Welcome to the latest in a new series here at B/R, where we pick up a single player's performance from the weekend and analyse its effectiveness.
Next up is Yohan Cabaye, who formed an integral part of Alan Pardew's impressive midfield selection in Newcastle's famous 1-0 victory at Old Trafford.
Cabaye the Holding Midfielder
Cabaye is now widely known as a top-class deep-lying playmaker.
He's a French international, a regular in Didier Deschamps' starting XI and orchestrates attacks brilliantly from deep positions; Newcastle's woeful 2012-13 season can be sourced, in part, to Cabaye's injury struggles, outlining what an important presence he is for their midfield.
He's an underrated tackler, breaks play up cleanly as well as creates and tracks his markers well. All in all, he's a prototypical deep-lying presence in the modern game, but that wasn't the role he fulfilled at Old Trafford on Saturday at all.
Cabaye played as an unorthodox No. 10, utilising a stifling role that we've nicknamed the "suffoco" in recent years.
In essence, he's playing in the same position Juan Roman Riquelme—the famous creator—would adopt, but plays a destructive, high-pressing role rather than a creative, flamboyant one.
Pardew setup a 4-2-3-1 formation with Cheick Tiote and Vurnon Anita in holding roles, Moussa Sissoko on the right and Yoan Gouffran (loosely) on the left. That left Cabaye to find space between the lines when his side were on the ball, and when they lost it he was in a strong position to begin pressurising a suspect midfield.
The key to winning against Manchester United—home or away—is to control the centre of the pitch for as long as possible. Pardew's plan was for Cabaye to hassle Phil Jones and Tom Cleverley and exploit any uncertainties in the inexperienced pair.
He picked up a yellow card after just nine minutes, calling his suitability for the role into question, but he then settled down and recorded two tackles and two interceptions.
Going forward, Cabaye was an easy outlet for Tiote to find as he dumped the ball off short and simple. The Tiote-Cabaye pass combination was the most heavily used among all players, with the Ivorian finding his French teammate a whopping 17 times.
In turn, Cabaye's passing lanes were extremely straight-forward too: cutting through-balls to Loic Remy wasn't in the gameplan, and instead Cabaye opted to find his wide men early and often.
Pardew had singled out Sissoko, in particular, as a difference-maker, and the converted winger took extreme pleasure in taking Patrice Evra for the ride of his life.
One vs. one it's almost impossible to stop Sissoko in full flow, and Cabaye's No. 1 passing option was always to slot him into space.
That was the case for the goal, and it crowned a near-perfect 90 minutes for Cabaye when he slotted the return ball from Sissoko home from outside the box.
Pardew's game plan, formation and style were spot-on: he made tactical blunders aplenty last season and flunked the game at Swansea midweek, but rectified things here with a perfect win.
Using Cabaye further forward is an idea that's been postulated by the fan base in the past, but don't expect it to happen too often. This was a game-specific role crafted for him, and it's not applicable for most matches this season.