Hit | Miss| Sideline: United’s defence is best form of attack
Manchester United were back to their outstanding best yesterday with their 3-0 win at Newcastle United and, for a change, it was the defenders getting credit at both ends of the pitch. And rightly so. The whole back four was outstanding, although I’m still not convinced with David de Gea, their goalkeeper.
Patrice Evra, who has had a dodgy start to the season, was magnificent in defence and attack and the same has to be said about Rafael at right back. They are both very much forward thinking, like many modern-day full backs, but they also defended very well against a usually potent Newcastle attacking team.
Rio Ferdinand was a rock, along with the understated Jonny Evans, and repelled pretty much everything that the Geordies threw at them. Ferdinand is still one of the finest centre halves in the country and I find it puzzling that he is not only not in the England squad but also not one of the first names on the England teamsheet.
It’s a game of opinions, though. So what do I know.
Further up the field and Wayne Rooney was also back to his best. He really seems to enjoy the free role that he has, with his energy and desire getting him all over the pitch. At times, he is like a young kid in the schoolyard, running everywhere to help his team out – whether that be in defence or attack – and he is a very selfless player who is still maturing. I can see him, in the future, being a fantastic midfielder, with the vision that he has.
Tom Cleverley had a great game but he does have a lot of expectancy on his shoulders. Yet instead of it weighing him down, he seemed to grow in stature as the game went on. Robin van Persie had one of his quieter games but just having him on the pitch will always keep defenders on their toes, allowing space for others to run in to.
Yesterday was most definitely a return to the dominant United of old and if they keep up that level of performance, they could well drag the trophy back over to the other side of Manchester. It makes for a great tussle at the top, with the likes of Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea also having started the season in great style.
It was disappointing to see the exclusion of Brad Friedel from the Tottenham line-up for the game against Aston Villa at White Hart Lane, in favour of the expensive Hugo Lloris. I’ve always believed that, regardless of price tag, if the player holding the shirt is doing well, then they should keep hold of it until there is a downturn.
Friedel is the model professional who defies his age (41) and, by all accounts, is a great bloke. Yes, when a manager pays big money, there is pressure for the player to be chosen. But what signal does that send out to other individuals? Lloris kept a clean sheet so Andre Villas-Boas would say that his choice was justified but, after an outstanding performance last week at Old Trafford by the entire Spurs team, I don’t believe that the American should have been dropped.
It speaks volumes when you look at Friedel’s consecutive Premier League appearances – 310 with Blackburn Rovers, Villa and Tottenham. I just hope that this isn’t the beginning of the end for him. Good luck to Lloris but, in my opinion, you only drop a player when they are underperforming, not because a costly signing kicks up a fuss.
QPR again failed to register a win and it’s been a disastrous start to the season for them. They have some very good players but, at times, they look like strangers on the pitch and that’s a bad sign. You look at the players throughout the team. All big names with great know how and great ability but the challenge for manager Mark Hughes is to bring them together as a team, which at the moment is just not clicking.
When you have so many new players it takes a while to gel but, unfortunately, time is very rarely afforded to managers in the Premier League. Let’s hope that Hughes is given the required period to get his team together because there is no doubt that there is untold ability in that dressing-room. The last thing QPR need right now is more upheaval.