The game may have been decided in the first half but United were more impressive in the second. Bastian Schweinsteiger’s very impressive cameo and Schneiderlin’s second stellar shift in the middle would suggest that they should be the starting pair. It would be surprise if that isn’t the case next week in Europe. United’s team that ended the game – with Depay in for Young – may well be the team that should start going forward.
The way Rooney is playing then the possible acquisition of Pedro actually puts the United captain at risk. Slow and cumbersome, heavy touched, for the first time in his career Rooney now looks like the hindrance and problem in a potentally vibrant front line. He needs to get better.
Who at number 10?
Adnan Januzaj looked likely enough but the flashes of Juan Mata in that central role were the most promising. Mata is one of the best footballers United have (I know!) and it was through his penetration in the middle that most clear chances (including the goal) were created). Van Gaal is searching for his best team and it’s not looking any more obvious…
…which leads us on to this. The manager said United played better than last week. The goal did come from a piece of fantastic football and there were two or three moments of true quality after the substitutes.
No, it wasn’t brilliant. But there are signs of promise. We would like to see better performances but we’re encouraged.
A case for the defence
Daley Blind will be bullied by Harry Kane, we were told.
Daley Blind will be bullied by Rudy Gestede.
The Dutch player deserves immense credit for his performances at centre half and was outstanding tonight. Talk will rumble on about a replacement but this United team is a team with places up for grabs. Danny Higginbotham had Smalling as his man of the match (and who are we to disagree) – maybe it’s the lowered expectations, but that left centre half position is Daley Blind’s to lose. He’s playing like someone who knows that might be his best chance of football and how sweet that is.
Key Stats –
Shots 9 (2 on target)
84% pass success
Passes – Blind 67, Schneiderlin 58, Mata 50
Pass completion – Blind 95.5%, Carrick 91.7%, Schweinsteiger 91.4%
Key passes – Mata 3, Rooney 2
Shots – Depay 7
Dribbles – Januzaj 3, Depay 2
Tackles – Darmian 6, Schneiderlin 5, Mata 4
Interceptions – Schneiderlin, Darmian 5 – Blind, Smalling 3
Clearances – Blind 11, Smalling 10
Smalling 8 (Danny Higginbotham man of the match)