Scholes gets the plaudits for sinking Saints
When a player completes his hat-trick in stoppage-time to win a game 3-2 there can be no debate about the man of the match surely? Despite his goals securing a dramatic three points against Southampton at St Mary's on Sunday, Manchester United forward Robin van Persie clearly disagrees.
Perhaps the former Arsenal man was wisely choosing to be humble after his embarrassing attempt at a Panenka-penalty horribly backfired. But it was fascinating that the Dutchman told Sky Sports - unprompted - after the game: "I have to say a big thank-you to Paul Scholes, when he came on everything started ticking. Every single pass he hit was the right one. Everyone felt that, I certainly did. He hit a couple of unbelievable passes over 30 metres. With him you are always on your toes because anything can happen with his qualities. For me, he is the man of the match."
Scholes has become something of a metronome in his later years - playing simple passes with robotic regularity and content to keep the ball moving. Coming on 2-1 down with half an hour remaining at St Mary's, the situation was rather more desperate. And so it was noticeable that the 37-year-old veteran was more ambitious with the ball - 17 of his 35 attempted passes were forward ones. As a result, his pass completion rate - at 80% - was significantly lower than the man he replaced, Tom Cleverley. But the substitute created three times the number of chances in half the time.
Scholes was not the direct architect of either of United's late goals. But Sir Alex Ferguson was in no doubt as to who had made the difference. "We were well out of it until Paul Scholes came on the park," he explained. "His vision and consistency of passing gave us complete control of the game. Then it was just a matter of getting the goals of course and Van Persie has come up with them."
|Chances created - Man Utd vs Southampton|
|Player Surname||Chances Created||Mins played|
Liverpool finishing could be a problem
Liverpool are still waiting for their first win of the season after a 2-0 reverse against Arsenal at Anfield on Sunday. It marks their worst three-game start to a season since 1962 and while Brendan Rodgers ought to be quick to point out that Bill Shankly was the man who presided over that opening sequence, the new Reds boss will be well aware he has a difficult challenge ahead.
Against the Gunners he named a team that should have been full of creativity. This wasn't Jay Spearing or Jordan Henderson being drafted in to replace the injured Lucas Leiva - it was Nuri Sahin, a deep-lying playmaker of some repute. And Liverpool did create opportunities - they had 19 efforts on goal to Arsenal's 11, and Rodgers was keen to pick out the positives. "We certainly played our part in the game," he said. "We had some really good moments. I've seen enough good play, good passing and good movement in there."
The problem for Liverpool is that they rarely looked like finishing them off. "We got into really good areas and had opportunities to score," Rodgers added. "It's finding that ruthless streak to finish. There were some outstanding bits of play but you've got to put the ball in the net, it's that simple, and we didn't do that."
But will this squad be able to do that any time soon? Fabio Borini was signed from Roma in a £10million move early in the summer but the 21-year-old arrives with promise rather than proven pedigree. The youngster has just nine top-flight goals to his name. With another place in Liverpool's front three taken up by the gifted 17-year-old Raheem Sterling that leaves a huge responsibility on the shoulders of Luis Suarez - a player with a Premier League goalscoring record of around one in three.
|Lowest Shooting Accuracy - PL 2012/13|
|Team Name||Total Shots Attempted||Shooting Accuracy|
|Queens Park Rangers||26||42.31%|
Fulham fail to deal with Hammers approach
You don't need Jose Mourinho in the dugout to appreciate that Andy Carroll signing for Sam Allardyce's West Ham was going to mean one thing - the ball hurtling towards the forward's head with players hoping to feed off the second ball. But Fulham were unable to do anything about it at Upton Park on Saturday. As skipper Brede Hangeland said after the game: "We expected to have a lot of possession but we did not defend well enough on the things we knew they were good at."
It was a fair assessment. They knew what was coming and Allardyce did not disappoint. Jussi Jaaskelainen played 24 long balls in this game - the same number he had attempted in the Hammers' previous two Premier League games combined. The home side looked for Carroll on the diagonals or even straight through the centre and while Hangeland is equally impressive in the air and was able to win his fair share of headers he could do nothing about the swarm of midfielders that West Ham succeeded in getting up to support the Liverpool loanee.
Of the 17 clearances attempted by Fulham only four were picked up by another white shirt. West Ham simply anticipated the second ball better. Nolan's run went unchecked for the first-minute opener and it also proved crucial for Matt Taylor's goal that effectively finished the game as a contest. Two Fulham defenders competed with Carroll for the long ball but Taylor was left unmarked to strike home the Hammers' third goal of the first half.
Martin Jol summed the game up with a matter-of-fact clarity that had you wondering how he'd allowed it to happen. "Normally to analyse a team like Chelsea or Manchester United it is difficult but with West Ham it is easier," said the Fulham boss. "We know that they will play the long ball and look for knockdowns and the first goal is disappointing because we spoke about it, we did not pick up at the end of the first long ball. The second goal was a corner kick and the third goal was the same, a big ball and a knockdown and we didn't pick up the second ball."