By Jason Freeman.
1) Scholes has still got it
Paul Scholes, what will we do when he retires again? During his 30 minutes on the pitch against Southampton he completely changed the game giving United more control over the game where as before his introduction to the game we were bullied by Southampton. His vision and ability to consistently pick out the right pass and control the tempo of the game provided us with the foundations to get back into the game and despite only being on the pitch for 30 minutes he was probably our best player on the day even though van Persie scored a hat trick. Both van Persie and Sir Alex thanked Scholes in their post match interviews and rightly so. His performance will probably leave some questioning why he didn’t start but it doesn’t work like that, he came on at a time when Southampton were beginning to tire and let’s not forget he didn’t have the best of games when he started against Everton. It is likely that we will see him on the bench more often than starting this season and he’s a very good weapon to have on the bench. At nearly 38 though it is worrying that we are still so reliant on him but it’s still a pleasure to see him play.
2) Patience required with the team
2 wins and a loss is not a bad start to the season by any means but our performances in the 3 games have been anything but convincing, although there have been positives in all 3 games. Patience is required early on this season though with the changes in formation and style of play that have been introduced for this season; it’s a different system to the one we’ve played over the past few seasons and it’ll take time for the players to adjust. Most of the players are also still adapting to new team mates, Kagawa and van Persie have only started 2 games together and are still getting to know each other’s games as well as getting to know their other team mates’ games and vice versa. There are also a few players still lacking match fitness with a few players returning for pre-season late due to the Euros, others are only just returning from injury and this was a problem yesterday with both Ferdinand and Vidic not looking at their best. The game was also the first time that Carrick, Cleverley and Kagawa had started together in midfield, Carrick really struggled, having not played in midfield this season until this game; he seemed to forget which part of the pitch he was playing in and was still in centre back mode. Carrick and Cleverley have not played together much and we must not forget that Cleverley is still inexperienced and has only made 18 appearances for the club. This midfield has potential and we must persist with it.
3) Keeper rotation unnecessary
The main talking point among United fans before the game was of the inclusion of Lindegaard over De Gea with many speculating why the choice had been made. At first I thought Fergie just wanted to give Lindegaard a game but it was then announced that De Gea had been dropped due to the one mistake he had made against Fulham which nearly cost us the game and personally I thought that was a very harsh decision. Not only could it be damaging for De Gea to be dropped but it’s potentially damaging to the defence and the rest of the team. Last season Fergie admitted that he’d been rotating his back 5 too much and it was affecting the team yet he’s doing it again this season. Having a settled back 5 is key to success in my opinion and instils confidence throughout the whole team. The dropping of De Gea will hopefully not affect him too much, hopefully he’ll react positively from it and I’m sure that’s what Fergie is looking for and he’s the best at man management, whether he’s got this right, I’m not sure but time will tell if he has. I’d expect De Gea to be back in for the next game and for him to keep his place.
4) Super Subs
I’ve already talked about Scholes and how his introduction changed the game but the arrivals of Nani and Hernandez must not go unnoticed. With Welbeck playing in an unfamiliar role again on the left, we often lacked width down the left with Welbeck often coming infield where he normally plays, this left us with little attacking threat down the left and by coming infield Welbeck also took up the spaces of Kagawa who was already being tightly marked. What Nani brought was width on the left and more of an attacking threat and while the penalty was missed by van Persie, Nani was the player who took the ball forward that resulted in the penalty being awarded. Often rightly criticised for his delivery from corners, it was his corner that van Persie scored the winner from.
Hernandez was also very good when he came on and he looked sharper than he did at any time last season. While he was only on the pitch for 20 minutes, his movement caused defenders all sorts of problems and with him on the pitch, Southampton were defending deeper which invited more pressure from us. His touch also seems to have improved a lot from last season. We didn’t win a game from a losing position at all last season and we have now won twice from losing positions this season, the substitutions we made yesterday played a big part in us winning yesterday. Hopefully we won’t need to rely on the bench too often though.
5) Van Persie: Match winner
Over the past few seasons we have lacked match winners in the team with a certain reliance on Rooney to win us games and occasionally Nani, with the addition of van Persie we have added another match winner and the money we paid to get him is already beginning to pay off. Not only did he score a hat trick but his movement upfront was exceptional and he was very good in possession. What was also impressive was that he didn’t hide after he missed the penalty; he stood up and redeemed himself instead of falling to pieces and feeling sorry for himself. His post match interview was also impressive with him being very critical of himself despite scoring a hat trick, which was refreshing to hear. We already knew we’d bought a very good player but considering the team isn’t 100% functional yet, he’s started his Manchester United career very well and it could get even better if or when the team does start playing better. We have also yet to see how he and Rooney will work together; if the partnership does work it could be the start of something special happening in the next few seasons.