So one game down and another engaging 37 to go as we seek a record 20th league title.
After Sunday’s game at West Brom the most pleasing aspect for me was, of course, the outcome; although we played some superb football in the first half it was the way in which we grinded out the victory, a classic United trait, which pleased me most!
The media, opposition supporters and even our own followers became highly analytical about our quality of performance but the way in which we won the three points highlights how our ability to overcome adversity has already outlived the experienced old-guard and is in fact a part of our culture.
With the likes of Scholes, Van der Sar, O’Shea, Brown, Hargreaves and Gary Neville departing over the summer, a large core of the squad has been broken up and with influx of inexperienced talent (in Welbeck, Cleverley, Jones and De Gea) to the team it’s always a worry to see if we will be able to grind out the results which win Premier League titles.
However, all those young starlets were on the field on Sunday in a tough game against a West Brom side that had arguably the better of the second half and it was clear that we weren’t playing at our free flowing best (which was undoubtedly on show in the first 20 minutes of the match).
Yet, our defence of Fabio, Smalling, Jones and Evans stood strong against whatever was thrown at them by the West midlands side. Roy Hodgson’s men thought they smelt blood and looked to capitalize on the nerves of David De Gea, who was at fault for Shane Long’s tame effort in the first half.
However, they had no joy in breaching our defence- in which Jones and Evans were outstanding. Both coming on in the 2nd half with the game finely balanced and both did a fine job when replacing Ferdinand and Vidic; which is no mean feat! Cameroon international Tchoyi proved to be a real handful, with his large muscular presence, but our young lads dealt with him superbly.
As for the winning goal, Ashley Young’s was fundamental in its entirety. He was clearly our best attacking option in the second half and gave right back Steven Reid a difficult afternoon. The blend of crossing the ball early on his right to dribbling the ball down the line and crossing with his left was something he managed to get to spot on during the game. His qualities to vary his techniques helped provide the winning goal.
It was excellent wing play by Young, who has already shown previously what quality he has with his delivery; supplying Chris Smalling with the first goal against City. This week he repeated the achievement, dribbling the ball down the left before delivering with his ‘weaker’ foot and forcing Reid to turn the ball into his own net passed the helpless Ben Foster.
Young has only played 2 competitive games for the club and in both has supplied vital goals to help the Reds go on and win. Following such a fine display, Antonio Valencia may find it hard to work his way back into the team.
I am excited as anyone with our new impressive crop of young talent pushing for the all important first team slots. Nevertheless, I feel our special ingredient is someone we have had at the club for a number of years already. Someone who is now one of the most prominent players on the world stage… and it’s not Wayne Rooney!
Over the last two seasons, Nani has become one of the most valuable players at the club. The Portuguese winger’s impressive progression has reminded me of a certain winger who used to be at the club- that, of course, being his countryman, Cristiano Ronaldo.
Both players arrived at the club with a glamorous entrance which also brought a large amount of expectation. Early on in their careers, Ronaldo’s mesmerising step-overs puzzled full backs while Nani’s flair and tricks enabled him to adopt the same crowd-pleaser tag. Sadly Nani’s consistency troubled him and he struggled to gain selection for just over a year and there were even suggestions he’d be used in a deal for Angel Di Maria- however, the manager fortunately made the decision to keep him and he has blossomed since.
In my opinion Nani, and Rooney, are our two best attacking threats and will be fundamental to our success. He was not at his best on Sunday but he still found himself in goal-scoring opportunities. He would have been disappointed not to have slotted the ball home on two occasions but it still highlights his obvious threat- nonetheless it is the vital that he puts these opportunities away even when he isn’t firing on all fronts as it something that Ronaldo did and what really separates the incredible players from the excellent players.
As for our goalkeeper David De Gea, he is already being heavily questioned after only two competitive games for the club. Obviously, it is clear that he will be disappointed with the goals he has conceded but the simple fact is that all goalkeepers make mistakes- even Edwin did against West Brom at Old Trafford last season. Earlier this summer, everyone knew that young Spaniard would make errors and that they would be highlighted more than any other goalkeeper in Europe and this has certainly been the case.
It has to be remembered Peter Schmichael was given a rough ride in his first away by ‘The Crazy Gang’ of Wimbledon and he went on in my opinion to be the best goalkeeper ever seen at Manchester United. De Gea is set to undergo a tough test in just about every game he plays for United this season but I’m sure he has the tools to rise to the challenge.
Regardless, I’m sure we’ll see Anders Lindegaard occupying the keeper’s jersey at some stage of the season but I believe in De Gea’s long term ability, just as I’m sure the manager does. I remember seeing Iker Casillas make various mistakes when he first broke into the Real Madrid side but he is now probably the best goalkeeper in the world- as well as being the captain of the current World Cup holders.
As for the team as a whole, they have much tougher tests to face in the next few weeks and months- with all our most prominent rivals to be faced before November but it is always good to get off to a good start.
On Monday evening, we entertain Tottenham at Old Trafford as we look for our 2nd victory of the season. The north Londoners are, of course, playing their first PL fixture after the horrific riots in London last week.
Nonetheless, I have every confidence that United’s fantastic home league record from last season will continue considering our usually impressive performances against Spurs- even though they looked very sharp against Hearts in midweek.
Of course, Modric is an important component for Harry Redknapp’s side and it seems he may be heading to SW6 but they have some very good central midfielders still fully committed to the club in Van Der Vaart, Sandro, Huddlestone and Kranjcar- Modric’s departure would also minimise any disruption to their new campaign and allow them to strengthen their squad, especially up front.
Either way, Monday’s match is sure to be an entertaining affair, as Harry Redknapp is sure to play the usually adventurous football which everyone enjoys.
About Joseph Maloney
A massive United fan, Joseph has been a season-ticket holder at Old Trafford for the past 5 seasons and is currently studying sports journalism at University. Hoping to succeed in the tough world of football media, Joseph will be writing more often on Can They Score in the coming months, as he hopes to express his passion for the club through his writing.