In a game ridden with instances of brilliant flowing football from United’s attackers and nerviness galore from the defenders, United just about nicked the three points. It was 3-2 in the end- but it could very well have been 7-7.
Damien Duff opened the scoring in the 3rd minute itself, but United soon pulled their act together and hit back with three goals. These included special debut goals from Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa, which predictably sent the Old Trafford faithful into ruptures, and a header from little Rafael of all people. There was a worrying moment with a Vidic own goal in the second half, but United somehow saw through the game without further incident.
Here are some of my observations from the game-
1. RvP, Kagawa, Valencia- yes, that is the way to go. The three of them (along with Rafael and Ashley Young) linked up so often in the first half that it was a wonder United didn’t score many more. Valencia was at his vintage best, beating his man regularly and putting in those pin-point crosses we’re so used to seeing by now. Shockingly, he whipped in at least a couple of left-footed crosses- unless my memory’s playing tricks on me, this is the first time I’ve seen him do that in a United shirt.
Kagawa is such a sublime little artist. We were begging out for a signing like that- he is our David Silva, Juan Mata and Mesut Ozil, all in one. His eye for a pass and attacking instincts make him the almost perfect playmaker. Even a child can see that he has to start every game when fit- along with Van Persie, because a better striker in world football would be hard to find at the moment. What quality signings, Sir Alex. Take a bow.
2. Cleverley and Anderson looked excellent in midfield, just like they did in the beginning of last season. One cannot know if their form is going to last the whole season- but it’s encouraging to see them put in such good shifts, especially with the general discontent among fans at the lack of midfield purchases. Carrick will arguably take over from one of them when our defenders return from injury. But it augurs well that Ando and Clevz look very well up for the task of replacing our ginger prince. Clevz in particular linked up like a dream with our attackers and put in crucial passes at the right time. He was unlucky not to score after coming close twice. Ando had a couple of dodgy moments when he gave away the ball, but he looked like the real deal (for the millionth time during his United career, I admit).
3. Patrice Evra must really be concerned about United having bought Alexander Büttner- because none of his previous Captain Calamity moments in defence were on display today. His crossing was up to the mark, he linked up well with Ashley Young (who must be commended on his defensive work), and really looked ready to fight for his place in the team. There’s a chance Büttner would get to start or come on as a substitute for the Southampton game next week, but it’s good news for United if we have two brilliant left-backs battling it out for a place on the pitch.
4. It’s beyond ridiculous how often half of our defence is out injured. This has been the trend in the last 3 or 4 seasons- midfielders being drafted in as emergency centre/full backs. Obviously this is a highly undesirable situation, and contributed to the many screw-ups that happened today. Both the goals we conceded can be attributed to defensive mistakes that wouldn’t have happened if Rio or Evans were out there partnering Vidic. Rafael and Carrick were culpable for the first, which came off a free-kick, but the second was the goal that really pissed me off. Young David De Gea had a stormer against Everton, and he will definitely be a huge player for us in the future- but if he is coming out to punch the ball, then he has got to PUNCH it. His indecisiveness cost us a few times last season, and again today, it resulted in an own goal by Vidic. It can be excused this time by saying Vida and Dave aren’t used to each other and will get better understanding once they’ve played together many more times. That said, Fergie must do everything in his power to get his normal defence back for next weekend.
5. Too many strikers were on the bench but there was no sign of Nani. People have begun speculating about what this could mean. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him sold- but I would be sad, because he has a lot of quality. It makes sense for us to put up with his infuriating nature because at the end of it all lie assists and goals and more assists. About the strikers- it has to be a bit of a concern at the moment. Robin van Persie was a massive signing no doubt, and a proper statement of intent if ever there was one- but how long will Chicharito and Welbeck be happy with a bit-part role? Will Wazza be best pleased if he doesn’t get to start week in and week out? RvP will play when he’s fit, and despite taking inspiration from the treble winning season, it’s no mean task even for the greatest manager of all time to keep 4 quality strikers happy. It’d be interesting to see what SAF has in mind in the coming days.