It’s been a while since I left Old Trafford feeling optimistic and enthused by a performance that was much needed, as well as picking up our first victory of the campaign. Some might argue that it was only a QPR side we faced, who are hardly going to be challenging for a top six finish, but remembering the dismal performances versus Swansea, West Bromwich Albion and Sunderland since Sir Alex Ferguson retired, the fortress that once was – may just become that soon.
The first half display, in particular the tantalising way in which Angel Di Maria marked his home debut, was a joy to watch, with his mazy runs, dribbles and silky touches – one could almost be forgiven to think that the number 7 playing against QPR, was the former darling of Old Trafford, a certain Cristiano Ronaldo. As well as showing his undoubted ability with the ball, I was also impressed to see how Di Maria stayed on his feet – maybe he got the lowdown from the returning Rio Ferdinand. Opposing defenders will have nightmares this season when facing Di Maria, and his ability to come inside, or take on his man on the outside and then deliver a telling cross, one thing is for sure he will get bums off seats with his attacking flair.
For every team that has their flair players, it needs to be balanced with those who are well disciplined, sense danger and can keep things simple yet effective, enter the debutant and my man of the match – Daley Blind. It’s not often that the number 17 of Manchester United gives me confidence that he will be consistent and reliable (the last one left me immensely frustrated more often than not), but Blind’s composure, positional awareness and the ability to find his team mate with his passing, is going to prove vital to United’s solidity during the season. If Di Maria has that ‘Ronaldo effect’ then Blind may just have that ‘Irwin effect’ – Mr Reliable and 8/10 most weeks. To think that Blind can be utilised as a defensive midfielder, a left back or centre half, can only prove to be an asset for United, and despite having previous players who have been utility players such as John O’Shea or Phil Jones, with respect, Blind’s technical ability is far superior.
Linking closely with Blind, Ander Herrera played a midfield role that may leave Michael Carrick asking himself the question whether he can get back into the starting line up. I’ve liked what I’ve seen of Herrera so far, he doesn’t appear intimidated by the physicality of the Premier League, and certainly has the ability to keep the ball moving freely, whilst also getting himself into decent attacking positions. His understanding with Juan Mata was something that didn’t go unnoticed either, and the midfield balance looked far better than it has done for a while. It was pleasing to see Mata on the score sheet too, especially as questions have been raised about his long term future at United, for me personally, I would like to see him remain at the club, despite rumours of interest from Juventus.
Whilst the spending spree has been highlighted in the media, it’s pleasing to see that home grown Tyler Blackett continuing his development and starting in defence, with another assured display, and I hope he continues to grow from strength to strength. You also get the feeling that Marcos Rojo’s debut (despite one particular error that almost led to a QPR equaliser) was made easier by playing alongside other Spanish speaking players as well as his fellow country man Di Maria. Just a thought, even though the season is only four games old, I wonder what Luke Shaw must be feeling about how and where he can cement a place in the starting eleven ?
The defence, irrespective of whether it will be three or four at the back, still requires some tuning, and my feeling is that we are still one world class centre half short.
The Radamel Falcao chant was ringing around Old Trafford, and his warm-up was greeted with more noise than I’ve heard for a while for any player warming up. Falcao is without doubt a striker that will put fear into the defences given time. Time is something Robin van Persie has had to recover from his World Cup exploits, and his display against a QPR defence that isn’t exactly the toughest, has merely put more questions in my mind as to how long he can be confident of his name appearing on the team sheet. Whilst many have been critical of Wayne Rooney’s performances, I would argue that he offers more to the team than van Persie, when they both are not firing on all cylinders. Maybe it’s a just a goal that van Persie needs to resurrect the form he showed over a season ago, but unlike then, he now cannot be guaranteed to be the main striker at Old Trafford with Falcao’s arrival.
It may have only been QPR, but a 4-0 victory, coupled with some confident debut’s and a much better all round display, I hope the process that van Gaal has spoken about previously, has finally started.