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Garth Crooks’ team of the week: Ronaldo, Fernandes, Van Dijk, Lukaku

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Garth team of the week

Cristiano Ronaldo returned to the Premier League in sensational fashion, scoring twice as Manchester United beat Newcastle 4-1.

Champions Manchester City had a hard-earned 1-0 win at Leicester, Liverpool eased 3-0 past Leeds and European champions Chelsea defeated Aston Villa by the same scoreline.

Arsenal finally got their first points of the season with a 1-0 win against Norwich, Brighton ended Brentford’s unbeaten start with a 1-0 win, while Tottenham suffered a heavy 3-0 loss at Crystal Palace.

Check out my team of the week and then make your own selections towards the bottom of the article.

Team of the week

Goalkeeper: Edouard Mendy (Chelsea)

Edouard Mendy

The save from Ollie Watkins was brilliant. Mendy was leaning towards the right of his goal as Watkins turned inside to shoot with his right foot but pulled the ball towards the left-hand post. Mendy’s adjustment to turn the ball around the post was outstanding.

The Senegal international then made two further saves from Tyrone Mings and Ezri Konsa. The second save he made was when he was still recovering from the first shot. This was one of those games where if Villa had played all night they wouldn’t have found a way past Mendy.

Did you know? Mendy made six saves against Aston Villa to help his side to a 3-0 victory. Indeed, since Thomas Tuchel’s first game in charge, Mendy has kept more Premier League clean sheets than any other goalkeeper (12).

Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Thiago Silva (Chelsea), Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool), Luke Shaw (Man Utd)


Alexander-Arnold: The quality of the ball from Trent Alexander-Arnold for Mohamed Salah to score his 100th Premier League goal is what we’ve come to expect from the full-back. This game was as comfortable for him as it was for Liverpool, apart from one moment.

The injury to Harvey Elliott was unfortunate. We’ve seen it before when a sending-off, in my view, was as a result of the injury and not the challenge. I understand the emotions attached to such an incident, especially from Jurgen Klopp when he sees one of his young players sustain a bad injury. However, that’s football I’m afraid.

Did you know? Alexander-Arnold recorded his 35th Premier League assist on Sunday, aged 22 years and 340 days. In the competition’s history, only Cesc Fabregas, Wayne Rooney and Ryan Giggs have reached this total at a younger age.

Thiago Silva: This player was in danger of not being allowed by Fifa to play in this fixture against Aston Villa. However, he not only played for Chelsea, against a Villa side still coming to terms with the loss of Jack Grealish, but had a pivotal role in the Blues keeping a clean sheet.

While Fifa has reconsidered its ban on players who did not travel for internationals, it does beg the question whether should Fifa be allowed to interfere in the affairs of domestic leagues at all, a point I discuss in greater detail in the Crooks of the Matter below.

Did you know? No Chelsea player made more blocks v Aston Villa than Thiago Silva (4).

Van Dijk: He knew he couldn’t score directly from the set-piece but Liverpool’s second goal came as a result of him putting the ball back in the danger zone. Van Dijk was part of another clean sheet against Leeds but looks menacing in the opposition penalty area once again. He’s been outstanding for Liverpool since his return. Ten points for them, no wins for Leeds. With Van Dijk in the team anything is possible for Liverpool again.

Did you know? Van Dijk completed 93% of his passes, attempted two shots, and made four clearances versus Leeds.

Shaw: Is it me or is Luke Shaw looking imperious at the moment? The Manchester United full-back brushed Miguel Almiron to one side in the game’s early exchanges as if the Newcastle United playmaker had no right to be on the same pitch, never mind tackle him.

The England international then proceeded to take his game into the heart of the Newcastle defence to lay on an assist for Cristiano Ronaldo. I haven’t seen Shaw play with the authority he is displaying at the moment. There is something quite special brewing at Old Trafford and Shaw is very much a part of it.

Did you know? Shaw created more goalscoring chances than any other Man Utd player v Newcastle (4), also assisting Cristiano Ronaldo’s second goal.

Midfielders: Bernardo Silva (Man City), Bruno Fernandes (Man Utd), Thiago Alcantara (Liverpool)


Bernardo Silva: I thought this player had gone. The speculation coming out of Etihad Stadium was he was on his way out but not so. This was anything but a straightforward win for Manchester City. Leicester made them work for the points and really should have got something out of the game. However, once the ball dropped in front of the Portugal international, it was game over. Silva doesn’t miss chances like that. Meanwhile Pep Guardiola continues to play around with his squad like a chef in danger of over-egging the pudding. When you are winning you can justify anything.

Did you know? Silva ended a run of 10 Premier League appearances without a goal, netting his first since February against Everton.

Fernandes: It’s only right and proper that a team like Manchester United have the best players money can buy. It is after all Manchester United. Bruno Fernandes fits that bill and his goal against Newcastle proved it. It was not only the best goal of the match but the midfielder didn’t appear to be the slightest bit overawed by the arrival or presence of his countryman Ronaldo.

Talk by some supporters, mostly Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City, suggested Ronaldo’s ego might destabilise the United dressing room. I get the feeling Fernandes is going to get on fine with Ronaldo and the United dressing room is far less likely to be intimidated by the Portuguese superstar than the teams I’ve just mentioned.

Did you know? Since making his Manchester United debut in February 2020, Bruno Fernandes has scored more goals from outside the box across all competitions than any other Premier League player (8).

Thiago: I haven’t been terribly convinced by Thiago since his arrival from Bayern Munich. He came to Anfield with a massive reputation but he has found the Premier League a different proposition to the Bundesliga. However, he has shown signs of his class and controlled the midfield against Leeds at Elland Road.

Personally I like the energy and personality of Jordan Henderson as opposed to the cool, calm and composed exterior of Thiago. But there is no doubt about it – the boy can play.

Did you know? Thiago completed 90% of his passes v Leeds, while also making more tackles than any other Liverpool player (4).

Forwards: Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace), Romelu Lukaku (Chelsea), Cristiano Ronaldo (Man Utd)


Zaha: The first thing I want to say about this game is well done referee Jonathan Moss. Last season both Japhet Tanganga and Wilfried Zaha would have been sent off for their unseemly display of petulance. However, that’s all it was. What came later was sheer madness. To see Tanganga go to ground chasing lost causes two minutes after the previous incident deserved a sending-off.

Palace wouldn’t have won this game if Spurs had kept 11 players on the pitch but Tanganga lost his composure and his discipline. Zaha, on the other hand, kept his. His penalty was well taken and his assist for Odsonne Edouard was Zaha at his best. Great first win for manager Patrick Vieira. I was starting to get a little concerned.

Did you know? Wilfried Zaha has scored all three of the Premier League penalties he has taken, netting from the spot v Spurs on Saturday, Man Utd in September 2020 and Brighton in October 2020.

Lukaku: If I had to make a choice of playing Ronaldo or Lukaku at centre forward there would be no contest. It would be Lukaku every time. Granted Ronaldo is 36. However, there is a touch of irony in the fact that Lukaku used to play for United and scored some magnificent goals but was never loved by their fans and certainly not in the way Ronaldo is.

It will also be interesting to see who scores more goals, although I put my money on Lukaku. His two against Aston Villa were the clearest indication I have seen of how the Belgian striker’s game has developed. His hold-up play against Liverpool was impressive but his ability to run away from the ball and trust the pass was outstanding. Lukaku is now the real deal.

Did you know? Lukaku – who went on to net a brace – scored his first club goal at Stamford Bridge, in what was his 15th appearance at the ground and from his 22nd attempted shot.

Ronaldo: I haven’t seen an atmosphere like this since Manchester United’s Treble-winning season. As one United fan put it to me, “I’m going to Old Trafford to see the return of the king.” Well, the king didn’t disappoint. I’ve seen Ronaldo have better games and score better goals but, at 36, with the attention placed on the five-time Ballon d’ Or winner and level of expectancy, it was a masterclass.

The issue for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer now is can he turn Ronaldo’s presence, and this glittering array of talent that now exists in his playing ranks, into trophies? If not I fear United may have to find someone who can.

Did you know? Aged 36 years and 218 days, Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo became oldest player to score a brace in a Premier League match since Graham Alexander for Burnley against Hull in April 2010 (38y 182d).

Pick your XI from our list and share with your friends.

The Crooks of the Matter

So common sense has prevailed. The veiled threat that national associations, supported by Fifa, would ban Premier League players from playing for their clubs this weekend was finally abandoned. As if they dared. Of course if they had followed through with their threat all hell would have broken loose.

I said in the Crooks of the Matter just before the international break that Fifa was making extraordinary demands of European clubs by asking them to put public health on hold for the benefit of international football. When clubs refused to send their players to countries that were categorised as being in the official red zone, Fifa responded by enforcing its rules allowing national teams to ban players from playing for their clubs for a specific period.

Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United were about to feel the force of Fifa’s jackboot but the governing body thought about the consequences and decided to don slippers instead.

Fifa may be a powerful organisation but I would caution that it uses its sanctions with great care. Interfering with the domestic business of football clubs is a dangerous pastime.

We have already seen what fans can do when football organisations overstep the mark. The Super League proposal was destroyed in a matter of days, while its architects were lucky to escape more extreme sanctions. Neither should Fifa need reminding that its rule concerning players not turning up for international duty was originally introduced to stop clubs from pretending their players were injured, mostly for friendlies, only to play days later in games they considered far more important. To impose a rule for anything other than what it was intended not only discredits the organisation but, in the modern world, puts it at risk. Fifa should take note.

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