Match of the Day's analysis of Declan Rice's performance shows why Ireland badly need him
"For a young man of 19 to dictate the middle of the park like he did was terrific."
Declan Rice earned rave reviews for his performance on Sunday. The 19-year-old started in central midfield for West Ham and played a key role in securing his team's first win of the season. The Hammers beat Everton 3-1 at Goodison Park.
Andriy Yarmolenko scored twice on his first start since joining the London club for £22m from Borussia Dortmund in the summer. West Ham talisman Marko Arnautovic got the final goal of the game to secure the three points for Manuel Pellegrini's team.
However, it was the performance of Rice and his midfield colleagues that was highlighted by the Match of the Day 2 pundits, Jermaine Jenas and Leon Osman.
With Jack Wilshere injured, Rice started in midfield beside Mark Noble and Pedro Obiang and he showed why there are two countries interested in securing his international allegiance.
— West Ham News (@whufc_news) September 16, 2018
The Londoner barely put a foot wrong. He read the game extremely well, making several timely blocks, clearances and interceptions, helping to protect the Hammers defence. Rice was also neat in possession and proved central to his team's victory.
It's rare to see a teenager play with such composure and discipline in a Premier League match, rarer still to see him dictate proceedings in central midfield. But that's exactly what Rice did on Sunday afternoon.
"I thought they were the difference on the day. I thought they were terrific," Osman said about West Ham's midfield
"They've been heavily criticised so far for some abject performances. Pellegrini has made a lot of changes trying to find the answer and today he may have just found it. The midfield three really did work together.
"Declan Rice in particular, for a young man of 19, he really did dictate how the middle of the park went. He was good in possession."
"Here, you see how effective he was out of possession. reading the game."
"As I said, for a young man of 19 to dictate the middle of the park like he did... was terrific."
The former Everton midfielder went on to highlight how Rice filled in space when gaps appeared in West Ham's defence.
And said that Rice's display, alongside Obiang and Noble, was the key factor in the Hammers first win of the season.
"Yes, the front players will get a lot of credit, but I think that (West Ham's midfield) was what made the difference."
Jenas said that the midfield trio provided the balance that Pellegrini had been searching for since taking charge during the summer.
"He has had various different players in there, whether it's Wilshere or Noble, or Rice. Sometimes he's gone with Wilshere and Noble on their own. But today, I thought it was the perfect blend and perfect balance.
"He had that combative nature with Declan Rice, who put his foot in and was good on the ball. Then he also had the legs and energy with Obiang, and that composure and experience with Noble. It helped every element of how West Ham played."
When news broke that Rice was deliberating over his international future amid interest from England, the country of his birth, Irish football fans appeared to be split down the middle.
Some accepted that, despite his three caps for Ireland team, Rice was right to take time before making such a big decision. And they would welcome him back to the Ireland team, should he decide to remain with Martin O'Neill's side.
Others claimed that the decision should be taken out of Rice's hands. If he needed time to choose between countries, then he evidently had no business playing for the Irish national team.
One of the more curious reactions from a minority of fans was that Ireland didn't need Rice anyway. That, if he couldn't get a game for West Ham, we shouldn't be desperate for him to stay with the national team. Such a view made no sense at the time and now looks baffling.
Ireland can't afford to overlook any Premier League player available to them, never mind a teenager dictating games in central midfield away from home.
The idea that Rice isn't good enough for England is also questionable. Gareth Southgate's assistant manager Steve Holland was in Goodison Park on Sunday afternoon and Rice's performance will undoubtedly have caught his eye.
He may not be ready to start for England now, but another 10 performances like the one he put in on Sunday, and Rice will be in contention for their squad. A couple of years from now, he could be starting in either central defence or central midfield for them if he continues to progress as he has so far.
England also don't have many teenagers dictating play from central midfield in Premier League games. Never mind one who is naturally a central defender, as Rice is.
There have been reports that O'Neill is due to meet with Rice this week. The Ireland team badly need him to ignore England's advances, as Sunday's performance showed.
You can watch Match of the Day's analysis clip here: