1. Rooney being played up top. For the first time I can remember, Welbeck played the archetypal number ten role with Rooney staying up top on his own. Be it the change of position or the pre-season rust, Welbeck struggled in the supporting striker role and more often than not he lost possession and couldn’t pick out a team mate – but it is a sign of what is to come.
For me, it points to how United will line up next season. Rooney will play up top with Kagawa playing the role Welbeck did tonight. Obviously Shinji isn’t ready to come into the starting lineup, so Welbeck deputised in his absence. However, when he did come on, he slotted naturally into that central role and looked wonderful when he got the ball at his feet.
Although it hindered Danny’s performance playing him out of position, I want Wayne to get used to playing further up the pitch and finishing off chances rather than dictating play and creating them himself.
2. The return of Ferdinand and Vidic. Last season, United’s shaky defence was exploited by plenty of teams. We had an inability to defend anything that got thrown up into the air with Ferdinand and Evans not providing the brute strength we needed. The return of Vidic alongside Ferdinand will no doubt change that as well as the overall quality and confidence of our defence.
Rewind to 2010/2011 where we went undefeated for an entire season at home. We were a defensive fortress and 1-0 victories were our speciality. Last season, a new goalkeeper and no captain gave teams a genuine belief that they could get a result against us and it hurt us.
We found ourselves on the back foot in a lot of games we should have been the aggressors (Norwich away stands out) but next season, with City on top of the table, United will have to regain that fear factor if we are to topple our noisy neighbours.
3. Welcome back Dave. Although I do think Lindegaard rightfully deserved his new four year deal off the back of a good season last year, I am really glad to see the Spaniard back in goal with his extravagant but effective saves. He could of crumbled last year off the back of his mistakes at the start of the season but he dug his heels in and was, in my opinion, the best keeper in the Premier League for the second half of the season.
His shot stopping ability is absolutely fantastic and although his distribution, decision making and presence need working on, it is clear to see that he has all the makings of a world class goalkeeper. The return of Nemanja will give him a fantastic boost in confidence in the defence in front of him as it will allow him to concentrate on his own game and I fully expect him to get better the more he plays.
4. Ashley Young. Is he good enough to play for United? I still can’t figure it out. Everybody calls Valencia a one trick pony but surely Ashley Young‘s fake-to-cut-inside-to-cross has become more predictable than Scholes’ yellow card. Added to the fact that his crosses were woeful and he rarely threatened the Barcelona defence, he left Evra in no man’s land on at least three occasions. Patrice ran for the overlap but Young cheaply lost possession, catching the Frenchman out.
Last season, I can only remember two games that Young played really well in – Arsenal at home and Tottenham away. He scored four goals in those two games and was all over the shop, helping in defence and spearheading United’s attack. However, he went missing on too many occasions last year. He’s not lived up to his £20m price tag so far and if he doesn’t impress this season, his United career might end up being far shorter than he expected.
5. Valencia at right back again. For the second pre-season match in a row, United’s new number seven played at right back with Nani playing just in front of him. Although the thought of having both wingers screaming down the right flank is mouthwatering, it better simply be in the absence of Rafael and Jones that Valencia is slotting in there.
Rafael matured fantastically last year and is, for me, our stand out first choice right back. His tackling was superb on the whole and he struck a great balance between bombing forward and holding his position. Easily our best winger last year, Valencia was unstoppable when he played right midfield and the partnership he had with Rafael in the latter stages of last season was one of our most fruitful outlets and I hope this is replicated again next season.