Auf Wiedersehen, Goals, Pet

United 0:0 Newcastle

Line up: Romero, Darmian, Blind, Smalling, Shaw, Schneiderlin, Schweinsteiger, Mata, Januzaj, Memphis, Rooney

Subs: Valencia for Darmian, Carrick for Schweinsteiger, Chicharito for Januzaj

There is something quite calming about the team sheet in the early days of this season for United; we don’t seem to need to question Romero, Darmian composed and looking the perfect fit on the right, Luke Shaw world beating on the left, Chris Smalling and Daley Blind becoming something in the centre. The midfield has changed, sometimes personnel but mainly positions and against Newcastle Juan Mata and Memphis were selected to do the damage on the flanks, Morgan Schneiderlin continued his midfield brief alongside débutante Bastian Schweinsteiger. Adnan Januzaj played off Wayne Rooney, who needed to find his scoring boots again.

Facing them amongst the Geordies was Tim Krul, an impressive ‘keeper but one we would hope to have an unimpressive and very busy day. United started well, heaping the pressure on the Newcastle net early on; Mata looked lively and had a shot saved, later he spread the ball perfectly for Memphis to cut in from wide but the shot wasn’t really a test for the Newcastle ‘keeper.

Attacking wise you could see the visting team growing in confidence as the game wore on, Aleksandar Mitrovic eluded the defence and sent a header goalwards that Romero could do nothing about, thankfully the effort hit the bar. Perez also had a chance, wide of Romero’s post. The United fans’ positivity did begin to fade as the match went on; we seem to have become a team eager to put our chances away early as if we know that eventually the opposition will get one and take it and all the good work will be wasted. Such a cheery thought, but one which was passed between the fans around me like a recessive gene. If we started to second guess, those on the pitch certainly didn’t – Mata sent a peach of a ball to Rooney who actually attempted a shot, blocked by Steven Taylor. Morgan Schneiderlin danced through midfield and found Rooney wide on the edge of the box, he delivered a delicious cross and Juan Mata came in and blazed over.

Valencia came on for Darmian at right back, when Matteo was signed the quotes from LVG suggested that the manager saw Valencia as first choice in this position, that should not be the case any more. Javier Hernandez also came on for United and had a perfect chance to steal the points, denied by a save from Tim Krul which was very Schmiechel like, tall to narrow the target, save with the legs.

After much clamouring for Bastian Schweinsteiger to replace Michael Carrick from the start, the German was replaced by the Geordie in Manc exile, during the game due to injury. Carrick will feel he should have done better when he hammered it back at goal from Coloccini’s header, it missed the target and a thoroughly frustrating game came to an end. GTS

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Red and Write – A Case for the Defence

The Pedro and Otamendi deals hit the Manchester United fanbase hard. After months of replying to the every tweet from the club account with desperate pleas for them to announce the signings of these two players, they have ended up at title rivals Chelsea and Manchester City respectively. The Argentine and Spaniard were seen as the answers to the team’s main issues: centre back and attack. In the past two years, Old Trafford has seen an evacuation of experienced defenders with Rio Ferdinand allowed to leave for free and Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra securing moves to Serie A clubs. In attack, this summer has seen the once talismanic figures of Robin van Persie and Radamel Falcao leave with little fuss whilst the club record signing Angel di Maria left for Paris in a less quiet fashion. At first glance it appears that there are gaps at both ends of the pitch that United must patch. However, this may not be the case.

Louis Van Gaal’s first season in charge was punctuated by defensive mishaps. The enduring images of the season will be the misguided attempt to introduce 3-5-2, the MK Dons humiliation in the league cup and that comeback by Leicester City at the King Power Stadium. The last of these seemed to have a huge effect on the Dutch manager’s attitude and from then on there was a new emphasis placed on physicality and defensive solidity. United then failed to keep a clean sheet in their next five games until Michael Carrick’s return to the team in November against Crystal Palace. This is where the case for United’s defence kicks in.

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When Saturday Comes

United 1 Spurs 0

Line up: Romero, Darmian, Blind, Smalling, Shaw, Schneiderlin, Carrick, Young, Memphis, Mata, Rooney

Subs: Herrera for Memphis, Valencia for Darmian

THERE is something magical about Old Trafford on the opening day of the football season; not because of any kumbayah nonsense about all the teams starting on a level playing field, if that is your bag then this website is not for you. No, the first game of the season is the first time you get to look at the money your manager has spent, what the player looks like in the kit and what number he has been given.

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Rooney, Songs and Perfect Jogging

The pomp and occasion that would meet the occasion of United’s first home game under a new manager missing a little on Monday night. Maybe it died a death in a shallow grave under the Wayne Rooney issue, because I don’t buy that it was a sleepy affair because it came so soon into the season. You watch United against Liverpool and see whether that’s even remotely half arsed. In fairness it got better in the second half and wasn’t as sleep inducing on the television as I remember it being in person but still.

Wayne Rooney was professional, nothing more. He was cheered though and the Chelsea fans clearly enjoyed adding his name to their repertoire. Whether they actually want him I don’t know but no team in their right mind would turn him down. He makes a squad or a team stronger. The fact he played at all and was subbed, said a lot. I think United have done what they needed to do here. A lot of fans seem to think anyone will stay at their club for reasons mirroring their own dedication to the team. In this day and age that is unlikely. Wayne Rooney will not have found a deep love for Manchester United if he hasn’t already got one. He’s probably not had an epiphany, he’s had a look at his contract and counted the bonus he is on for loyalty and not submitting a formal transfer request. That story is in the Daily Mirror and I have no doubt that it, or something like it has dawned in our number 10’s organically stitched previously marble melon. He thanked us for our response, but we are a smart lot and we realise that unless horrifically injured, Wayne Rooney in your side is better than Wayne Rooney out of it; whoever he was trying to make the point to.

Monday night put that boy Wayne centre stage and yes he ran everywhere and tried, but it shouldn’t mask the real team issues. When will we leave Ryan Giggs on the bench as a coach and give the job of ignighting the team’s spark to someone else? Pip Nev has retired so we won’t see him in there if Anderson ever puffs out his cheeks and needs to depart the action, knackered, by the sixth minute mark. The fact that Ryan hasn’t retired and we can still call on him, doesn’t mean we always should. It’s a double edged sword, like in music where you may agree that no one will ever get close to the impact of the Beatles but that realisation might also make you a little sad. Can no one even get close by now? Not to his record or his legacy maybe but, someone needs to step up and create their own.

‘Tis the season for change, after all. GTS

So Far So, Goodison

Happily I still support a team with a chance of making it to Athens, there is huge hill still to climb and a lot of work to do before we get there but we are progressing well and we must be happy. I did say I would be okay with exiting Europe so that it gave us chance to focus on the league, but thankfully the team were happy to take on the added pressure and I’m not exactly disappointed with the way things went on Tuesday. Everyone knows and anyone will tell that Manchester United are a team that is forever making things hard for themselves. Champions League Tuesday, VERY important, Champions League Wednesday EXTREMELY important, and as if to sum up the manic season this Saturday gives us absolutely no chance to take our foot off the pedal.

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Badgekissers of the World Unite and Take Over

The Everton game passed without incident in terms of getting three of us up the motorway in a cab to see the game and then back, relatively easily. The football was interesting enough – Michael Carrick continues to grow into quite a good United player, Darren Fletcher not so much. The team sheet surprised a few people, me included, my Evertonian friend lapped it up as we sat there in the Ability Suite reading our team sheets – “Ha, looks like you’re giving us a chance with that line up!” I could not disagree, although we should have had enough to beat Everton and that is how it worked out thankfully.

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Chewing Over the Toffees

Today is a special day in Liverpool, it is the day before United’s game against Everton and this one is going to be mega because the man accompanying me to the Theatre of Dreams is a bluenose. The banter has been flying, I sent him a picture of Rooney in red, he once again drew on the 1995 Cup Final, the highest of high points in recent times for Everton but also the most predictable route when trying to wind up a red, sing me another!

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