There were some who cocked it up on Wednesday night too…
Mason Greenwood (Manchester United)
Six days after the 17-year-old dug United out of Europa League hole, Greenwood did the same – almost literally – against Rochdale. It would have been the second wining goal on his second senior start had his team-mates further back not been taken to school by a schoolboy.
Greenwood would have started against Rochdale but the injuries to Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial gave Ole Gunnar Solskjaer no choice but to play United’s most exciting youngster through the middle. It may well have been that he starts against Arsenal next Monday regardless of how he fared against League One Rochdale, but Greenwood – one of only two players to enhance their prospects – carried by far the biggest threat in an otherwise impotent United attack.
It took a couple of opportunities for the Bradford-born starlet to get his eye in, but like last week, when the opportunity came on the right to go either way, Greenwood this time chose to chop on to his right foot before dispatching a fine low effort past the excellent Robert Sanchez. Even if Solskjaer had alternatives, the United boss should retain his faith in the teenager.
Left ➡️ right
Right ➡️ left
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) September 26, 2019
Harvey Elliott (Liverpool)
The debate raged last week whether a 16-year-old should be playing senior football but on Wednesday night in Milton Keynes, Liverpool teenager Elliott demonstrated that he is ready to mix it with the big boys.
The youngest debutant in the Reds’ history started on the right of Rhian Brewster in a front three with a combined age of 56. Playing in the same team as James Milner, who made his Premier League debut before Elliott was in the womb, the former Fulham starlet offered a performance full of guile and imagination which was close to being capped with his first senior goal after hitting the bar twice.
Jurgen Klopp was impressed: “At 16 years old still, this kind of footballer is really good for us. He is a brilliant boy, he takes the situation really well and wants to learn. He will always be a special player for moments, but you see overall with his defending and movements, it is not easy so that is really good.”
Bring on Arsenal.
Reece James (Chelsea)
It has not been a good week for Cesar Azpilicueta. First he had an equaliser ruled out by VAR against Liverpool before featuring in our five captains fans don’t even want to see on the pitch. Then, on Wednesday, James demonstrated why many Chelsea supporters don’t want Azpilicueta in the XI anymore.
The right-back, who impressed on loan at Wigan last season, scored a wonderfully taken goal and offered two assists to outshine £58million attacker Christian Pulisic ahead of him. More than his tangible contribution in attack, the 19-year-old thundered up and down Chelsea’s right flank all night showing that he is ready for the responsibility of being a Chelsea first-team regular.
He wasn’t alone in that. Billy Gilmour ‘ran the game from midfield’, according to Frank Lampard, who picked the 18-year-old midfielder alongside four first-team debutants. But James looks the Chelsea youngster most likely to follow in the footsteps of Callum Hudson-Odoi and Mason Mount by making himself a regular.
Pick of the bunch? 🤔
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) September 26, 2019
Conor Hourihane (Aston Villa)
“I can’t do too much more, really,” said the Villa midfielder after scoring the second goal while helping Villa to a 3-1 win at Brighton on Wednesday night.
Hourihane makes a fair point. He started the season for Villa at Tottenham but lost his place to Douglas Luiz after the opening weekend. In the last five Premier League games, he has played only 24 minutes.
So the 28-year-old has to make the most of his opportunities when they come and he did just that again at the AmEx. His case for a first XI recall was bolstered by a fine first-time finish and an impressive all-round showing in midfield, adding to a two-goal display in the last round at Crewe. Matt Targett did his selection hopes no harm either by being involved in all three goals from left-back in his first full 90 minutes for the club.
Axel Tuanzebe (Manchester United)
We would normally pick out five players from five different Premier League clubs but Sheffield United got turned over at home by Sunderland, West Ham embarrassed themselves at Oxford, and there was very little to give Nuno anything to think about in Wolves’ penalty shoot-out win over Reading.
So we go back to Old Trafford, where Tuanzebe completed the captaincy set. Prior to the visit of Rochdale, the defender had skippered United at every age group through the ranks at Old Trafford before being chucked the armband by Solskjaer an hour or so before kick-off against his home-town team.
That he led out a team with many more senior players, including Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard and Phil Jones, tells you as much about their standing as it does about Tuanzebe’s. But on his big night, the 21-year-old was one of only two outfield starters to do themselves any favours. A solid showing alongside Jones and defensive hand-grenade Marco Rojo reinforced his status as United’s third-choice centre-back behind Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire.
🇾🇪Axel Tuanzebe vs. Rochdale:
• 72/73 accurate passes
• 2 chances created
• 3/5 aerial duels won
• 1/1 tackles won
Oh captain, my captain. pic.twitter.com/UwFOdQuh3X
— ً (@utdrobbo) September 26, 2019