With shocking images of cities in flames and all manner of people deciding it would be wise to go looting, speculation was rampant as to the effect this would have on other aspects where a strong police presence may be necessary, namely the curtain raiser to the Premier League season. However, with all the debates and people giving their opinion on whether things should go ahead, it was only Tottenham that found their fixture postponed.
So, to Sunday where Manchester United faced a potentially tricky tie against West Brom at the Hawthorns. With Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea all dropping points, Sir Alex Ferguson will have been keen to get his side off to a winning start, particularly in an away game, at a ground which was one of the five fixtures won on United’s travels last season. Hodgson’s Albion side provided a stern test, although United sought to control the early exhanges and were rewarded when smart play by Ashley Young led to Wayne Rooney being played in for the opener inside 15 minutes. However, with 10 minutes of the first half to play, a shot from Shane Long at an angle found its way under the arms of David De Gea. With a lack of attacking threat in the second half, and the game seemingly heading for a draw, Young once again found himself influential as he found his way past towards the byline to play in a cross that took two deflections into the net, to get an old favourite in Own Goal back on the scoresheet after a long absence to give United the 2-1 victory. So with that, here are five things that can be taken from the game.
1) David De Gea – Needs time to learn
It is unfortunate that once again the main talking point will be that of David De Gea, and if one were to read some of the opinions of those who believe themselves a greater eye for talent than the Manchester United coaching staff, then one must wonder whether David De Gea will ever be picked again. Indeed it has been a steep learning curve that has served as his welcome to England. One thing that is evident is a lack of confidence, following a shaky performance in the Community Shield, the game at the Hawthorn’s also proved to be a difficult introduction to the physicality of English football, and combined with the prying eyes of the harsh critics any errors are likely to be pounced upon and magnified. Of course one must admit there is no way Shane Long’s shot from such an angle should have found it’s way past the young Spaniard. An unfortunate incident to allow West Brom back in to the game and soon enough the comparisons to the infamous Taibi were being made by some of the more short sighted of United’s following. Regardless of these errors, one has to remember the tough start one Peter Schmeichel endured on his debut behind United’s defence. For such a young goalkeeper the pressure is likely to be heavy especially given his price tag, but one has to trust Ferguson and his staff on their judgement in what they believe to be a good investment for the future and the short term difficulties will be outweighed by the long term benefits, and one will hope that the United faithful will get behind him as he adjusts to life in the English league. There is some comedy value in seeing goalkeeping experts Phil Jones, Anderson and Fabio providing him with advice, but in all seriousness Ferguson and the squad will do all they can to help De Gea develop into what they believe will be a stalwart in goal for the future. It remains to be seen whether Lindegaard may deputise for the next fixtures, involving strong opposition especially with the absence of Vidic and Ferdinand, a point of interest in the development of United’s young ‘keeper.
2) Who needs Wesley, We’ve got Cleverley…
read a small banner in the away end. Many fans will have been glad to see Tom Cleverley earn a starting place after his impressive showing in the Community Shield, and once again he continued to show how far he has developed after his loan spell with Wigan. Composed on the ball he got involved with some good play in the centre of midfield. He took up a more attacking role than Anderson, who also impressed, sitting back and generally controlling the midfield area. Although the young Cleverley faded slightly towards the end, there was plenty to pleased with and plenty of reason to believe he will see regular action this season if he continues his promising displays. With Ferguson stating he would rather give youngsters a chance rather than make expensive signings, namely moving Pogba up to the first team, it is easy to see why there is such belief in the current crop of youngsters, and why the signing of someone like Sneijder may prove detrimental to the maturing and development of potential future stars.
3) Vidic and Ferdinand injured. Jones, Evans and Smalling eye their chance.
With Ferdinand believed to be out for six weeks and Vidic also coming off during the first game of the season, there may have been some cause for concern. However, it seems that there is now adequate cover for these fairly significant losses. With Evra due to come back, United have plenty of cover from the likes of Fabio, Phil Jones, Smalling and Evans. At right back Smalling has continued to impress, using his pace to provide a constant threat up front whilst not allowing himself to get exposed too much. With Jones and Evans replacing United’s regular defensive pairing, fans may have been anxious to see what effect this may have given the concerns regarding De Gea behind them. However, both provided solid performances with Jones in particular impressing with strong tackles and not allowing himself to be beaten. Again, with such promise being shown it may serve as a warning to both Ferdinand and Vidic that their places as regulars are not so assured with plenty behind them vying for their places and ready to take their opportunities should they be presented with them.
Continued on page two.