Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Rivals' target De Gea, but Fergie's young guns' rise to challenge as Rooney inspires United...

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Well then, what did we learn about this new look Manchester United when Spurs visited Old Trafford on Monday night? Where do we begin, is a pertinent answer to that. Let's start with the bald facts: After an evenly contested hour of very open football, United eventually ran out comfortable three-nil winners. For their part, Spurs had little or no punch up front and wiley old Harry Redknapp had clearly briefed his players to 'shoot on sight'; the visitors game plan appeared to centre on exploiting on the perceived weaknesses of new boy David de Gea.

United's young Spanish goalkeeper has had something of a self-inflicted baptism of fire in English football. De Gea was badly at fault at Wembley in the Community Shield against Manchester City when allowing Dzeko to score from fully 35 yards. Then in United's Premier League opener against West Brom, De Gea was beaten too easily by Shane Long and even Ferguson didn't mince his words after that game when admitting that his new charge should have done better.

The fact that Spurs tried to capitalise on De Gea should surprise no one and make no mistake, we can expect others to emulate Redknapp's tactics. Spurs tried and failed to ruffle De Gea's feathers, but they will not be the last to test him.

To his great credit, De Gea pretty much dealt with everything that Spurs threw at him pretty well, in fact his handling - barring one second half cross - was exemplary.

How many times do we see goalkeepers' failing to make what look like bread and butter saves? The accepted norm these days is to attempt to punch the ball away to safety. We know that these lightweight footballs do swerve in the air, more than perhaps they used to, but the art of actually catching and holding onto the ball appears to have been forgotten, but last night against Spurs, we saw De Gea catching the ball with supreme confidence. It made for such a pleasant change to see a goalie not only catching the ball, but also gathering it up without spilling it and then delivering a pin-point throw out to a team-mate. De Gea's distribution is excellent, it is so good, it could prove to be worth a few goals this season.

Hopefully, De Gea will have gained a great deal of confidence by keeping a clean-sheet and from his performance against Spurs. It was great to hear the Old Trafford crowd chanting his name too. The only slight worry is those crosses and can the Spaniard deal with them effectively? Only time will tell, but let's us hope Ferguson and his scouting team have done their homework, but following that first home game the signs are looking more promising.

So what of United's other new summer signings? Phil Jones was sublime. The former Blackburn defender didn't put a foot wrong all night. At one point Jones gave Defoe an earful for diving and it was great to see the United youngster giving the experienced Spurs striker a verbal volley. Jones looked really at home alongside Jonny Evans and even though Spurs had pretty much nothing up front, the new centre-back pairing looked solid. Chris Smalling was once again excellent at right-back and with every passing game he continues to look like a big star with a very bright future at Manchester United.

Ashley Young looked more than useful on the left flank and he continues to link up really well with Rooney and the rest of his new-mates. If there was a minor gripe in the first-half, it was that United's final ball wasn't good enough and in this respect Young could have done better, but he wasn't on his own in that respect.

In central midfield, Ferguson once again started with Anderson and Tom Cleverley and it's worth asking if this new partnership will be the bedrock of a new look engine room, with no place in the starting line-up for Michael Carrick? Again, only time will tell, but it's beginning to look like Cleverley might well have carved out a starting place following a good pre-season and three solid performances in competitive games.

Danny Welbeck opened the scoring on 61 minutes and what a good goal it was too. Tom Cleverley supplied the killer cross from the right and Welbeck gave the hitherto difficult to beat Brad Friedel no chance with a well directed header. United doubled their advantage on 76 minutes when Welbeck back-heeled quite beautifully to the on-rushing Anderson who made no mistake with a left foot drive from deep inside the Spurs penalty area.

No doubt buoyed by his goal, Welbeck could have doubled his tally, but his acrobatic overhead-kick fell into the grateful arms of Friedel.

Fergie made a triple substitution on 81 minutes when replacing Young, Cleverley and Welbeck with Park Ji-Sung, Giggs and Hernandez.

Rooney wrapped up the scoring on 87 minutes with a great header from a Ryan Giggs cross. Welbeck was voted Man of The Match, but truth be told, Wayne Rooney was United's star man. Rooney looks like a new player - he actually looks five years younger following that much talked about hair transplant. Rooney looks and is playing like a 19-year-old. Long may it continue.

As for the performance of Danny Welbeck, up and until the 61st minute he was 100% certain to be replaced, because he had lost possession cheaply on a number of occasions and the ball wasn't sticking or else being used correctly and as a result United's attacks were breaking down.

Welbeck's goal gave him a big confidence boost and his performance improved, but it remains to be seen if he will ever be able to carve out a regular starting place at United.

One of the biggest talking points of the night was the absence of Dimitar Berbatov who continues to be completely ignored by Ferguson. Ahead of the visit of Tottenham, it was thought that the Bulgarian would start, but that didn't happen. United have some concerns about Berbatov's future in relation to his contract and earlier this week the club reportedly rejected a £16m offer from PSG.

With the much talked about Sneijder or Modric possibly moving to United, there must still be a slight chance that Berbatov could be involved a player plus cash swap deal. Watch this space on that one.

Overall, it was a very satisfying night for everyone connected with Manchester United. The United youngsters on show enhanced their chances of claiming a regular place in Ferguson's team and no doubting the manager will have a few selection headaches in the weeks ahead.

Next up, Arsenal are the visitors to Old Trafford on Sunday for what could be a cracker.

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3 comments:

  1. I think de Gea's real weakness is in handling crosses, not long shots.

    If every team playing against United this season were to use Harry's shoot on sight tactic, rather than trying to test de Gea on crosses, I'd take that.

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  2. By the way, Anzhiwhatever has just signed Etoo from Inter. I'm worried this may have a negative bearing on the Sneijder transfer saga, as Inter now have cash and would not be willing to part with both players. What are your thoughts on this?

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  3. Anon,

    If the way Spurs approached the game on Monday is anything to go off, then I think opposition manager's may think de Gea is weak all round... but I agree, from what I've seen de Gea doesn't look particularly strong on crosses.

    As regards Eto'o, Sneijder said that he thought he might be sold to raise funds for Inter and he thought he'd be sold because he was their most valuable asset, but now that Eto'o has gone it seems there's no need to sell Sneijder. I personally doubt we are going to sign anyone, but I wouldn't totally rule out Barton (which will annoy me a lot if it happens)

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