Premier League

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Ferguson gets win in milestone match

FOX Soccer's crew analyze Sunday's action in the Barclays Premier League.
FOX Soccer's crew analyze Sunday's action in the Barclays Premier League.
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Warren Barton

Warren Barton draws on 16 years of professional soccer experience as a studio analyst for FOX Soccer. With more than 350 Barclays Premier League appearances, Barton starred for Wimbledon before rising to prominence with Newcastle United and the England national team. Follow him on Twitter.

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The Premier League is already going at a hundred miles an hour, and in a way it’s a shame we have to step back for the international break. Of course I’ll be rooting for my boys against Moldova and Ukraine, but it’s hard for me to imagine that any games can top what we’ve seen these past three weeks.

First off, I have to congratulate Sir Alex Ferguson on his 1000th game for Manchester United, and today’s victory at St. Mary’s sums up what the club under his reign has been all about. Manchester United always attack, they win at all costs, and they always have that difference maker. Of course, I’m talking about Robin van Persie, who was sensational with his hat-trick on Sunday.

People questioned that purchase – it was too much money, RvP was too old — but these early games are putting the lie to that. If anyone’s worried about the money, van Persie is going to sell millions of shirts; if anyone is worried about his performance, he’s answered them on the pitch. He’s giving all the other players loads of confidence right now, and he’s a great signing for the club.

I do think they will miss Wayne Rooney, though – but not up top. Where United need help is in the link-up between midfield and the front line and with Rooney sidelined, they lose that. This team is always going to score goals, but tactically, they will want to get Rooney back and deliver that presence in the center.

United got its transfer business done and I could not help but think of that efficiency when I looked at Liverpool’s bench today. It is going to be a very difficult time for Brendan Rodgers and for the life of me I cannot understand how they are left such thin ranks up top. This eleventh-hour loaning out of players and then failing to close a deal for Clint Dempsey or Daniel Sturridge was very dangerous.

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In Dempsey’s case, I simply cannot understand what Liverpool were thinking: if they were worried about his age, all they needed to do was look at van Persie. If they were worried about his production, well, Dempsey’s record in midfield is as fine as any other in the past three or four years in this league. The manager is now left in a very tough spot – and now they’re talking about Michael Owen or Didier Drogba!

Dempsey instead became part of a good bit of business for Tottenham, and now the question isn’t if Spurs have the talent, but if Andre Villas-Boas can get the job done. Moussa Dembele is a very talented man, Hugo Lloris is the keeper of the future and Dempsey obviously should have been snapped up earlier — but now they have to gel on the field. If you look at their performances, well, it’s not there yet—and you start to look at the manager.

Villas-Boas is very lucky to have this chance after what happened at Chelsea. As a player, you don’t like to hear your manager saying things like “I” and “me” — it’s about “us” and the “team.” That’s not what happened with AVB at Chelsea and I’m worried because I’m starting to hear those same words coming out of the man’s mouth at White Hart lane. For him this break comes at just the right time, because he can regroup and figure it out. But he’s got to learn a lot more quickly than he has, he’s got to play a lot slicker style and most of all, he has to start getting his team to play as a team.

One man I want to highlight is Brad Friedel: what a message he sent to AVB. Lloris will be the keeper down the road, but Friedel is showing he’s not going to be shoved aside. He’s 41, and all things do come to an end, but I hope AVB is looking at the fire that Friedel is displaying. Speaking as a defender, that’s what you want to see.

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Couple things quickly: Arsenal looked very good against a Liverpool side that perhaps wasn’t so good. Steve Bould has made a big difference there, he’s brought the experience he had with the club as one of the famous five that won titles and he’s got the defense looking very strong. Per Mertesacker and Thomas Vermaelen were tremendous and Abou Diaby looked like Patrick Vieira to me on the day. And Santi Carloza and Lukas Podolski have to be putting a grin on Arsenal’s fans’ faces. As poor as Liverpool were, this is as good as Arsenal have been in ages.

Finally, let’s applaud City for doing some smart business. They brought in a lot of talent with an eye on the future. Javi Garcia and Maicon are good pickups for depth, and Matija Nastasic and Scott Sinclair look ahead. Very sensible stuff there, because as good as Carlos Tevez has been for the club, other parts are showing some wear and tear. It’s obvious that David Silva needs a break and of course Sergio Aguero is out. This is a pretty good move to refresh the team.

We’re back in two weeks with the Premier League and the Champions League, and I do hope you join us. As always, you can follow me on Twitter at @warrenbarton2 or ask a question any time at @FOXSoccer. Thanks as always for reading!

Former England international Warren Barton is the lead analyst for FOX Soccer Match Day, Goals on Sunday, and UEFA Champions League coverage.

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