In few other midfields do the faces of the past seem still so vivid as they do at Manchester United. This week's uninspiring, goalless draw with Marseille prompted the same kind of examination of United's central personnel as virtually every other disappointing big-game result since Roy Keane left the midfield he had recently cut to ribbons in an unaired interview in 2005. Much of this week's media forensics has focused on Darron Gibson, the latest "new Paul Scholes" to stall the old Paul Scholes' retirement, but another question poses itself: What's happened to Michael Carrick?
Wayne Rooney scored his first goal in open play since March last year to help Manchester United to a 2-1 victory over West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns on Saturday.
With a quarter of the Premier League season done and dusted, now feels like a good time to take a look at a few player/manager report cards.
This Premier League season is almost 10 games old, the first point at which it is really permissible to scan the table and suck your teeth as you read the names at the bottom. The last one you'll reach is West Ham United, which has taken six points from the first 27 available.
In the thick of the Anfield soap opera, which has brought to the sports pages of British newspapers the orgy of hairdresser's-chair gossip usually confined to the TV mags, Sunday's Merseyside derby has become a minor subplot. New England Sports Ventures' stop-start and now concluded takeover, Tom Hicks' desperate interventions, anguished supporters' pleas ... the chronic uncertainty of Liverpool's future has left barely a column inch for the soccer.
Tactical notes from the first weekend of the Premier League season:
The opening weekend of the Premiership was hardly a feast of goals -- in August 1926, spectators at the top flight's first round of fixtures gorged themselves on a record-setting smorgasbord of 52 goals; despite the best efforts of Chelsea and Blackpool, this weekend brought a total of 23, restrained even by more recent standards. Joe Hart, newly installed as Manchester City's No. 1 goalkeeper, was almost single-handedly responsible. If not for him, Tottenham Hotspur could have pushed the total closer to 30.
Liverpool new boy Joe Cole was sent off for the first time in his professional career in a 1-1 draw against Arsenal in their English Premier League opener on Sunday at Anfield.
With the Premier League season kicking off Saturday, here's what the next nine months might have in store ...
With a week to go before the season begins, here is my read on how the 20 Premier League clubs will finish, with the caveat that rosters could still change because we're in the midst of the transfer window.
Stuttgart survived a scare against Norwegian minnows Molde in the Europa League qualifiers, but Liverpool breezed into the next round.
The streets of Madrid were packed with fans as the Spanish team arrived with the World Cup. CNN's Don Riddell reports.
Liverpool's star striker Fernando Torres has given the club a huge boost ahead of the new Premier League season by insisting he has no intention of leaving the club.
The last six Premier League titles have been won by Chelsea or Manchester United, so it is hardly surprising that last season's shoulder-to-shoulder race for fourth place between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City captured the imagination. Fingernails in the north and the south were gnawed short as the two clubs exchanged the lead several times before Spurs took the fourth spot at Eastlands in the season's penultimate game.
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard says he is happy to stay with the English Premier League side after reported interest from Spanish giants Real Madrid.
Liverpool have signed England midfielder Joe Cole on a four-year deal following his departure from Premier League rivals Chelsea.
Midfield stars Michael Ballack and Joe Cole have been released on free transfers by English Premier League champions Chelsea after coming to the end of their contracts.
England came from behind to win 2-1 but needed two own goals from Japan defenders to scramble to victory in their World Cup warm-up match in Graz on Sunday.
Chelsea moved a step closer to breaking Manchester United's stranglehold on the English Premier League title with a controversial 1-0 victory at home to Bolton Wanderers on Tuesday night.
Hats off to Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti, who surprised everyone -- perhaps even Didier Drogba himself -- by leaving his leading goal scorer on the bench against Manchester United and fielding the same starting 11 that had demolished Aston Villa the week before.
Less than eight weeks ago, after his team's 3-0 home defeat to Chelsea, the howls of frustration against Arsène Wenger reached a crescendo. It didn't help that, in addition to losing to Arsenal's North London rivals, the bile thrown at the Frenchman was accentuated by his continued stubbornness in persevering with youth and not spending big money like his rivals around him.
Chelsea have been lifted by the news that Didier Drogba's injury is not as bad as feared, while England midfielder Joe Cole is set to make his long-awaited comeback.
Thanks to Dimitar Berbatov's 90th-minute winner at Bolton last weekend, Manchester United is back on top of the Premier League for the first time this season. Yet it was the 17-time English champions' crosstown rival, Manchester City, who hogged the global spotlight last week.
Chelsea have been rocked by the loss of England international midfielder Joe Cole for the rest of the season.
West Ham manager Gianfranco Zola returned to Stamford Bridge and saw his struggling side snatch a vital point in a 1-1 draw which kept Chelsea off the top of the English Premier League table.
The players love them, the papers love them and in general, the public seems to have taken them to their hearts -- their excessive shopping habits notwithstanding.
None of the Premier League's top three teams managed a goal between them on Saturday as Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United were all held to surprise 0-0 draws.
Chelsea shrugged off their injury problems to brush aside Aston Villa 2-0 on Sunday to stay unbeaten and top of the English Premier League.
Salomon Kalou salvaged a point for Chelsea in a 1-1 draw against defending Premier League champions Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
First-half headers from Frank Lampard and Joe Cole set last season's runners-up Chelsea on their way, as they cruised past Bordeaux 4-0 to earn manager Luiz Felipe Scolari his first Champions League win in their Group A opener.
England took revenge for their Euro 2008 exit by humbling 10-man Croatia 4-1 in Zagreb with Theo Walcott scoring a magnificent hat-trick.
England face their first big test under new manager Fabio Capello when they travel to Croatia for Wednesday's World Cup qualifier against the side that snuffed out their hopes of a place in the Euro 2008 finals last November.
A second half double from Joe Cole spared Fabio Capello's blushes as his first competitive game in charge of England saw his team beat minnows Andorra 2-0 on Saturday night.
England midfielder Joe Cole scored in injury time to salvage a 2-2 friendly draw against the Czech Republic at Wembley.
Premier League top dogs Manchester United and Chelsea warmed up for the new season with thumping victories in friendlies on Saturday.
MOSCOW -- "Football is the true winner tonight!"
John Arne Riise scored a nightmare own-goal in the fifth minute of time added on to give Chelsea a 1-1 draw in the first leg of the Champions League semifinal away to Liverpool on Tuesday night.
Michael Essien kept Chelsea's title dreams alive as Everton's hopes of finishing in the top four -- and grabbing a Champions League slot -- all but disappeared with a 1-0 defeat at Goodison Park.
Emile Heskey's shock injury-time equalizer blew a massive hole in Chelsea's hunt for the English Premier League title as visitors Wigan held the Blues to a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge.
Michael Ballack and Frank Lampard were on target as Chelsea reached the semifinals of the Champions League for the fourth time in five years with a 2-0 triumph at Stamford Bridge.
Didier Drogba scored twice as Chelsea came from behind to beat Arsenal 2-1 at Stamford Bridge and climb above their London rivals into second place in the Premier Division table.
Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice to give Manchester United a 2-0 victory over Bolton and a three-point lead over Arsenal at the top of the Premier League.
Frank Lampard hit four goals as doomed Derby felt the backlash from Chelsea's shock FA Cup exit with a 6-1 thrashing at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.
Welcome to the Fabio Capello era. England's players got their first taste of the new headmaster's regime leading up to Wednesday's friendly with Switzerland in a situation reminiscent of the opening half of Full Metal Jacket.
Fabio Capello launched his England managerial reign with a Wembley win as his new 'hard-line' approach was rewarded with a 2-1 victory over Euro 2008 co-hosts Switzerland.
Joe Cole's decisive second-half strike gave Chelsea a 1-0 semifinal victory to break Everton's hearts and send the London club to their third Carling Cup final in four years.
Shaun Wright-Phillips pushed his England claims in front of new national coach Fabio Capello by inspiring 10-man Chelsea to a dramatic 2-1 Carling Cup semifinal first leg home win over Everton.
Two-goal Cristiano Ronaldo fired a late penalty as Manchester United ended Everton's resistance with a 2-1 triumph to move back to within a point of Premier League leaders Arsenal.
Joe Cole scored against his old club West Ham to give Chelsea a 1-0 victory which strengthened their place amongst the English Premier League championship contenders.
Two-goal Didier Drogba fired Chelsea into the last-16 of the Champions League as Group B winners as the Premier League side turned up the heat with a 4-0 triumph over Rosenborg on a freezing night in Norway.
So you didn't see it coming? But the writing was on the wall... England were struggling to hold onto their lead against Russia and it was a matter of time before they conceded a goal and let qualification for Euro 2008 slip between their fingers.
England coach Steve McClaren has been forced to call up defender Luke Young for Wednesday's vital Euro 2008 qualifier against Russia after Ashley Cole was ruled out.
England maintained their bid for Euro 2008 qualification with a routine 3-0 win over Estonia on Saturday, but had defender Ashley Cole stretchered off in the second half at Wembley.
Chelsea striker Didier Drogba struck a second-half winner against Valencia to give manager Avram Grant his first victory in the Champions League on Wednesday night.
Defender Zat Knight scored on his debut to help Aston Villa defeat Chelsea 2-0 and shatter the London club's seven-month unbeaten Premier League run.
Joe Cole's first half goal gave Chelsea a 1-0 win over Liverpool in the first leg of their all-English Champions League semifinal at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.
England midfielder Joe Cole is hoping for another outing with Chelsea on Saturday, at home to Tottenham Hotspur, after making his long-awaited comeback from injury as a late substitute in Wednesday's Champions League draw with Valencia.
Chelsea's Dutch winger Arjen Robben needs an operation on his knee and could be out for the rest of the season.
Chelsea midfield player Joe Cole has suffered a minor stress fracture of the foot and will not play again this year, the Premier League club said on Monday.
Midfielder Rafael van der Vaart scored a late equalizer for the Netherlands who salavaged a 1-1 draw with England in their international friendly on Wednesday.
Teenage defender Micah Richards will make his England debut and striker Andy Johnson will get a rare start in their friendly against the Netherlands, coach Steve McClaren has revealed.
Goalkeeper Jens Lehmann will miss Germany's Euro 2008 qualifier away to Cyprus on Wednesday because of a heavy cold, while midfielders Bernd Schneider and Piotr Trochowski are doubtful with injuries.
Wingers Joe Cole and Aaron Lennon have returned to the England fold on Friday in coach Steve McClaren's 28-man squad for their friendly in the Netherlands next week.
Everton striker Andy Johnson has been recalled by England coach Steve McClaren for next month's Euro 2008 Group E qualifiers against Andorra and Macedonia.
Dewayne De Rosario's 70th-minute strike lifted the Major League Soccer All-Stars to a 1-0 victory over English champions Chelsea in a friendly in Chicago on Saturday night.
Portuguese goalkeeper Ricardo saved three penalties to give his side a 3-1 penalty shootout win over England in the World Cup quarter-final on Saturday after a goalless 120 minutes.
A scrappy last-minute goal from Henrik Larsson saw Sweden draw 2-2 with England in Group B -- a result that sees them go through to play hosts Germany in the last 16 with group winners England facing Ecuador.
England's World Cup midfielder Joe Cole has signed a new four-year contract with Premier League champions Chelsea.
England failed to capitalize on a superb start but hung on to beat Paraguay 1-0 in their opening Group B match in the World Cup finals in Frankfurt.
England ground out a 3-1 victory over Hungary in a World Cup warm-up on Tuesday, with substitute striker Theo Walcott becoming their youngest player.
Chelsea became only the second team to win back-to-back Premier League titles when they crushed Manchester United 3-0 at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
Group B | World ranking: 10
John Terry, last year's winner, is again on the shortlist for the English Professional Footballers' Association player of the year award, along with Chelsea team mates Joe Cole and Frank Lampard.
Premier League champions Chelsea remain on course for a league and FA Cup double with a narrow 1-0 quarterfinal win over Newcastle, who had defender Robbie Elliott sent off late on.
Midfielder Joe Cole lined up an equalizer and then scored a stoppage-time winner to give England a 2-1 comeback victory over Uruguay in a friendly at Anfield on Wednesday.
Argentine striker Hernan Crespo and Dutch winger Arjen Robben scored first-half goals as Chelsea beat struggling Birmingham City 2-0 at Stamford Bridge and maintained their relentless progress towards retaining the English championship.
Chelsea extended their Premier League lead to 11 points after Joe Cole earned the champions a 1-0 win at Manchester City.
Hernan Crespo scored the winning goal as Premiership champions Chelsea overcame west London neighbors Fulham 3-2 on Monday to keep up their relentless pace at the top in England.
Michael Owen headed two goals in the last four minutes as England rallied to beat Argentina 3-2 in a thrilling friendly in Geneva.
Chelsea returned to winning ways with a 4-2 home victory over Blackburn Rovers at Stamford Bridge and top the English Premier League with a nine-point advantage over promoted Wigan Athletic.
A superb late strike by Frank Lampard gave England a 2-1 World Cup qualifying victory over Poland and top place in Group Six.
Champions Chelsea made it eight straight wins in the English Premier League with a spectacular 4-1 victory at Liverpool on Sunday.
Champions Chelsea hit top gear with a 4-0 thrashing of West Bromwich Albion to maintain their 100 percent start to the Premier League season.
Chelsea broke the Premier League points record held by Manchester United when they beat them 3-1 at Old Trafford.
Chelsea moved to the brink of their first league title for 50 years with a workmanlike 3-1 victory over Fulham in the west London derby.
Chelsea reached the Champions League semifinals for the second successive season despite losing 3-2 to Bayern Munich on Tuesday.
Frank Lampard struck twice in the second half as Chelsea beat Bayern Munich 4-2 in Wednesday's Champions League quarterfinal first leg without banned coach Jose Mourinho in their dugout.
Joe Cole celebrated his first competitive start for England with the opening goal in a 4-0 win over Northern Ireland, to keep Sven-Goran Eriksson's side top of World Cup European zone Group Six.
Two late goals from substitute Mateja Kezman sealed Chelsea's 4-1 defeat of Crystal Palace and edged the Stamford Bridge side a little closer to their first title in half a century.
John Terry headed Chelsea into the Champions League quarterfinals with a hotly-contested goal in a dramatic 4-2 victory over Barcelona at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.
Manchester United held out under intense second half pressure from Chelsea to emerge from their League Cup semi-final with a 0-0 draw.
England international Joe Cole gave English Premier League leaders Chelsea a 1-0 victory at Liverpool when his 80th minute shot was deflected into the net off Jamie Carragher.
Arjen Robben and Joe Cole struck late goals as Chelsea stretched their lead at the top of the English Premier League to eight points with a 2-0 win at Portsmouth.
Jermain Defoe has urged Tottenham to snap up his old West Ham team-mate Joe Cole who is out of favor with Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho.
Mateja Kezman finally broke his scoring duck as Chelsea beat West Ham United 1-0 in the League Cup London derby at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.
Wayne Rooney failed to sparkle on his league debut for Manchester United as their Premier League title hopes receded after being held 1-1 at Old Trafford by Middlesbrough on Sunday.
Chelsea made it two wins out of two under Jose Mourinho with Joe Cole scoring the only goal of the game at Birmingham City.
Dutch striker Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink has been told he can leave London Premier League club Chelsea.
Chelsea failed to build on a third minute lead at Newcastle and goals from Shola Ameobi and Alan Shearer gave the home side a 2-1 victory, which left Arsenal needing only a point at Tottenham to lift the league title.
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