winner= Danny Simpson

Santon vs Evra

Davide Santon was signed with quite a big reputation from Inter Milan but couldn’t seem to shift Ryan Taylor a makeshift left back from the team and a lot of fans were wondering is this guy the real deal or just another flop we have signed from Europe? Based on his performance last night you can see why he was highly rated by every Inter manager apart from Mourinho. But like most fullbacks these days he is better at going forward than defending producing jinking runs and alleviating the pressure on him and his fellow defenders with his ability to keep the ball. Performed well against Nani who is quite a tricky customer when he is on his game.

Patrice Evra, this season for me does not look as solid as he has done in previous seasons and this was shown again at times as he got beaten for pace by Ryan Taylor and allowed him space to cross time and time again which the central defenders won’t have been too happy with. He was given the captains armband but I don’t understand why, he doesn’t not seem influential or inspiring as captain at all. Going forward he didn’t really have a chance and this is the best part of his game. Poor performance but will surely before the end of the season prove he is one of the best left backs in Europe.

Winner= Davide Santon

Williamson vs Jones

Just back from injury, Williamson adds much needed height and power to the Newcastle defence especially after the injury to Steven Taylor which ruled him out for the rest of the season. He sometimes looks suspect when dealing with a bit of pace and movement but he does win a lot of aerial battles and can tackle when he gets the chance. Also, he gives the team another attacking threat from set pieces, missing a simple chance in the process but he will be happier with the way he and his fellow defenders snuffed out the threat from the opposition.

Phil Jones there is no doubt about it, is one of the most promising young players currently in England with his ability to play in several different positions. But he played centre back against Newcastle and was given a lesson from Shola Ameobi and Demba Ba. He could not deal with their power and pace. Losing the first header in the first goal and giving away the free kick for the second. For the third, he probably wished the ground would open up and swallow him after a breakdown in communication with his keeper, he went to header the ball but misjudged it and it his knee and went into the back of the net. A night to forget for the young lad but he will prove to be a very good signing for United.

Winner= Williamson

Coloccini vs Ferdinand

‘Captain Colo’ has been in fantastic form this season and never looks flustered under pressure producing moments of magic the most attacking players would be proud of. He didn’t get much of a chance to maraud forward as much as he likes to from centre back but it is his defending that has improved dramatically since he first arrived in Newcastle. He is quick along the ground and seems to see danger very quickly to get across and clear for his team. It’s not just luck that he seems to be in the right place at the right time over and over again. His curly locks in his first season were noticeable for his mistakes but now everyone not only notices his flamboyant hair but his abilities as a top class central defender.

Rio Ferdinand was very lucky not to give away a penalty after a tangle of legs in the box and this just typified his night. He didn’t seem to be at the races almost gifting a goal to Demba Ba after a poor first touch, he could not deal with the strikers just like his much younger and less experienced partner Phil Jones couldn’t. But surely we expect better from the man that is hoping to lead England’s defence at Euro 2012 (if John Terry is banned for racism then surely he can’t play for England? But this is an issue for another time). He just didn’t look his normal composed self at the back and maybe it’s because he is getting older or maybe it’s because he doesn’t have any confidence in his goalkeeper and players either side of him. Not all his fault but should have been tighter on Ba for the first goal.

Winner= Coloccini

Taylor vs Nani

Ryan Taylor is fast becoming a cult hero for the Toon Army with his impressive displays at left back and obviously his winning goal in the Tyne Wear Derby against Sunderland. But he played on the right of midfield and he was energetic and full of life always asking for the ball and most of the time keeping good possession. He provided Simpson with a lot of support and was a very hardworking performance from the Scouser. His set pieces were always a threat as usual causing panic in the Manchester United defence from his corners.

Nani didn’t have his best game in a United shirt but it was down the right hand side that they caused the most threat but still he couldn’t produce a moment of magic to unlock the Newcastle defence. A couple of good runs and little flashes of skill were just not good enough but at least he did try a few different things. He seemed to stay on the wing for much of the game and maybe should have drifted inside more but if he did that and didn’t cause problems he would have been slated as well and told to stay out wide. So maybe it just wasn’t his night and he was fighting a losing battle

Winner= Ryan Taylor

Gutierrez vs Park

As always the Argentinean did his job and worked hard winning free kicks for his team in tight positions and covering every blade of grass down the left hand side. Sometimes his final ball lets him down and going forward he can be frustrating but that is all forgiven when the fans see him working hard and at times running the length of the pitch to get back just so he can give extra support to his teammates which not every winger is willing to do. He is nothing more than an average player but he is worth his weight in gold and Newcastle are very glad they have him.

Park is similar to Gutierrez always works hard for the cause but he doesn’t seem to get as much credit probably because being a Manchester United player you need more than just hard work but Park doesn’t seem to offer anymore. Possibly only still at the club because of the financial side of the game as he will bring even more money in from Asia for the champions. Maybe this is a little harsh on Park but from his performance he does not look good enough for a team wanting to win the league.

Winner= Jonas Gutierrez

Cabaye vs Giggs

A fantastic free kick capped off a fine performance, was an absolute steal for Newcastle when they signed him from Lille. His passing has been a vital part to the way Newcastle play with his ability to accurately send cross field to passes to the winger on the opposite side. Against Man United he played slightly differently to normal as he looked to break forward a lot more and get into the box, having a few shots which he is capable of hitting with both power and accuracy with either foot. But his free kick will be remembered by the Geordie faithful for quite a long time. He could be in the running for signing of the season but unfortunately for him and fantastically for the Newcastle scouting team who deserve huge amounts of credit he probably hasn’t even been Newcastle’s best signing. He has a great partnership with Tiote but even earlier in the season when Tiote was injured he formed a good partnership with Danny Guthrie so it just proves his quality and his ability to adapt his game to whoever is playing alongside him.

The Welshman for the first time actually looked his age against Newcastle, dominated by the opposition and unable to produce any magic we still expect from him. Playing in the centre of midfield he looked a shadow of his former self and this may be down to the performance of the Newcastle centre midfield. Maybe it’s time to call it a day although against a less pressurising team he could still do a job for United but it may be better just to play him in the home games. In my opinion Paul Scholes could have had more of an impact on a game like this if he was still playing.

Winner= Yohan Cabaye

Tiote vs Carrick

Cheick Tiote will be a massive miss now he has going to the Africa Cup of Nations and it’s not just coincidence that when he got injured Newcastle went on a winless run. Last season he was constantly criticised for the amount of bookings he picked up and yes he did get booked yesterday but it was one that goes in the category of had to be done for the team. Which is what Tiote is all about, everything he does benefits the team and is another fantastic acquisition for Newcastle. He is so strong and his ability on the ball is definitely underrated. He gets about the pitch and does all of the dirty work closing down the opposition and making tackles so the more attacking players can play their natural game. It’s not surprising he is linked with the biggest teams in Europe and if Newcastle are ambitious and want to progress they have to keep hold of their holding midfielder

Another holding midfielder but plays very differently to Tiote, he is more of a passer than a tackler although he doesn’t mind getting stuck in at all. The game seemed to pass him by and as a Geordie probably wanted to perform at St James’ Park but this wasn’t great and is probably glad Fabio Capello does not come up to the North East to watch football or it could have reduced his chances of going to the Euros. Although he is a player who’s work often goes unnoticed, in this game he was invisible and lacked the needed quality to break down this resilient Newcastle team and is further proof that Fergie needs to invest in a central midfielder. Maybe players like Cabaye and Tiote would be good signings.

Winner= Cheick Tiote

Ameobi vs Berbatov

Shola Ameobi affectionately known as the ‘Sunderland Slayer’ by the Geordies had arguably one of his best games in a Newcastle shirt, he caused a threat every time the ball was in the air and won a large majority of flick ons to his teammates. He is often criticised because of his lack of ability but he made up for it with his determination and movement. He won the flick for the first goal and then dragged the defender out of position so Demba Ba could attack the space and win the free kick that led to the second. Shola along with the other strikers will have to step up to the plate in the next month with Ba away on international duty but this performance should give the fans some hope.

Simply anonymous. Hit the post with a deflected header in the first half and was then substituted in the second. That’s about it for his performance which is quite disappointing seen as though he was on a good run of form. Just couldn’t get into the game and didn’t look interested although with his languid style even at the best of times he doesn’t look that interested

Winner= Shola Ameobi

Ba vs Rooney

What more is there to say about this man? He has such fantastic ability on the ball but it was his hard work that impressed me most , he chased down everything and led from the front in not giving any Manchester United player time to settle on the ball. But, his goal showed how good of a player he is, what fantastic technique to hit the ball first time like that and it finding the corner of the net. He is a constant menace and seems to be scoring goals for fun and for a free transfer surely must be the signing of the season. Fans wondered where the goals were going to come from and how would they replace Andy Carroll. Demba Ba has stepped up and surpassed even the most optimistic fans expectations. It’s not surprising fans and pundits are running out of superlatives to describe his season. It’s just unfortunate not only for the Newcastle fans but also the Premier League that his season is being disrupted by the African Cup of Nations.

Wayne Rooney was not at the races at all, and it was clear to see when he was played through and his touch let him down, it was a chance he would usually gobble up, especially against Newcastle, who he has such a good record against. Substituted for Anderson and this basically emphasises how bad of a night it was for the England striker, losing by two goals and taking off a player that is usually feared by every defender in the country. With him not playing against Blackburn it seemed to be written in the script that he would be influential in the game but this was ripped up and never happened.

Winner= Demba Ba

Newcastle won the battles all over the pitch and although ability wise they may not have the same quality as their Manchester counterparts but they made up for it in deteremination and desire to win the game. Huge praise has to go to Alan Pardew because not many managers over the years have got one over Sir Alex Ferguson tactically. He called it perfectly, and got everything spot on, he wasn’t wanted at Newcastle to begin with but now the fans see him as one of them, if he can secure European football he will probably be considered their best manager since the great Sir Bobby Robson