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All Things Footie | Monday, September 16 | Jordan

Blame It On Rio

Well, maybe that's a bit harsh. It certainly wasn't a dream return to Elland Road for the England defender; and that's just the way the Leeds faithful wanted it. You can understand why even the most relaxed Leeds fan would wish unpleasant things on Rio, particularly when you consider his clearly insincere comments about the club shortly before he up and left. Considering this, it doesn't excuse the behaviour of that ever present minority (at all clubs) who fail to put any sort of perspective on things — they're a good four points clear of United aren't they?

On the subject of United (for a change) things do seem to be going from bad to worse. With fresh injuries to Veron and Nicky Butt the midfield looks ever more depleted despite the fitness of Beckham, Scholes and Giggs. This is mainly due to the fact that the esteemed Sir Alex insists on using one of Scholes or Giggs in that mysterious role behind the misfiring Ruud Van Nistelrooy. One of the most apparent trends of the season so far is the poor form of many top strikers.

Van Nistelrooy looks like he couldn't hit the proverbial cow's backside and Michael Owen seems to be missing the banjo in the first place. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink was among the prolific hitmen dropped this weekend, only for his replacements to give a masterclass. In Owens' case it was Milan Baros who took his opportunity well; could the forgotten man Diego Forlan be Fergie's saviour?

Hot off the press for all you conspiracy theorists; David Beckham is very unlikely to be chastised for elbowing Lee Bowyer (note the omission of the words allegedly or appearing to). For acting in a way that, had it been Roy Keane or Patrick Vieira would no doubt have led to a red card and serial demonisation in the press — the England captain will escape unpunished by the FA. Now isn't that unusual.

Two strikers not having trouble finding the net right now are Arsenal's Thierry Henry and Sylvain Wiltord. The latter has taken a lot of flak since he joined the Gunners — from home and away fans — but his recent run of scoring must surely put a stop to it. For now. Henry seems to be thriving on a combination of Wiltord's tireless running and Dennis Bergkamp's creative genius. To watch Arsenal's front three at the moment is a lesson in attacking football; and with the ‘tired’ Vieira playing some of the best football of his career the Champions are looking simply unstoppable.

It would be wrong not to mention West Bromwich Albion's achievements over the last three weeks. Not so long ago they'd been hammered by Arsenal and some were predicting (rather pessimistically of course) 0 wins from 38. Three on the bounce makes it a wonderful run for Gary Megson's side regardless of the scorelines and he deserves a lot of praise for the way he's picked his team up and sorted them out (for now anyway).

With the first round proper of the Champions League starting this week there are some hum-dingers on offer to terrestrial viewers. I wish I could watch both of Tuesday's games, with Arsenal taking on Bundesliga Champions Borussia Dortmund at Highbury (ITV2, 7:45pm) and Liverpool travelling to Valencia (ITV1, 7:45pm) there's the prospect for two absolute crackers. Wednesday's match involving English opposition sees Man United take on Maccabi Haifa at Old Trafford in what should be a foregone conclusion, but the way United are playing right now you never know…

Performance of the Week goes to Leeds for taking three points from Old Trafford. If I was to include midweek results (which I suppose I really should) then by heck Bolton deserve a mention for doing the same thing on Wednesday.

Goal of the Week goes to Thierry Henry for the second time this season. His wonderful strike against Charlton at the end of a stunning move was simply breathtaking.

Player of the Week goes to an unusual recipient this week. So well done Jun-Ichi Inamoto for setting up two and scoring one at the Stadium of Light. The young Japanese midfielder tore into Peter Reid's side and could well be part of the ‘reasons for leaving your old job’ on the scousers next application form.

Team of the Week ;

Paul Robinson
  John O'Shea
Man Utd
Ivan Campo
Jonathan Woodgate
Alan Smith
Patrick Vieira
Jun-Ichi Inamoto
Matthew Etherington
  Milan Baros
Eirdur Gudjonsen
Man City
Gianfranco Zola

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