In recent times Arsenal have appeared cowed against the better teams, so it was perhaps encouraging that they imposed their own game on Everton, says Nick Miller...
Spain have such an embarrassment of riches that the likes of Jesé Rodriguéz, Isco, Dani Carvajal and Alvaro Morata are in the U-21s. Where does the production line end?
Back in 2006, Wayne Rooney was sent off for England at the World Cup. You'll probably remember it. Ricardo Carvalho certainly does. Or, rather more specifically, Ricardo Carvalho's balls do, being the nethers that were stamped on for Rooney to earn said card.
Rooney was but a pup at the time, a few months short of his 21st birthday. Thus such hot-headedness could be explained and excused, for we all do stupid things when we're young, but most of us have the fortune to have these stupid things confined to pubs or parks or bedrooms to which we'd never be invited again, rather than in front of 62,000 people in Gelsenkirchen and about a gazillion others watching on the telly.
Still, you'll probably all remember the atmosphere of blame at the time, as is present after any England exit from a major tournament. Somebody had to hang for this, and as nobody really had the appetite to string up the youthful Rooney, Sven-Goran Eriksson was the man. Eriksson had of course already incurred the wrath of a foaming press for his wandering eye (and indeed wandering penis), for the whole Baden-Baden circus (women were allowed near our brave boys! Imagine!), for supposedly 'wasting' the Golden Generation (TM), and he was leaving after relieving the FA of a tidy sum of cash. Thus, he was blamed - and not only blamed for the apparently premature exit from the competition, but blamed for Rooney's sending-off.
Rooney was frustrated, you see. Frustrated because the 4-5-1 system Eriksson played didn't provide him with enough service, and what service he did receive was insufficient. Faced with that, you can see there really was no alternative for Rooney but to try turning someone's love spuds into guacamole. Eriksson was even asked about it at that post-tournament press conference when he pleaded with the gathered gargoyles not to 'kill' Rooney. Don't worry about that Svennis - you were the man they were constructing an effigy for.
Eriksson said at the time: "I don't think that added to the pressure. The pressure he put on himself was that he missed some of his touches because he hasn't played for a long while."
To blame Eriksson was of course tish and fipsy even at the time, but if Svennles was watching Cardiff v Manchester United on Sunday, assuming he wasn't busy with his two beautiful women in Thailand, he presumably would have felt even more vindicated.
Because doing stupid things like stamping on a man's genitalia is just what Wayne Rooney does, regardless of his age. Rooney's kick on Jordon Mutch on Sunday was almost identical to the one that resulted in his red card while playing for England against Monetengro a few years ago, when he kicked Miodrag Dzudovic. Pointless, in an innocuous part of the pitch, after very little provocation. The only difference this time was that he wasn't properly punished.
It speaks to why a section of the Manchester United support would rather not have Rooney in their team. For all the goals and sometimes excellent performances, Rooney also provides plenty of ammunition for those that would have preferred him to be sold in the summer. His weight, fitness, that when he is out of form he isn't just bad but a liability whose second touch is usually a tackle, and the sense that the latest red mist might be just around the corner - it adds up.
These losses of temper are admittedly relatively infrequent. He has only been sent off twice in his Manchester United career and twice for England, but they were all for acts of petulance, and all spread over a significant period of time. There was the dismissal against Villarreal in the Champions League for sarcastically applauding referee Kim Milton Nielsen, then a similar red against Fulham in the Premier League for throwing the ball (sort of) at Phil Dowd. Then we have the two dismissals for England, as well as a number of other unpunished flashes of foolishness - a scrap with Keith Gillespie against Northern Ireland and an elbow on James McCarthy of Wigan spring to mind.
The notable thing is that the incidents listed there occurred when Rooney was 19, 24, 20, 26, 19 and 26, with the Mutch booting of course at his current age of 28. These aren't the actions of a kid who doesn't know any better, but a pattern, evidence that age and experience have not matured Rooney, and that there's no telling when the next potentially enormously harmful brainfade will happen. It's also worth noting that, in the four games in which Rooney was dismissed, his team won none of them.
He claims to have learned though. Speaking about the Villarreal dismissal, he said in 2008:
"Yeah, it was a reality check for me. It was a ridiculous thing to do. When I was in the dressing room when I got sent off I was just thinking "Why have I just done that?"
"I learned from that. I made sure I did. It was a big turning point. You don't want to be in the dressing room wondering what you could be doing for the team if you were still out there."
Quite clearly he hasn't learned. When it comes to inexplicable and sudden acts of violence that could be costly to his team, Wayne Rooney most definitely is that sort of player.
Nick Miller - follow him on Twitter