Sadio Mane, Shane Long and Joe Hart lead a strong Premier League TOTW
After each round of Premier League fixtures, ESPN FC brings you its Team of the Weekend. Our panel of experts carefully select 11 star performers, along with a manager.
Do you agree or disagree? You can have your say on those picked or overlooked in the comments section at the foot of the article or on Twitter using the hashtag #TOTW. Plus, tune in to Monday's ESPN FC TV (5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2) for further reaction.
Goalkeeper: Two votes for Joe Hart, one for Kasper Schmeichel. While Paul Mariner said the latter's composure under a barrage of crosses and shots at Sunderland was admirable, Gab Marcotti and Steve Nicol have plumped for Hart, who pulled off one of the saves of the season from Federico Fernandez late on at the Liberty Stadium. Nicol was in awe of his point-blank stop, while Marcotti explains thus: "A couple of great saves to remind everyone that whatever happens he's part of the solution, not part of the problem at City."
Right back: The usual free-for-all ensues in defence. Mariner says that Antonio Valencia is starting to look the part for Manchester United in their 1-1 draw with Arsenal, while Nicol goes for Joel Ward, who he says was "powerful in defence and precise with his passing." If you'll forgive the sentiment, Marcotti and I have gone for Kieran Trippier, who has had a fine season. Gab describes his afternoon in the goalless draw with Stoke as follows: "Plays the way he's done all season long. Intelligence, quality going forward and, above all, no fear. Not enough against Stoke, not enough to keep Burnley up. But a testament to quality."
Centre-back: While we are in the mood, let's pay tribute to the man who has now tasted a couple of relegations with Queens Park Rangers -- Clint Hill. Ryan Shawcross was put forward by Marcotti and Laurent Koscielny by Mariner, who he says had Falcao "in his pocket all afternoon long" but Nicol knows a whole-hearted defender when he sees one, so Hill gets the nod. He's played all across the back four in a demoralising season at Loftus Road, but no Premier League footballer can trump him for want, as demonstrated by his superb goal-line clearance against beleaguered Newcastle.
Centre-back: Hill's partner in central defence is Chris Smalling. The Manchester United man has had a solid second half of the season and caught the eye of both Mariner and Nicol in the 1-1 draw with Arsenal at Old Trafford. Quite apart from his goal spurt, he seems ever more assured with each passing game. Nicol thinks the captaincy seemed to inspire him on Sunday, while Mariner says his "very strong performance" seems to have justified his continued place in the side under Louis van Gaal.
Left-back: The first unanimous decision in this Team of the Weekend is Tottenham's Hotspur's Danny Rose. Hull gave Mauricio Pochettino's team a decent going over at times on Saturday, but Rose held firm and smashed in a screamer to make it 2-0. Marcotti says: "Rose was lively on his flank and uncorked a screamer," Mariner remarks that apart from the 24-year-old's fancy hairdo, Rose had a sensational game harrying up and down the left flank and Nicol completes the hat-trick by saying he finished "like a striker."
Centre midfield: "Somebody must have remembered his birthday cake last week, because the big man responds with two goals to sink Swansea." Marcotti is, of course, talking about Yaya Toure, joyously referencing his birthday snub last year. I like to think his cake was one of those shop-bought ones that includes marzipan players and a net made out of icing. The Ivorian is certainly sweet on Swansea, bagging a neat brace in Sunday's 4-2 win. Mariner says Toure looked more at home in an advanced role while Nicol simply says "Yaya is back in town." There is very little to add to that, I'm sure you'll agree.
Centre midfield: Another selection dilemma in midfield as three candidates are put forward for selection. Nicol is all about Victor Wanyama. He says Villa had no answer to the "lean, mean football machine." Mariner trumpets Lee Cattermole for the berth, explaining the midfielder has a "staggering thirst for work" and "defended the back four with every sinew." But it would be remiss to overlook Leroy Fer, who has done more than most in blue-and-white to try and keep QPR in the top flight. I'll let Marcotti tell you why: "His teammates' commitment has been questioned, but he unloads all his anger into a FER-ocious strike that is a goal of the week contender."
Right midfield: Poor old Steven Gerrard. After all the placards, interviews and songs, it was left to Alan Pardew and Palace to puncture his big farewell. Chief architect in ruining the Anfield love-in was Jason Puncheon, the new recipient of a four-year deal at Selhurst. Pards reckons he's been the Eagles' best player since he took over, and his cute free-kick capped another excellent all-round performance on Saturday. Mariner says his "movement, skill and pace" were more than Liverpool could handle while Marcotti says he punished a side who were already on the beach.
Left midfield: There's a lot of late season love for Ashley Young in the TOTW ranks. He was once derided during that infamous game against Fulham when it seemed like every man in a red shirt was instructed to cross at all costs, but now some of his centres are actually finding their target. Just ask Ander Herrera, the recipient of a very good one during Manchester United's clash with Arsenal. Mariner says Young is playing his "most consistent football since joining the club" and Nicol adds "another cross, another goal."
Striker: "Fastest hat-trick in the history of the Premier League, and by some margin. Need we say more?" Probably not Gab, but for the purposes of the TOTW, I'd better flesh it out a little. No wonder Robbie Fowler got plenty of tweets on Saturday after Sadio Mane bagged a sensational treble in under three minutes to hand Ronald Koeman a St Mary's send-off their season deserved, a 6-1 win over Aston Villa. Mariner says Mane was "rampant throughout" while Nicol sums up his lightning quick hat-trick by saying "blink and you might have missed it."
Striker: "He's an energiser bunny with skill and vision." Who is Steve Nicol talking about? Why, it's Shane Long of course. In a rampant Southampton display against Aston Villa, the Irishman played the role of chief prompter. Mariner says he and Mane were "unstoppable on the day" and he's got a point. Marcotti adds: "Two goals and two assists in the 6-1 dismantling of Aston Villa. But when fit, he's been good all season."
Manager: There are three different choices for manager of the weekend, so we'd better assess the candidates. First up, Marcotti's selection of Roberto Martinez, who he says is ending a difficult season strong with players who are showing there's still "plenty of fight" left in them. Mariner goes for Alan Pardew after a party-pooping display on Merseyside that oozed "passion, flair and organisation" while Nicol selects Nigel Pearson, whose Leicester side ensured safety with a hard-earned point at Sunderland. It's a tough decision but it's got to be Pards, hasn't it? I know at least the Manchester United fans will agree.