Double Gameweek 17 forced managers to make the decision between handing Ruud van Nistelrooy or Juan Sebastian Veron the Triple Captain chip – and it did not disappoint.
Veron emerged as the winner of the skipper debate, although both attacking assets delivered for those who put their faith in them.
Despite that, it was Middlesbrough who emerged as the real victors of the Gameweek. With 17 matches played so far, could Steve McClaren’s boys from Teesside do the unthinkable?
Middlesbrough won the opening game of the Double Gameweek 2-1 against Chelsea – a result that led to Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri being shown the door by Ken Bates – ensuring that they entered the crunch clash with Manchester United level on points.
United did as expected against struggling Leicester. Veron opened the scoring before van Nistelrooy netted two goals in a 3-0 win. It gave those on Triple Captain a great platform going into the war between the top two.
United started the game really well with Veron the orchestrator. His impressive start was capped off when he headed in the opening goal – but Middlesbrough responded almost instantaneously with an equaliser through Hamilton Ricard.
He then got in behind the United defence and was clipped by Fabien Barthez as he rounded him.
Penalty. Red card. Chaos.
From the moment that Gianluca Festa fired the penalty home, Boro never looked like relinquishing control. A third goal felt inevitable and when it arrived, the scorer was no surprise to see who scored it.
Ricard teed up Allan Johnston – now known as ‘The Postman’ in the community – and he slammed home his eighth goal of a fantastic season. Boro were able to see out the game for a 3-1 win that leaves them with a three-point lead at the top of the Premiership.
Veron ended the Gameweek as the top points scorer with 19, those brave enough to triple captain him earning a huge 57 points. Van Nistelrooy Triple Captainers (over 20% of the game) can be happy with his 15 points.
There were scores well in excess of 100 for the Gameweek – and that included some who didn’t pull the trigger on their chips.
Spurs were the disappointment of the round as they were beaten 3-2 at home by Derby. Sergei Rebrov was heavily signed-up after the disappointment of Robbie Fowler‘s showing in Gameweek 16 – and although Rebrov did gain two bonus points, he registered no attacking returns.
It was left to Horacio Carbonari to steal the show at the Lane with a goal and assist. Spurs threatened a late fightback with a Ledley King goal but couldn’t find an equaliser.
Of course, Liverpool’s key assets punished their sellers with Fowler netting twice in a 5-2 away win at Southampton.
Steven Gerrard, who didn’t play a minute of Double Gameweek 16, punished his sellers with a goal and two assists. Anyone who exercised patience with their Liverpool attacking assets was certainly rewarded.
There were two other main headlines from Gameweek 17. Aston Villa look rejuvenated under Kenny Dalglish and absolutely dismantled West Ham, winning 6-1 at Upton Park. A hat-trick from Dion Dublin was the highlight and Villa could be a fascinating attacking prospect under the man that guided Blackburn to the title.
The big drama came at Portman Road. It looked as if Thierry Henry‘s goal was guiding Arsenal towards a hard-fought win but it all happened in the last five minutes. First, Jermaine Wright slammed home an equaliser. Immediately following the restart, Giovanni van Bronckhorst was sent off for a terrible tackle – and from the resulting free-kick, much-loved Icelander Hermann Hreidarsson thumped a header past David Seaman to take the points and an 11-point haul.
The game now enters the hectic Christmas period and the main captaincy options for Gameweek 18 again come in the form of Manchester United assets at home to West Ham.
However, could United finally start to rotate? It seems a prime game to do so, which may lead to fear for some managers.
Rebrov and Spurs assets could be the alternative at home to Charlton who were thumped by Bolton in Gameweek 17.
Everyone will have a close eye on Chelsea’s trip to Ipswich with a caretaker manager in charge. Could their fortunes change?