In what felt like a repeat of the Community Shield game, we were stunned yet again by the ease in which De Gea was beaten only to be resuced by a late-ish goal from one of our outstanding wingers.
As rightly pointed out by numerous news outlets, the big plus is that we pulled in all 3 points on a weekend when our main rivals could not. Granted, the way in which we achieved it was not pretty. At least not in the second 45. But as we’ve learnt from last season, the manner in which we earn the win comes second to the actual victory itself.
Takeaways from today’s game
De Gea did not look overly commanding in the box. He fluffed on an early corner and definitely could have done better with the goal. Just like last weekend, De Gea looked a tad slow in reacting to the shot which made all the difference. On the positive side, our team this year looks to be full of goals. So, perhaps, we reinvent ourselves for this season anyway (from being the rock solid defensive team of years past into one that is able to score more, but is a little more suspect at the back?) until De Gea finds his feet and gains some confidence. It’s not easy being a United keeper especially as a replacement for the steady handed VDS.
Wazza in top form
Rooney doesn’t have the hangover of the World Cup/personal scandal weighing down on his shoulders. And it’s coming through in the way he’s playing thus far. His stellar preseason form has carried over into the season and he’s looked lively and a real scoring threat even if he isn’t the further player forward. I wonder how much that contract fiasco that played out in October of last year was on his mind at the start of last season. Maybe it’s the new crop of hair he has growing on top. In addition to his well-taken goal, he demonstrated his typical commitment by flinging himself in the way of a shot toward the end of the game.
Already, this new look side looks more vibrant and lively than last season’s team. Injecting some youth as well as a certain Ashley Young on the flank has probably helped. Welbeck got the start over Berbatov while Cleverley was preferred in midfield over Carrick. After their performances against City last weekend, who could really find any fault in this decision.
One moment in the first half (in the 21st minute) seemed to really exemplify the pace in which Sir Alex is expecting the team to play. It started with Cleverley deftly picking up the ball in his own half before and culminated with some slick interchanging between Nani, Welbeck and Rooney. Unfortunately, the final strike was off target by the Portuguese winger. It did however demonstrate the kind of fluidity that was missing for most of last season and perhaps, an indication of why Berba is occupying more time on the bench than on the field. Anderson as well looks to be finding his footing and is playing with a little more focus and determination this year. While he didn’t necessarily have a dominant game, he is showing signs of being the enforcer in the middle that we’ve been yearning for.
The win came at a high cost. We lost both Vidic and Rio to injuries with Rio now reported to be out for at least 6 weeks due to his hammy. It’s uncertain at this point how long Vidic will be out for, but it definitely won’t be an overnight recovery. We can take heart however from the fact that both Vidic and Rio were off the field last weekend when a backline comprised of Jones, Smalling, Evans and Evra (later Rafael) successfully fended off a City front line and helped complete the comeback victory. Will we miss Rio (and potentially Vidic) against the likes of Arsenal? Of course we will. But having these youngster to call upon sure beats a central defensive pairing of Carrick and Fletcher again.
Yes, we were probably lucky to come away with the win after an unimpressive second half. Yet, we played well in the first half and had the good fortune of having Ashley Young in our side. He was a constant thorn down the wing and was fully deserving of the goal that spared our blushes and won us maximum points.