United Quartet In Team Of The Week (21/8/17)
Manchester United are represented in the latest Premier League team of the week that has been selected by BBC pundit Garth Crooks.
Actually Garth is now down as a 'Football Analyst' these days, a posh term for a pundit then!
The performances by Eric Bailly, Antonio Valencia, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba in the four nil victory over Swansea City at the weekend at the Liberty Stadium was enough to earn them a place in the side alongside the other, in the opinion of the former Spurs striker anyway, most impressive performers in the topflight over the latest weekend.
I think we'll already know ourselves, and not just based on the latest performance, why Crooks, we'll also not argue with it, selected all four as part of his team but explaining his choice he told the BBC.
'I want to like this player, but he always gives me the 'willies'. Eric Bailly, on his day, is a class act - a point clearly demonstrated against Swansea - but why does he give me a sense of nervous apprehension every time he plays? I can't help feeling he's a tackle away from a red card or giving a penalty away. Against the likes of Swansea he will be fine, but it's in the big games, when it really matters, that I find myself asking the question: can he be trusted?'
'What an excellent choice of captain by United manager Jose Mourinho. Antonio Valencia proved to be an excellent player under former boss Sir Alex Ferguson and looks even more valuable to United in this season's title-chasing campaign under Mourinho. The Ecuadorian can still deliver the first-time cross when in advanced areas - unlike most full-backs in the Premier League - and is as quick in recovery as any defender in the top flight. Against a totally outclassed Swansea, Valencia looked unflappable and reflects a calm demeanour not normally associated with a Mourinho side. The Swans, meanwhile, hardly laid a glove on United (regardless of the score on 79 minutes) and with midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson gone to Everton, the measured manager Paul Clement needs to replace his best player with another talisman very quickly, otherwise his season could be over quicker than a verse of Land Of My Fathers.'
'To keep midfielder Ander Herrera out of the team tells its own story, but Henrikh Mkhitaryan is doing much more than that at the moment. The Armenia international complements this new-look Manchester United team perfectly. This is a very uncomplicated footballer. He doesn't fuss when things don't go his own way and loves to get involved in the action. Mkhitaryan was responsible for striker Romelu Lukaku and midfielder Paul Pogba's goals, which both came within a matter of minutes. It was also Mkhitaryan's performance that put the game well out of Swansea's reach.'
'Pogba's header from the corner was impressive during the 4-0 win over Swansea, but why on earth did defender Federico Fernandez not just clear the rebound from the underside of the bar instead of trying to protect his goalkeeper? Lukasz Fabianski didn't need protecting, he needed a clearance. To be perfectly honest, it wouldn't have mattered anyway because, without Sigurdsson, the chances of Swansea winning this fixture were so remote it wasn't even worth a bet. Regardless, this was a Pogba performance worth noting. Apart from the ridiculous brown patch in his hair, he produced a game free of the showboating and scored a goal of real class. His yellow card was justified, but what took place thereafter was so measured and so utterly professional and selfless, it was in stark contrast to anything I had seen from the player before. I keep hearing pundits (mostly his mates) telling me Pogba is capable of almost anything. Well, I think we are finally starting to see it. It is about time.'
It's always good to see the club represented in this way, and well played to all four for their recognition, but the most important thing about the weekend was of course the win.
Jack Butland (Stoke City), Andrew Robertson (Liverpool), Eric Bailly (Manchester United), Harry Maguire (Leicester City), Antonio Valencia (Manchester United), Aaron Mooy (Huddersfield Town), Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Manchester United), Paul Pogba (Manchester United), Marcos Alonso (Chelsea), Javier Hernandez (West Ham), Jese Rodriguez (Stoke City).