1. Lack of goals a real worry
A lack of goals at this stage of the season is not rare from United, in 2007-08 for example, we’d only scored 1 goal after 3 games and hadn’t even won a game in fact. The situation was similar last season too. The circumstances here are very different though to the 07-08 season, there are legitimate concerns, primarily over whether Rooney still has it in him to score the amount of goals we need, and secondly over whether those around him can too. Hernandez hasn’t looked as threatening since his first few years at the club and young players like Memphis and Januzaj cannot currently be expected to provide a constant flow of goals although both are capable as proven recently, Saturday however showed that they still have a way to go before they can contribute regularly at this level. Rooney is the bigger worry though as the man expected to lead us back to winning ways, he had his moments against Newcastle and on another day the offside decision would have gone his way, his usual poor touches appeared but a more worrying thing was that he was brushed off the ball a number of times by the Newcastle defenders, and positional discipline was lacking as he often came deep searching for the ball leaving no focal point for the creative players to pass or cross to. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he drops back to playing in behind a striker with Hernandez or even Fellaini replacing him upfront, this could even be as soon as Wednesday when we travel to Brugge.
2. Full backs excellent but room to improve
Many fans were hoping a new left back would be signed long before Patrice Evra left the club, when Shaw was signed last summer though it was hoped that he would be Evra’s understudy while Shaw settled and was ready to be first choice, Evra left for Juventus soon after though which heaped expectations on Shaw to be the first choice left back straight away. Fitness issues led to him having a pretty poor debut season though. During this summer’s off-season it has been said that Shaw took a fitness coach with him on holiday so he would be fit and ready for pre-season and it looks to have paid off for him as he’s been excellent so far. And on the right, a replacement for Gary Neville seems to have finally been found in Matteo Darmian. The Italian was a centre back at AC Milan in his youth and it shows. Shaw and Darmian carried out defensive duties excellently against Newcastle and also supported attacks well too, however, they can both improve in this area too, their crossing in particular needs to improve. It could also be argued though that Rooney and others were not in position to get on the end of crosses. Both are still young enough to improve and I’m sure they will.
3. Another clean sheet from Smalling & co
If there was an award for most improved player over the past 12 months, it would surely go to Chris Smalling. I have to admit, this time last year I thought we should let him go and lost complete patience with him after his idiotic sending off at City. That moment seems to have served as a turning point for him though, he ended last season with a lot of credit and has been even better so far this season. Rio Ferdinand recently said he was in “beast mode” and he’s not wrong, he’s become a commanding centre half and strikers are struggling to get the best of him thus far. Coming into the season, the defence was an area of real concern particularly with De Gea’s future uncertain, the level of concern was raised when it was announced that Daley Blind would be playing CB, he too has been superb though. 3 clean sheets from 3 league games so far and Romero has hardly been tested, 5 shots on target against us in 3 games and there were 0 for Newcastle, a United keeper hasn’t had such protection since Van Der Sar had Ferdinand and Vidic in front of him. And yet, Romero still manages to be unconvincing. Bigger tests await but so far so good, defensively.
4. Memphis will be inconsistent
After a superb performance against Club Brugge which included 2 goals and a last second assist for Fellaini, Memphis admitted after the game that he was disappointed to not do more, it showed the standard he sets himself and the standard he wants to get to. With such a performance comes great expectation in the next game and many fans expected more of the same from Memphis here, it’s a lot to ask from someone who is still only 21 to repeat this performance in every game. Yet despite a poor performance against Newcastle, he was still our best attacking outlet, some poor decision making and end product let him down though. He’s a potential match winner but can’t be expected to carry that burden himself, others, his senior team mates especially need to step up to the plate too. Fatigue (physical and maybe mentally too) seemed to be an issue towards the end of the game for Memphis and others, a rest for the 2nd leg against Club Brugge may serve him well ahead of the next league game against Swansea.
5. 2 points dropped but an improvement on first 2 league games
This game is the sort of game we should be winning if we want to challenge for the title, and we can’t allow for too many more slip-ups at home but it’s still very early days and the performance was an improvement on the first league games in which we won. That’s not to say it was good enough though, further improvements are clearly needed if we are to challenge for the title and I expect we will continue to improve. Defensively, where the worries have been for a while, we look much better but tougher tests await. The final 3rd requires a lot of work though, this doesn’t necessarily have to come in the transfer market though and I suspect it may be too late now anyway, the players we have can do much better, whether they will or not is another thing, Van Gaal is placing his confidence in them though and we should too!