Liverpool v Man City: Match in pictures
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On a weekend when the Premier League’s two best footballing teams were on their finest display, it became clear that it will be an individual who wins the Premier League. Certainly if Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Cristiano Ronaldo continue to get their wires crossed under the watchful eye of Sir Alex Ferguson. But Express reporter Matthew Dunn is most astounded that Mike Dean still gets a mention on a weekend in which he was not even a referee.
MO VALUABLE PLAYER
AS Liverpool and Manchester City demonstrated on Sunday – and in fairness, for spells, City and Chelsea before them – there are some exceptional teams in the Premier League this season.
And when it comes to fine margins, it will essentially come down to who has the most exceptional individual.
Mo Salah, not content with being a 30-goal-a-season goalscorer, has become a player with an eye for an assist and a willingness to track back into an auxiliary right-back when required.
His sublime goal showed that at times he can be literally untouchable.
Much as Kevin De Bruyne or Bernardo Silva and N’Golo Kante, Jorginho or even Romelu Lukaku can be influential players, Salah is the stand-out player of the season so far.
It will be hard to deny him a Premier League winner’s medal.
PHILLING IN TIME
AT 22-and-a-half, Barcelona star Diego Maradona’s performance was so good in El Clasico that Real Madrid fans applauded him off the pitch.
Same age, Pele led Santos to become the only Brazilian team to win the Copa Libertadores on Argentine soil.
Cristiano Ronaldo was on his way to completing a unique clean sweep of PFA and FWA player and young player of the year awards while Lionel Messi picked up his first Ballon D’Or by the biggest voting margin in the competition’s history.
Phil Foden turns 22-and-a-half at the World Cup finals in Qatar.
For him to stand out alongside Salah in the exhibition of football at Anfield on Sunday shows that, injury-willing, he will be ready to win that tournament for England.
RONALDO’S PRESENCE HAS STRINGS ATTACHED
IS CRISTIANO RONALDO here to help Ole Gunnar Solskjaer or to undermine him.
Right now the whole club feels too much like a puppet show, with Sir Alex Ferguson holding far too many of the strings.
Every decision Solskjaer makes about Ronaldo is scrutinised. Every piece of body language Ronaldo produces is analysed.
Meanwhile, whenever Ronaldo brings the club alive, Ferguson is not far away smiling like some warm-hearted Geppetto figure in the directors’ box.
The worry is, the whole thing seems to be a tortured lie.
Ronaldo’s first concern has always been Ronaldo and right now, rather than being the manager to help him see out his playing days as a legend, Solskjaer presence is being portrayed as more of a hurdle.
The super-sub is being subbed himself in the affections of the United fans. So a 1-1 draw with Everton and a Ronaldo stomp down the tunnel undermines Solskjaer’s position.
He could turn to Fergie for advice, but whose side is he on?
And would the box office-minded American owners actually enjoy seeing how the world’s greatest player cuts it as a manager?
FARKE FINALLY AT THE EDGE OF A VERY LOW PRECIPICE
WATCHING a new Watford manager arrive is like waiting for buses. Certainly when it comes to their recent longevity in terms of days. The No. 85, no. 227, no. 129 and most recently, Xisco Munoz, the no. 258.
The newest conductor is Claudio Ranieri. Dilly ding! Dilly dong! All aboard please!
Watford upset the purists with their regular leadership changes, but it seems to work for them and the axe was swung at the weekend because they spotted a “negative trend”.
Which is worrying news for Daniel Farke. All the time Norwich were losing, the “trends” were all dead level.
Finally, and it has taken seven games before their draw with Burnley, they have something to lose.
HE’S REFFING EVERYWHERE
THE final word goes to a familiar figure – but how does Mike Dean do it? He managed to become a key figure in two Premier League matches this weekend, without even getting to blow his whistle once.
As the VAR for Chelsea against Southampton, he encouraged on-field referee Martin Atkinson to rule out what Timo Werner thought was a perfectly good goal – a cruel act against the struggling striker whatever the circumstances.
Then he effectively decided the outcome of the match by whispering in Atkinson’s ear yet again and persuading him to turn a yellow-card decision into a red.
So it was no surprise to see that the fourth official Pep Guardiola was booked for having a rant against at Anfield was a certain former slaugherhouseman from the Wirral.
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