Manchester United have begun their Premier League campaign with a 1-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur thanks to an own goal from Kyle Walker.
Spurs made a solid start to the game and were unlucky not to go one up when Christian Eriksen lobbed narrowly over after being put through by Harry Kane. The opening 20 minutes saw United struggle in the face of a lively Spurs outfit but it was Louis van Gaal’s side who went in front on the counter-attack when Walker tried to challenge Wayne Rooney but inadvertently put the ball into his own net.
From then on, United looked more dangerous, had more possession and established an element of control on proceedings. They couldn’t add to their tally but they would have been happy with the first 45 minutes heading into the break.
The early stages of the second half largely passed without incident but Sergio Romero had to be alert when Eriksen whipped a dangerous ball into the box. Ashley Young then had a presentable opportunity but he fired straight at Michel Vorm. Spurs eventually upped the pressure in the final minutes and Romero produced a fantastic save to deny Eriksen, preserving his clean sheet and securing all three points for United in the process.
The Argentine was thrown in at the deep end having not started a league match since December and he may have conceded within the first five minutes if Eriksen had judged his lob better. It could have been a disastrous start for Romero but he escaped embarrassment and generally acquitted himself well during the tricky opening exchanges, although he did look nervy with the ball at his feet. His late save from Eriksen’s shot was hugely important in winning the match.
Meanwhile, David de Gea watched on from the stands amid ongoing speculation he is set to join Real Madrid. United cannot afford to have the uncertainty surrounding the squad for much longer and fans will be hoping for a resolution one way or the other soon. Although he did well against Spurs, there is a question mark over whether or not Romero is good enough to be No.1 in the long-term if De Gea leaves.
No shots on target but still took the lead
United were poor in the first 20 minutes but went in front without even having a shot on target thanks to Walker’s own goal. It was certainly worrying to see Memphis Depay and Wayne Rooney so subdued early on but the goal gave United momentum and a platform to build on.
Memphis, Rooney and Juan Mata eventually grew into the game and it was clear to see that the lead had taken some pressure off the player’s shoulders. Perhaps a nervy start was to be expected after such a busy summer but van Gaal would have taken heart with how his team pushed on as the match progressed.
There has been suggestions that the impending arrival of Barcelona’s Pedro will be bad news for Mata in terms of his place in the starting XI but he looked bright against Spurs.
One of United’s best players in the second half of last season, the Spaniard caused Mauricio Pochettino’s side some problems with some intelligent passing and movement. Pedro will inject pace into United’s attack if he does end up joining but he should not expect to walk straight into the team if Mata keeps up his good form.
Of course, there is also the possibility that Mata could be switched to a more central role, as we all know that van Gaal likes his players to be multi-functional.
As much as it may pain supporters to say it following the departure of Rafael, United might have found their first proper right-back since Gary Neville. Darmian was one of the standout players on tour and he continued to look the business against Spurs.
The Italian was spot on positionally, got himself out of tricky situations with a minimum of fuss and always seemed to choose the correct option. It is very early days but Darmian may well prove to be one of the signings of the summer.
The German, introduced to the Old Trafford crowd on the hour mark, was telling his teammates where to position themselves and where to pass the ball from the first minute of his debut and it is clear for all to see that he will be a commanding presence in the middle of the park for United this season.
Schweinsteiger looked calm and composed in midfield and helped United stay firm during the nervy final moments. It is still surreal to see him in a United shirt and you’d imagine that it will be a while yet.
He looks a player, doesn’t he? The Dutchman was a real live-wire during his 68 minutes on the pitch and was always looking to try something different when he got himself on the ball. Although he didn’t get a goal, it is only a matter of time before he starts banging them in this term.