Check out my team and then make your own selections towards the bottom of the article.
Goalkeeper – Nick Pope (Burnley)
Nick Pope: Up until their game against Liverpool I didn’t even consider Burnley’s Nick Pope for my team of the week. In fact, Alisson was nailed on after his game against Manchester United. The performance by the Brazilian keeper not only kept Liverpool in the game against United but gained them a point. However, when you’re a spectator for as long as Alisson was against Burnley, a lapse in concentration or error in judgement is often inevitable. Pope, on the other hand, was never out of the game and produce save after save. I apologise to Leicester’s Kasper Schmeichel and Manchester City’s Ederson, who both kept two clean sheets this week, but Burnley’s victory at Anfield was their first for 46 years and Liverpool have not lost at home for nearly four years, so it is so special it would be wrong not to acknowledge it. What a massive wake-up call for Brighton, Fulham, West Brom and Sheffield United.
Did you know? Pope has made 14 saves in his last two games at Anfield, including six during Burnley’s win on Thursday.
Defenders – Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), John Stones (Man City), Luke Shaw (Man Utd)
Jordan Henderson: How Liverpool came away with a point against Manchester United was probably down to Allison and Henderson. It was impressive to see Fabinho fill in so brilliantly at the back, but to see Henderson do the same – and against United when so much was on the game – was impressive. Henderson and Fabinho kept Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Edinson Cavani all reasonably quiet on the night. Henderson was left out of the fixture against Burnley as a precaution. Very wise, they can’t afford to lose him for any length of time but my goodness did they need Henderson against Burnley. Liverpool’s injury list is so bad at the moment players must get treatment by appointment only.
Did you know? Playing out of position in central defence, Henderson made four clearances against Man Utd – more than any other Liverpool player.
John Stones: I’ve resisted the overtures from various quarters about the resurgence of John Stones at Manchester City. I’ve fallen for a few false dawns since the player’s arrival at Etihad Stadium and thought I’d be a little more cautious this time around. However, his recent performances have been impressive, hence the faith Pep Guardiola has shown in the defender. His goals against Crystal Palace were a further indication of the player’s confidence. Three games, three clean sheets and two goals for Stones in the past 10 days. That’s England form.
Did you know? Against Palace, City defender Stones netted the third double of his senior career, having also scored twice against Feyenoord in September 2017 and for England against Panama at the 2018 World Cup.
Luke Shaw: If I was going to pick anyone out of this fixture in a Manchester United shirt against Liverpool it was Luke Shaw. A performance like this from the full-back has been a long time coming, but when it came it was worth watching. He’s finally established himself as the number one left-back at United but it’s not been easy. He was also pretty solid in the victory over Burnley but he was outstanding against the champions. He is still no Patrice Evra or Denis Irwin but if he keeps playing like this anything’s possible.
Did you know? Shaw had more touches (69) and successful passes (33) than any other Man Utd player v Liverpool.
Midfielders – James Maddison (Leicester), Ilkay Gundogan (Man City), Tanguy Ndombele (Spurs), Paul Pogba (Man Utd)
James Maddison: The movement was matched only by the quality of the finish. James Maddison peeled away from Jack Stephens beautifully and once he found himself in on goal smashed the ball past a stranded Alex McCarthy. I’m not normally one for overly creative goal celebrations but I loved Maddison’s observations of the newly imposed Covid-19 rules. It was nicely done. His goal against a woeful Chelsea days later wasn’t quite so spectacular but just as important. It took them briefly to the top of the table. You can read more about my thoughts on player celebration restrictions in the Crooks of the Matter below.
Did you know? Leicester midfielder Maddison has scored in three consecutive league appearances for the first time in his career.
Ilkay Gundogan: This lad has played in all of Manchester City’s fixtures during a 10-day period, which is an indication of how much Pep Guardiola values the Germany international. His goal against Crystal Palace was a peach but in the absence of the substituted Kevin de Bruyne against Aston Villa, Gundogan not only took the captain’s armband but put the finishing touches to a dubious penalty decision given against Matty Cash due to this ridiculous handball rule. Bearing in mind Aston Villa hadn’t played for 19 days due to cancellations caused by Covid, they still made life very difficult for City. It’s a three-horse race now. City, Liverpool and Manchester United are all capable of winning it and I still can’t call it.
Did you know? Gundogan’s penalty against Villa was his seventh goal in all competitions this season, his best goalscoring season in his top-flight career.
Tanguy Ndombele: It’s clear that the relationship between Tanguy Ndombele and Jose Mourinho has improved immeasurably from the days when the Tottenham manager wouldn’t give the player the time of day. Over a period of months we’ve seen the France international start to dominate matches and seen Mourinho less inclined to substitute the player late in games. Ndombele has, in return, grown in confidence and looked very impressive away at Sheffield United. His goal was quite brilliant and while Spurs have lacked craft and ingenuity in midfield, especially at home, here is a player who might suddenly provide the answer.
Did you know? As well as scoring, no Spurs player made more tackles (3) or interceptions (3) against Sheffield United than Ndombele.
Paul Pogba: I’m not the slightest bit surprised by the timing of Paul Pogba’s resurgence. Call me cynical but it was always on the cards. I said once Manchester United became a serious threat to Liverpool’s title chances Pogba would join the party. The France international’s performance against Burnley comes at a time when Harry Maguire, Bruno Fernandes and Rashford had fought their way through the difficult part of the season. However, his appetite for the fight has now returned. His winning goal and performance against Burnley was very revealing, while his display against Liverpool was a further indication that Pogba means business. However, his strike and winning goal against Fulham was sensational and cemented what has been a glorious 10 days for the United star.
Did you know? Since his return to the club in 2016, no Man Utd player has scored more league goals from outside the box than Pogba (6).
Forwards – Harry Kane (Spurs), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal), Edinson Cavani (Man Utd)
Harry Kane: Tottenham’s 1-1 draw at home against Fulham wasn’t that impressive, unlike Harry Kane’s diving header, but make no mistake the victory away at Sheffield United was as good as it gets. It may have been the way Mourinho set his team up that may have had something to do with it. Conceding one goal is bad enough for Mourinho but he’s quite entitled to collect all the points if you score three goals away from home. Kane was in sparkling form and produced the most exquisite finish to put Spurs 2-1 up against the Blades, who are becoming increasingly desperate for points. Spurs may not be good enough to win the title but they look capable of finishing in the top four.
Did you know? Kane’s 19 goals in all competitions is the most of any Premier League player in 2020-21.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang: Arsenal’s game against Crystal Palace may have been a non-event but the game against Newcastle was anything but. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was bang in form again and his finishing deadly. The Arsenal striker scored two and probably should have had a hat-trick against the Magpies. His side-foot that hit the post in the first half was a good indicator as to what sort of night Newcastle were in for and Arsenal’s young guns didn’t disappoint. Meanwhile, the Geordies are in trouble and so is manager Steve Bruce. Their defeat against Sheffield United wasn’t pretty but they just fell apart after the first goal against the Gunners.
Did you know? Aubameyang scored as many goals in Arsenal’s win over Newcastle as he had in his previous 15 league appearances (2).
Edinson Cavani: This player may have a massive influence on where the title goes. Brought in as a support act for Rashford, Martial and Mason Greenwood, the Uruguayan has looked a better fit in the United set-up when he’s played than all the others on occasions. His work-rate is phenomenal and his desire to score goals insatiable. It’s taken him some time to settle in the team but he was outstanding against Fulham and now provides Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with a selection headache. What’s more, it comes at a time when Manchester United have one eye on the title. Solskjaer had better get this right.
Did you know? Cavani became the first Man Utd player whose first four Premier League goals for the club were all scored away from home.
The Crooks of the Matter
The debate over the extent professional players celebrate after a goal gathered pace after the new EFL chief executive Trevor Birch encouraged clubs and players to re-double their efforts in order to observe the protocols. A fair point if players persist on having parties and special gatherings that clearly flout the rules, but on celebrations after a goal is scored? Even the CEO of the Premier League, Richard Masters, requested that players “adjust their behaviours on the pitch, in goal celebrations and around the beginning and the end of matches”. Really? Is anyone seriously suggesting that by the time a player enters the field of play, with all the necessary tests having taken place, avoiding contact is still required or even possible?
Pick your XI from our list and share with your friends.
- You can stream five fifth-round games live on the BBC this weekend, including Liverpool’s trip to Manchester United. Find out more here.