Garth Crooks' team of the week: Van Dijk, Aguero, Salah, Traore, Pope

Gareth Crooks Team of the Week

Liverpool continued their march towards the Premier League title by beating Manchester United 2-0 on Sunday.

The chasing pack dropped points as Manchester City drew 2-2 with Crystal Palace while Leicester lost 2-1 to Burnley.

Elsewhere, Norwich gave themselves some hope of beating the drop by defeating Bournemouth 1-0, Newcastle scored a late, late winner to see off Chelsea 1-0 and Wolves came back from two goals down to beat Southampton 3-2.

Here's my team of the week - have a read and then select your own below.

Team of the week

Goalkeeper - Nick Pope (Burnley)

Nick Pope

Nick Pope: Burnley hadn't won in the Premier League since Christmas but they turned this game around against a Leicester team who looked very impressive in the first half. The man of the moment was Nick Pope.

Like Burnley, Pope has had a difficult time this season having made some costly errors in previous fixtures. Nevertheless the save by Pope from a Jamie Vardy spot-kick was as important as it was impressive.

One win in five games must feel like an eternity for the Clarets but the victory puts them on 27 points and well on their way to safety.

Did you know? Pope's penalty save was the first time an English goalkeeper has saved an Englishman's penalty in the Premier League since November 2017, when West Ham keeper Joe Hart saved Wayne Rooney's spot-kick for Everton.

Defenders - Ciaran Clark (Newcastle), Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool), Mason Holgate (Everton)

Ciaran Clark, Virgil van Dijk and Mason Holgate

Ciaran Clark: They say one for sorrow two for joy. The Magpies are not getting a great deal of luck with injuries these days. Nevertheless it took superb defending and some wonderful interventions at the back by my man of the match Ciaran Clark to keep Chelsea at bay and his team in the fixture.

Newcastle may be unlucky with injuries at the moment but Kepa Arrizabalaga gave them a glorious gift in the final minutes. The Chelsea keeper looked like he was trying to catch the ball when he really should have parried it. Poor goalkeeping gifted Newcastle the victory.

Did you know? Clark had more touches versus Chelsea than any other Newcastle player (62). The defender also made seven clearances, two tackles and three blocks against the Blues.

Virgil van Dijk: When Virgil van Dijk rose majestically above the Manchester United defence to nod home yet another set-piece for Liverpool I thought it was game over.

Van Dijk caused United all sorts of problems on set plays and they got absolutely nothing out of him in defence. The Dutchman has become renowned for his aerial prowess in both boxes, his defending is superb and his ability to make the telling pass should not be underestimated.

Without doubt the best centre-back in the world right now.

Did you know? Van Dijk has scored eight Premier League goals since joining Liverpool in January 2018 - the most of any centre-back in that time.

Mason Holgate: I've been talking about Mason Holgate for some time and the young defender makes my TOTW for the third time this season. Holgate played a pivotal role in the point gained by Everton at West Ham.

This lad is maturing into a top class defender. This is a much more resilient team under Carlo Ancelotti with a developing sense of professionalism about their performances. Under caretaker boss Duncan Ferguson there was bags of effort and lots of passion. Under Ancelotti there's a strategy.

Did you know? No Everton player made more clearances (five), blocks (two) and interceptions (two) against West Ham than Holgate.

Midfielders - James McCarthy (Crystal Palace), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Jack Grealish (Aston Villa), Adama Traore (Wolves)

James McCarthy (Crystal Palace), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Jack Grealish (Aston Villa), Adama Traore (Wolves)

James McCarthy: The Republic of Ireland midfielder has been a stalwart for Crystal Palace for some time now. However his performance against the current, but not for long, Premier League champions will take some beating.

The control, skill and the pass by McCarthy for Wilfried Zaha to run on to and cause mayhem in Manchester City's ranks was quite outstanding. The controversy over Jairo Riedewald's handball in the box saved Palace in the end. Nevertheless it was interesting to see the penalty not given by VAR simply due to the ball coming off the player's own body. I hope they do the same when the ball cannons off the body of a striker and he scores.

Did you know? McCarthy made more tackles versus Manchester City than any other Crystal Palace player (four).

Jordan Henderson: When you consider there were moments last season when Jordan Henderson was struggling to make the first XI it's quite remarkable to think he's now the first player you would pencil in Liverpool's team. Their captain has been magnificent this season and no more so than against Manchester United.

Henderson is a model professional and in the true mould of Anfield greats. He always lets his team-mates take the applause. He's already lifted the Champions League trophy and very soon he will be adding the Premier league title to his list of achievements.

Did you know? No Liverpool player made more tackles versus Manchester United than Henderson (five).

Jack Grealish: The ball from Douglas Luiz was superb but the finish by Jack Grealish was sensational.

Grealish missed a glorious chance for Aston Villa earlier in the game only to see Brighton charge upfield and score almost immediately which wouldn't have thrilled him. What I want to know is when is Grealish going to be spoken about in international terms? Between Dele Alli, James Maddison and Grealish I'm having Grealish every time. Come on Gareth Southgate - start giving this lad some encouragement and the occasional mention in the press.

Did you know? Grealish has scored more goals against Brighton in all competitions than he has versus any other side in his professional career (four).

Adama Traore: Before the Wolves game, Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl remarked that the mood at Saints was "gorgeous" at the moment. The problem for his side was that moment didn't last very long. That was due to Adama Traore, whose second-half performance was like a wolf prowling through a chicken coop.

The Spanish winger destroyed Southampton who found it impossible to cope with his pace and power. What impresses me about Traore's performances of late is his composure in the final third. Where has that suddenly come from?

Wolves bought Traore for £18m - what's he worth now?

Did you know? Traore has registered six assists this season, double the amount he managed in his previous three Premier League seasons with Aston Villa, Middlesbrough and Wolves.

Forwards - Raul Jimenez (Wolves), Sergio Aguero (Man City), Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)

Raul Jimenez (Wolves), Sergio Aguero (Man City), Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)

Raul Jimenez: Southampton's recent form suggested Wolves were in for a hiding and after 45 minutes and two goals you wouldn't have backed against it.

We will never know what Nuno Espirito Santo said to his players at half-time but their response was emphatic and so was the finishing of Raul Jimenez. The Mexico striker is in great form. If he was four years younger he would be perfect for Spurs, especially with Harry Kane's long-term injury, but he would also be worth twice the price and not the £30m Wolves paid for him. What a snip.

Did you know? Jimenez has been directly involved in 28 goals for Wolves in all competitions this season (19 goals, nine assists), more than any other player for a Premier League club in 2019-20.

Sergio Aguero: I don't think I have ever seen a Premier League striker with the same appetite to score goals as Sergio Aguero.

Ian Wright, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Robin van Persie and Thierry Henry all thrilled me during their time in the Premier League but none of them had the insatiable craving for goals quite like Aguero.

He was the only person who thought the cross was gettable against Crystal Palace for his first goal and his movement and positioning in the box in order to head home past a stranded Vicente Guaita was just sensational. That makes it 145 goals for Aguero at the Etihad and his second was genius. There's more in the old legs yet.

Did you know? Aguero scored his 250th and 251st goals in all competitions for Manchester City in his 360th appearance for the club.

Mohamed Salah: He didn't play particularly well against Manchester United, in fact there were moments when he looked like he was struggling, but the mere fact Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp left Mohamed Salah on the pitch tells you something. Salah makes my TOTW for his sheer perseverance.

The Egypt striker scored against Manchester United for the first time and he took it brilliantly. To outpace Daniel James, who is not slow, then hold him off and place the ball past an advancing David de Gea to settle the match was outstanding.

It was like saying "give us the title now". In fact you might as well.

Did you know? Salah has scored against 23 of the 25 Premier League teams he's faced as a Liverpool player, scoring against Manchester United for the first time in his fifth appearance against them for the Reds.

Now it's your turn

You've seen my selections this week. But who would you go for?

Pick your Team of the Week

Pick your XI from our list and share with your friends.

The Crooks of the matter

Hooray! Finally someone at the Professional Game Match Officials office is listening. A few weeks ago I insisted, in this very column, that referees were being usurped by VAR. I maintained that the practice foisted on officials and executed at Stockley Park was as absurd as it was in stark contrast to the spirit of the game. Since the start of the season VAR has infiltrated the game and turned one of its longest and most established traditions on its head. The referee's decision has always been, until recently, final. VAR's insistence that it makes the decisions when a perceived mistake has been made is, in fact, the referee's prerogative and his final opinion is the only one that counts.

Well, at last VAR has seen the light.

Paul Tierney's decision to consider VAR's 'advice' and observe the replay via a monitor on the touchline to determine whether his 'original opinion' remains the same, or decide to change it, is and always was the right thing to do. There could not have been a single fan who disagreed with Norwich defender Ben Godfrey's sending off after further observation of his reckless challenge on Bournemouth's Callum Wilson.

There is no doubt in my mind that VAR has been sucking the blood out of the game. This new directive might blow some life back into it.

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