It is time.
Football enthusiasts the world over rejoice at the commencement of the 2015-16 season of the Barclay’s Premier League. Manchester United faced Tottenham Hotspurs in this season’s opener as the hosts saw off a late Tottenham onslaught to defeat the Spurs thanks to a first half own-goal by Kyle Walker. Although the game was a trifle insipid in terms of attacking interplay, there were several takeaways from the game which have set the tone for what can be expected from the two clubs in the game to follow.
EssentiallySports presents to you five talking points from Manchester United versus Tottenham Hotspurs.
Daley Blind’s inclusion as centre-back raised a few eyebrows as it has for much of United’s pre-season. The ideology behind this is supposedly the answer to United’s much critizied lack of composure at the back. A centre-back who is comfortable while in position should ideally solve the aforementioned issue. However, Daley Blind is not a centre-back. Manchester United seek to regain their lost esteem in the Premier League and in Europe and Blind is not the answer to their defensive woes. Indeed, he was the weakest of United’s defenders as Chris Smalling, Luke Shaw and new signing Matteo Darmian played exceedingly well.
Manchester United’s defensive frailties have been well documented ever for the past few years. The departure of fan-favourite Rafael this past week has not gone down well with the Old Trafford Faithful. Although it is perhaps premature to suggest so, Matteo Darmian appears well set to make the right-back position his own. An exemplar outing boosts his credentials exponentially as Darmian hardly put a foot wrong all game. He comes across as an extremely intelligent full-back who doesn’t shy away from a challenge. This extremely promising debut will have Manchester United fans extremely relieved over the club’s defensive future.
Similarly, Chris Smalling looks like a new player. Defensively assured, tactically sound, physically strong with intelligent tackles, Smalling reveled the battle with Harry Kane and came out on top and finally looks set to take up the defensive mantle from his Serbian predecessor. However, who his defensive partner shall be to solidify United’s back line is still a big question mark. Phil Jones, Daley Blind, or perhaps an Ed Woodward miracle signing, the question shall undoubtedly be answered in the coming few weeks.
Michael Carrick’s performance today shows exactly how important he still is to Manchester United’s cause. More defensively aware than any person on the field, the former Tottenham man’s presence on the field was inspiring. Minus the occasional misplaced pass and the rare missed interception, Carrick stamped his authority on the field with supreme authority throughout his 60 minute outing with a stunning 97% passing completion percentage. While his ‘Sch’ midfield counterparts at the club took their time settling down, Michael Carrick was the rock at the heart of Manchester United from the kickoff.
In the entirety of the 90 minutes played today, Manchester United registered just one shot on target. To look at the positives, they were structurally organized. It was understandable the first game of the season and the new signings shall take time to settle in and get accustomed to Louis van Gaal’s tactics. However, one shot at target simply cannot be ignored. The energy of Manchester United sides over the past two decades was all but absent. The famous Manchester United counterattack has quite simply eroded. Sure, it maybe unfair to turn back the clock to an era gone by, but Louis van Gaal needs to inspire some energy and attacking intent into his side. It may be a ‘process’, but there is no excuse for the lack of intent.
Since the departure of Harry Redknapp, Tottenham have failed to inject any stability into their setup. The Argentine has added some much needed structure to the Tottenham setup as they look significantly more composed and assured as compared to Pochettino’s debut season. Building a club takes time and Pochettino is understood to have the squad of his own preference after a number of departures in the summer. However, the club still lacks any reliable cover for main men Harry Kane and Cristian Ericsson. The latter in particular appeared a little out of breath towards the conclusion of the game. Adequate cover for these two positions and Tottenham should mount a serious challenge for European qualification.