Premier League Team of the Week: Black Cats dominate

Several players make only their first or second appearances of the season after a largely subdued weekend of top-flight action, while Wayne Rooney is back for a fifth time
A number of unlikely heroes took their chance to shine as the Premier League fixture list was reduced to just seven matches thanks to the FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley.

Reading kept a top-flight clean sheet for the first time in 13 matches against Liverpool, with goalkeeper Alex McCarthy making a string of fine saves. Despite a fine performance by Sunderland's Simon Mignolet, McCarthy gets the nod between the sticks for the third time this season.

But several of Mignolet's team-mates fared better, with four Black Cats making our TOTW following their 3-0 derby victory over Newcastle at St James' Park.

John O'Shea and Danny Rose line up at centre-back and left-back respectively after strong individual performances, while Stephane Sessegnon provides the attacking threat from midfield after scoring the opener and claiming top of the match against the Magpies.  Adam Johnson's fine solo goal earns him a place in the front three.

Meanwhile, Manchester United contribute three players to the line-up after their comfortable win at Stoke. Phil Jones just about gets in at the expense of Bacary Sagna on a quiet weekend for right-backs.

Michael Carrick got the Red Devils off to a flying start with an early goal to continue his fine recent form, and is joined by Wayne Rooney, who adjusted well to life in the centre of the pitch and could give Sir Alex Ferguson some much-needed drive through the middle over the coming weeks.

Completing the defence is Everton stopper Sylvain Distin, who performed well against QPR at Goodison and was disappointed to see Victor Anichebe toe in his goal-bound header for 2-0.

Anichebe narrowly misses out to Olivier Giroud, who struck Arsenal's second goal against Norwich with just two minutes to go.

Gunners team-mate Lukas Podolski came close to making the XI following his instant impact off the bench, and Philippe Coutinho was also on the verge of an appearance after another bright display for Liverpool. However, the left forward role belongs to Charles N'Zogbia, who played well for Aston Villa and fired in the equaliser against Fulham as Paul Lambert's men continue to fight relegation.


vs Liverpool (H)
TOTW Apps: 3

vs Stoke (A) vs Newcastle (A) vs QPR (H) vs Newcastle (H)
Rating: Rating: Rating: Rating:
TOTW Apps: 1
TOTW Apps: 2
TOTW Apps: 1
TOTW Apps: 1

vs Newcastle (A) vs Stoke (A) vs Stoke (A)
Rating: Rating: Rating:
TOTW Apps: 3
TOTW Apps: 3
TOTW Apps: 5

vs Newcastle (A) vs Norwich (H) vs Fulham (H)
Rating: Rating: Rating:
TOTW Apps: 2
TOTW Apps: 2
TOTW Apps: 2