Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Midfield Combo Proving Key to United Upturn; SHELVEY DICTATING PLAY WHILE DIAME ADDS A POWERFUL PRESENCE IN MIDDLE

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Midfield Combo Proving Key to United Upturn; SHELVEY DICTATING PLAY WHILE DIAME ADDS A POWERFUL PRESENCE IN MIDDLE

Article excerpt

Byline: JOHNGIBSON

THERE were more plusses than the obvious three ones - three points and three goals - with United's centre midfield the power brokers of a significant victory.

The pairing of Jonjo Shelvey with Mo Diame has built the perfect platform for a survival fight.

Shelvey's radar vision and devastating long-range passing coupled with Diame's physical presence and growing belief has significantly changed the balance of power.

Shelvey has seen off the challenge of Spaniard Mikel Merino who has hit a brick wall to become United's chief playmaker, while Diame has emerged into such a rich vein of form and confidence that Isaac Hayden has been confined to the subs' bench.

Yes, the headlines were pinched by Kenedy's brace - his first goals for United - but those immediately to his right were as crucial in what was a terrific all-round team performance.

Shelvey continued his eye-popping form against Man U and at his shoulder Diame bullied and battled Southampton's midfield into submission yet at times in the past both have been greatly criticised with some justification.

Shelvey, doubtful right up to kick off because of injury, is the one real Midtrue passer in Rafa Benitez's armoury - he actually looks to deliver forward over distance and early before defences mass in an era when midfielders are like crabs preferring to shuffle sideways.

He set the whole tone of the match after only one minute and four seconds when a clever forward lob sent in Kenedy who managed to get in front of Southampton's rightback Cedric Soares to chest the ball beyond the defender and on to his favoured left foot. As it fell Kenedy struck a low, angled shot inside the right-hand post. Both he and Shelvey did magnificent work.

That start rid St James' Park of all tension and nerves, instead replacing them with optimism and joy. A real game-changer.

It ought to have been three minutes later when another pass from United's visionary Shelvey ought to have been converted by Dwight Gayle, but his first touch lacked authority and the ball ran on to a thankful keeper.

But by the 28th minute it was 2-0 with a wonderful team goal. …

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