The new Premiership season may only be a few weeks old but already, in my eyes, there have been two stand out performers. Dimitar Berbatov and Micheal Essien both look to be back to their best after disappointing 2009-2010 seasons, albeit for very different reasons.
Berbatov has failed to meet the expectations that came with his profile move from Spurs. There were only fleeting moments of the brilliance that football fans know he is capable of over the last two seasons. His lethargic approach to football meant that when he was not at his creative or goalscoring best, he offered little to the team.
He infuriated fans. His form was mercurial and his talent was wasted by his attitude and effort. The Bulgarian striker spent much of his time last year sat on the bench watching Wayne Rooney create headlines as the lone striker.
This season, however, something seems to have clicked. Berbatov has recaptured the form that earned him such a large price tag in 2008 and, unsurprisingly, he now seems to be enjoying his football in Manchester.
He has netted three times already in the Premiership and his goal against Everton yesterday was a thing of beauty. He has great vision, his touch is sublime and he may well be the most gifted technical player currently in the league. Berbatov has the ability to amaze fans with the ease at which he can do seemingly impossible things with a football and, at last, he is doing this more often.
The rediscovery of his best form will have come as a welcome relief to United as their star player hides in the shadows after his seedy private life was exposed. After an over-reliance on Rooney last season, Berbatov's goals will certainly be an important commodity.
Michael Essien is the polar opposite to Berbatov. He is a player who's reputation is based not upon finesse but an insatiable appetite and tireless work rate. What Berbatov has in technique, Essien makes up for with his physical attributes.
The Chelsea midfielder missed most of last season through a knee injury and has been, in the words of his manager Carlo Ancelotti, “better than a new signing”. 'The Bison', as he is sometimes known, has reinvigorated the Chelsea team and looked more imposing than ever at the start of the current campaign.
Mikel's new role is critical. With him in the holding role, Essien is free to be far more expressive in his play and positioning. He was on the score-sheet twice against West Ham yesterday and his all action approach to the game has been central to Chelsea's strong start to the season.
Both United and Chelsea remained relatively inactive in the summer transfer window. The message from the managers was clear – we believe in the squads we have. Their confidence has been rewarded as Berbatov and Essien have responded superbly. Berbatov's return to form and Essien's return from injury have injected new life into their respective teams.
I suppose we should not be too surprised. They are both big money buys and fantastic players. Nevertheless, the impact they have had on their sides been clear. It will be interesting to see if they can maintain their form, fitness and influence as the season progresses.