Henderson thriving after Gait-gate as Liverpool run riot
While you have to at least acknowledge Sir Alex Ferguson's openness and willingness to be forthright with opinions in his recently-published autobiography - it's those qualities that make it such a compelling read, after all - it's fair to say that the comments made about Jordan Henderson were in pretty poor taste. For the former United gaffer to suggest that Henderson's running style could make him destined to suffer from injuries as his career progresses was both completely unnecessary and not at all kind on the player.
Another, less disputable comment however, was that Henderson is 'among those who would need to prove their credentials' under Brendan Rodgers. On the evidence of Liverpool's last two games the 23-year-old is on course to do just that.
In the absence of Steven Gerrard, who may now be concerning himself this Christmas with how on Earth he's going to get back into this swashbuckling Liverpool team, Henderson again put in a fantastic performance, which will largely go under the radar as the country gets its knickers in a twist about Luis Suarez.
Some of Henderson's passing against Cardiff was absolutely sublime - the pass for Suarez's opening goal and another in the build-up to Raheem Sterling's strike were two particular highlights. Henderson created more chances than any player on the day, and is gradually beginning to mature into the reliable and quality midfielder that his potential promised.
ANALYSE IT Liverpool 3-1 Cardiff
Youngsters thriving at United but Rooney still the main man
There was a lot for David Moyes to be positive about after Manchester United dispatched West Ham 3-1 at Old Trafford. The victory was comfortable in truth, and only a dubious disallowed goal for the hosts and Alex Büttner's carelessness in playing Carlton Cole miles onside prevented the scoreline from looking even more convincing.
For United, Danny Welbeck (23), Phil Jones (21) and Adnan Januzaj (18) stood out, while Tom Cleverley (24) had an afternoon to be very satisfied with, misplacing only one of his 57 passes.
United's main man however is Wayne Rooney, as he has continued to be all season. Playing in a more withdrawn role behind Welbeck upfront, Rooney showed he has immense versatility to his game. The England international, much-maligned over the summer, led the way for passes, attacking third passes, chances created and ball recoveries, often dropping deep to regain possession and build play. One definite tick in Moyes' half-term report will be keeping Rooney, and then getting him back to his brilliant best.
Manchester United 3-1 West Ham - Analyse it
Stoke style guide a work in progress
Much has been made this season of Stoke changing their style of play under Mark Hughes. While it is true to a certain extent - the Potters' possession count is up from 43.3% last season to 47.9% in 2013/14 - there remains a tendency to go long if all else fails.
In the 2-1 win over Aston Villa, long unwieldy hoof balls from Asmir Begovic to Peter Crouch was Stoke's second most popular passing combination after Geoff Cameron to Crouch (another combination that mostly involved long, direct passes). The style guide isn't quite complete at the Britannia Stadium just yet. For Stoke at the moment it's a case of 'do what you know' if you don't know what to do.
Stoke City 2-1 Aston Villa - Analyse it
Pardew continues to prove his managerial credentials
Newcastle made light work of Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park, comfortably seeing off the hosts 3-0. Palace had been in good form leading up to this fixture - they'd won two of their last three games and were very unlucky not to get something from Stamford Bridge last weekend in a game Palace didn't deserve to lose. Nonetheless, Newcastle had too much for them and much of the praise for this lays at Alan Pardew's door.
Returning to the club where he made his name as a player, Pardew continued to show his tactical versatility by leaving Shola Ameobi out and reverting back to the same midfield and forward line that won at Old Trafford earlier in the month. Loic Remy operated as a lone striker surrounded by Yoan Gouffran, Moussa Sissoko, Yohan Cabaye, Vurnon Anita and Cheik Tiote.
Ultimately the extra man in midfield won Newcastle the game as they totally dominated this area of the field. Defensively they won nearly all their tackles - Anita winning 7/7 - Tiote was the pass master, making 100 passes and completing 86 of them, and Cabaye provided the cutting edge, scoring the opening goal. Newcastle lie in 6th with four wins from their last six league games, and Pardew's intelligent tactics have played a big part in this upturn in fortunes.
Crystal Palace 0-3 Newcastle - Analyse it
Meulensteen must unlock Taarabt's potential for Fulham to survive
Manchester City survived a scare to just about get away from Craven Cottage with three points, but Fulham will feel frustrated at what they might see as an opportunity lost. In Dimitar Berbatov's absence Rene Meulensteen opted to leave Darren Bent on the bench and use Adel Taarabt as a false nine. Unfortunately for the former Manchester United coach, the way Taarabt so often flatters to deceive makes him falser than most.
Taarabt dropped extremely deep given his nominal position in attack, receiving nearly 1/3rd of his passes in his own half. Indeed the Moroccan only received the ball in City's box twice - and one of those was offside. It meant there was no-one to get on the end of Fulham's many crosses.
Despite this Taarabt's ability is obvious, and he must surely go down as one of the game's most frustrating players in recent years. Taarabt was a threat when suitably inspired, grabbing an assist and topping the game for shots on target and successful take-ons.
Meulensteen must get the best out of him if Fulham are to survive. There is Barcelona-level magic in Taarabt's feet. Sadly, it's often mixed with a work-rate not even Basildon United would countenance.
Fulham 2-4 Manchester City - Analyse it
Sunderland need a striker as Altidore struggles to cut it
On the evidence of Sunderland's 0-0 draw with Norwich it would be no surprise if Gus Poyet is pondering a move for a striker in the January transfer window. The Black Cats have the league's second lowest goal tally so far and as the weeks go by there is added urgency in the need for firepower.
Sunderland managed 19 shots against the Canaries but only 4 on target, and while many of them were from distance - suggesting that creativity in general is lacking - that Jozy Altidore and Steven Fletcher only managed two blocked shots between them over 90 minutes speaks volumes.
Fletcher replaced Altidore in the 68th minute, and the American really needs to prove himself soon or this could end up being a second unsuccessful stint in England. Altidore has one goal in 11 starts so far - simply not good enough. As it stands the equation is simple for Sunderland: no goals, no survival.
Sunderland 0-0 Norwich City - Analyse it
Huddlestone leads the way for the Tigers
He might not be able to cut his hair any time soon but Tom Huddlestone impressed once again at the heart of Hull's midfield, helping his side to a creditable 1-1 draw that leaves them sitting comfortably in 12th. The former Spurs man was quietly efficient and led the way for his team with more passes than any other Hull player and more ball recoveries than anyone else on the pitch.
Huddlestone can be a frustrating player at times. The talent is obvious, but he seems to play within himself too often. Steve Bruce has given him the platform to once again prove his ability, and the midfielder is doing a pretty decent job of it for Hull so far.
West Brom 1-1 Hull - Analyse it
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