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PLAY IT SHORT: De Gea punch ends doubts; Shaw should ask Cork about Chelsea move; Di Canio will be fantastic at Sunderland; Platini's Battle of Qatar

DE GEA COURAGE SILENCES THE DOUBTSSix cleansheets on the bounce suggests David De Gea is finding his feet in the Premier League. But even more significant was the Manchester United goalkeeper's late punch to keep their lead at Sunderland intact. De Gea 'wore one' for his troubles - from his captain, Nemanja Vidic no less. But unlike his flap at Tottenham in January, De Gea had eyes only for the ball, his punch was clean and after being checked on by club doc Steve McNally, played on. After copping so much flak for his White Hart Lane howler, De Gea will have impressed his harshest critics with his show of courage on Saturday.

UNITED'S WINGLESS WONDERSWith the chance of breaking the 100 points mark, it's difficult to get away with describing this season's Manchester United as 'ordinary'. However, Willie Morgan hit the nail on the head last week. The former United winger bemoaned the lack of quality from Sir Alex Ferguson's wide-men this campaign. And that's what has been missing. The current team is a strong, ruthless, workmanlike side. But as Morgan pointed out, none of Fergie's wide players have lit the blue touch paper. And it's that lack of real flair, so synonymous with past Fergie teams, which has clouded people's judgment when comparing this title winning team with past line-ups.

SAINTS STARS DESERVE HODGSON CONSIDERATIONSouthampton were wonderful for victory over Chelsea on Saturday. Jay Rodriguez and Ricki Lambert's goals were out of the top drawer in a game which was end-to-end. Plenty has been said in recent days about Arsenal providing the spine of a future England team. But about the Saints? Nathaniel Clyne, Lambert, Jack Cork, Jason Puncheon and Rodriguez all shone at St Mary's on Saturday and deserve a serious look from England coach Roy Hodgson. Rodriguez and Lambert pulled Chelsea skipper John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic all across the Saints' attacking third, Clyne had the better of Ryan Bertrand and Cork again showed why Jamie Redknapp, the former Liverpool and Tottenham midfielder, has recommended him for an England call. Saints fans have to be excited about what is being built by Nico Cortese.

SHAW MUST THINK CAREFULLY ABOUT CHELSEA MOVELuke Shaw is Chelsea mad. There's no doubt about that. But if he's wondering about what he can expect should Chelsea come in for him, he only needs to look across the dressing room to Southampton teammate Jack Cork. After 12 years at the club - and nine loan transfers - Cork had to leave Chelsea to show them how good he is. And he did just that on Saturday. Shaw was rejected by Chelsea as a junior for being too small. The question for the left-back is: if the Blues coaching staff had taken the opposite view, would he now be a Premier League footballer?

DI CANIO CAN BE FANTASTIC FOR SUNDERLANDIt could be carnage. The ink is barely dry on his Sunderland deal, but Paolo di Canio's appointment has already brought a first casualty with David Miliband resigning from the board over the Italian's 'political views'. As his former Swindon players will attest, he won't tolerate slackers. Mackems can be sure their players will be focused on football, not inviting rows on Twitter. Di Canio can be fantastic for Sunderland. A game-changer. The Italian creates headlines and with talk of the club needing to find a new shirt sponsor for next season, his profile will not only lift Sunderland's profile, but also boost chief executive Margaret Byrne's chances of securing a bumper kit sponsor. The appointment could shift the balance of media focus in the Northeast. But Sunderland must stay up.

PLATINI'S SILENCE OVER BATTLE OF QATARSo how will Michel Platini, the UEFA president, greet the Champions League quarterfinal between PSG and Barcelona this week? Platini, so eager to criticise the foreign owners and foreign money in the Premier League, is (surprise, surprise) silent on the 'Battle of Qatar'. That is, the Qatari-owned PSG against the Qatari-sponsored Barca. Perhaps the hypocrisy is so obvious it doesn't deserve a mention...

WESTWOOD LOOKS EVERY INCH PREMIER LEAGUE CLASSAshley Westwood really looks a player for Aston Villa. Going into the Liverpool game, Westwood had a pass completion rate of 97 per cent for the win over QPR. And in the first-half at Villa Park, he pulled the strings, outshining Steven Gerrard and launched Villa's opener scored by Christian Benteke. Before the goal, he'd cleverly taken out two players with a wonderful pass for Joe Bennett. That record against QPR didn't come from playing the simple, sideways ball. What's so impressive is that Westwood, yet another graduate from Crewe Alexandra's academy, tries to make things happen with his passing. Like so many of his young teammates, if they can keep their nerve this season, Westwood will be well worth following - if they can remain in the Premier League.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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