Team of the Week – Manchester United & Arsenal’s forgotten men shine whilst Burnley defenders star

By Benjamin Wills.

This week’s standout performers from the Burnley team that beat champions Manchester City and triumphant Aston Villa side that cost Sunderland boss Gus Poyet his job, plus star men for United, Palace and Arsenal.

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Goalkeeper: Mark Schwarzer (Leicester City)

The Foxes are currently stuck at the basement of the league, and a 0-0 draw at home to near league neighbours Hull City will be a missed opportunity.

It would have been far worse, though, if it wasn’t for their veteran goalkeeper, with 41-year-old Schwarzer making five saves and keeping a clean sheet at the King Power Stadium.

Right-back: Kieran Trippier (Burnley)

Without question the result of the weekend: relegation-threatened Burnley triumphing over title-chasing Manchester City at Turf Moor.

Trippier did more than his fair share in this Lancashire hotpot – keeping one of the finest players in the league, David Silva, stunted, as well as providing the cross that eventually led to George Boyd’s winner.

Centre-back: Michael Duff (Burnley)

Much like colleague Trippier, Duff was a rock at the back, limiting the champions to just four shots on target and keeping the vital clean sheet.

Goalkeeper Tom Heaton had very little to do all evening, with only tame efforts from Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko and Wilfried Bony giving him any work to do.

Left-back: Ciaran Clark (Aston Villa)

Aston Villa’s annihilation of Sunderland at the Stadium of the Light was the standout result from the Saturday afternoon kick-offs, but while the strikers got the headlines, the defence also did a sterling job.

Sunderland were woeful from start to finish, but did still fashion 12 shots at goal (two of which were on target) with Clark proving sturdy at the back.

The versatile defender, who can also play in midfield, also provided the assist for the second goal of the match, with Gabriel Agbonlahor latching onto his long ball to make it 2-0.

Right midfield: Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace)

Probably Zaha’s best performance in Palace Claret and Blue since their Championship days – the young English winger opened the scoring after 21 minutes against Queens Park Rangers and then assisted the hosts’ third goal.

He collided with the post after sliding in to break the deadlock, so to set up a goal 22 minutes later, jinking away from three QPR defenders to tee up Joel Ward – was pretty impressive. Zaha was eventually replaced 12 minutes into the second half.

Centre midfield: Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal)

Ramsey has not enjoyed the highs and superlatives of last season, but yesterday afternoon’s efforts won back a few fans, at least.

Olivier Giroud’s deadlock breaker in first-half stoppage time came after a trademark Arsenal pass and move goal, with Ramsey’s touch the final one before Giroud made it 1-0.

Welsh wizard Ramsey conjured up a goal of his own nine minutes before the end as a result of a neat one-two with Giroud to end the tie as a contest before Mathieu Flamini completed the scoring.

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Centre midfield: Michael Carrick (Manchester United)

To say Manchester United’s performances this year have been abject is an understatement. They have been getting the results, but the displays have left fans with more than a few complaints.

On his return to the side, however, Michael Carrick made United tick again. He provided the pass that set up Marouane Fellaini’s goal after just nine minutes, and then scored himself 11 minutes later.

His first Premier League start since January 17, and within 20 minutes he had sealed the win for his side against a top-four rival. Welcome back, Michael – Old Trafford has missed you.

Left midfield: Yannick Bolasie (Crystal Palace)

Like his counterpart Zaha on the other side, Bolasie was on sparkling form at Selhurst Park.

The winger, this one of the left-sided variety, found Zaha for 1-0 and got his second assist of the match with an identical low cross that James McArthur slotted home with an equal amount of ease five minutes before half-time.

Centre attacking midfield: George Boyd (Burnley)

A lot has been made of Burnley’s triumph over Manchester City, and deservedly so. Well, Boyd was the star performer for Sean Dyche’s side.

It was his volley just after the hour mark that lifted the Clarets up to 18th, one point off safety, and put his name on the back pages.

City had a pre-warning before that as well, as he hit an earlier rasping volley just wide of Joe Hart’s far post before having his name up in lights a few minutes later and he was deservedly voted Man of the Match by his devoted fans.

Striker: Gabriel Agbonlahor (Aston Villa)

Before Tim Sherwood, Aston Villa did not score a great deal, under Sherwood, good luck stopping them.

Club legend Gabriel Agbonlahor and the previously misfiring Christian Benteke, both scored braces in the 4-0 win at Sunderland.

Agbonlahor made it 2-0 after 18 minutes and 3-0 in the 37th with two very calm and composed finishes to make it three wins in a row in all competitions for the Villains.

Striker: Christian Benteke (Aston Villa)

Benteke also got in the goalscoring act with two goals of his own in the North East, seizing on a calamitous Sunderland back four for goals number one and four for the away side.

The Belgian brute now has three goals in his last three games, and looks to be back to his best – he will need to be, too, in the crucial run-in to keep the Midlands side in the promised land of the Premier League.

Who would be in your team of the week?

Read more from Benjamin Wills here.

Follow @BenjaminWillsSJ

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