With pre-season out of the way, the Premier League campaign was upon us, and you could see the excitement building as first United’s new adidas kits were unveiled, then when the squad numbers were announced. It was all systems go leading up to the first game of the season at Old Trafford, as United would be facing Tottenham.
The day before the game, Van Gaal announced in his pre-match conference that De Gea wouldn’t be playing, which left a lot of us worrying even more than when he had announced that Daley Blind would be starting as centre-back. When the starting eleven were announced, we realised that rather than a surprise striker United had a surprise keeper making his debut. Enter Sergio Romero, signed for free just a couple of weeks earlier, and thrown into the deep end straight away.
We still had much to be excited about, with Memphis, Darmian and Schneiderlin all making their competitive debuts, while Schweinsteiger was sitting on the bench. Yes, World cup winner and Germany captain Bastian Schweinsteiger, a substitute for Manchester United!
When the game started, United were on the back foot as Tottenham seemed quicker and more attack minded, and by far the better side for the first twenty minutes or so. In that time we got to see Romero’s capabilities as he made a good save to ease our minds a little, then showed that he’s not as good with his feet when he passed to the corner flag rather than a team-mate.
With United fans getting more worried by the minute, Mata won a ball in midfield, passed to Memphis who found Young on the wing, who put it on a plate for Wayne Rooney, who for some reason didn’t shoot first-time, giving Kyle Walker the chance to nick the ball off him… and put it into his own net. Though slightly disappointing that our captain wasn’t quick enough to finish it himself, they all count and it was nice to see own-goal make a comeback for United. From then on, it was nearly all United until half-time, as they started moving and finding each other much better than before the goal.
The second half started similar to how the first had ended, with United in control for a lot of it. When World Cup winner and Germany captain Schweinsteiger got ready to come on after an hour, the atmosphere at Old Trafford picked up a lot as everyone realised this was all true, he was indeed a United player. Apart from picking a booking soon after replacing Carrick, he looked solid next to Schneiderlin. There was still time for some twitchy ar*es as Tottenham pressed for an equaliser, but United’s makeshift defence and Romero stood strong to make sure that Van Gaal’s birthday would not be ruined.
Though it was mostly a boring game, a lot of positives can be taken from it, including the performances of the new players. Darmian seems like a massive upgrade on the right-backs United have had in the past few years, as he can use both feet, has excellent ball control, can overlap very well, and can even cross the ball properly! Schneiderlin fit in perfectly and was getting involved constantly, while Memphis did a lot of runs that will hopefully start to come to fruition soon. Schweinsteiger also did well in the half-hour that he was on the pitch for; Sergio Romero impressed too, and even if none of his saves were world-class and he reminded us of Fabien Barthez whenever the ball was at his feet, he did well enough for the Stretford End to sing his name at the end of the match. Of the ‘old’ players, Chris ‘Mike’ Smalling was the most impressive, and showed that once Rojo is back, the centre-back positions might be accounted for adequately. Ashley Young had a good game too as he’s another of those players that does what the manager asks of him, and does it well.
Looking at the De Gea situation, as much as we’d love him to play every game for United, Van Gaal took the right decision to not play him as he had already looked like his head was elsewhere when United played PSG in pre-season. In fact we had mentioned that that might have been his last appearance for the club. Here’s hoping he will stay as we’d rather see him on the pitch than ‘picking his nose’ with Lindegaard and Valdes.
In other games on this opening weekend, Champions Chelsea could only draw 2-2 at home to Swansea. Or at least we think that’s what happened as hardly anybody is talking about the game and are instead going on about ‘The Happy One’ having another of his fits, this time about his medical staff. How long before his antics become so repetitive that they will be deemed boring?
Manchester City showed intent as they made mince meat of a poor West Brom in a 3-0 win at the Hawthorns; pre-season Treble winners Arsenal lost 2-0 at home to West Ham, making sure the first boos were heard at The Emirates at the final whistle; L’pool won 1-0 at Stoke in a game even more sleep inducing than United’s, though at least Coutinho’s goal was worth staying up for; Newcastle and Southampton fought out an entertaining 2-2 draw, and Ranieri’s Leicester beat an abject looking Sunderland 4-2; From the newly promoted sides, only Watford got a point as they impressed in a 2-2 draw at Everton, while Bournemouth and Norwich both lost at home to Aston Villa and Crystal Palace respectively.
In other United related news, Phil Jones is out for about three weeks due to mild thrombosis. Also, it was sad to hear about Gary and Phil Neville’s dad passing away. He was a very nice gentleman, and may he rest in peace.
We now look ahead to two games in the next week. United travel to Aston Villa for a Friday evening kick-off. This game had to be moved as West Midlands police didn’t want it to be played on Saturday because of an EDL march, and United can’t play on Sunday because of the Champions League play-off against Belgian side Bruges, which will be played at Old Trafford on Tuesday evening.
We hope that we will be writing about two United wins, especially in the European qualifier as they need to show that they are good enough to play in the Champions’ League group stages. Until next week… COME ON UNITED!!!