1) Patience is a virtue
At 6.15pm on Saturday many would be forgiven for thinking that it would be another forlorn afternoon in M16. The first half brought little to be enthusiastic about going forward as yet again United were in command of possession but showed familiar lethargy in attack. Those still tolerant of Van Gaal’s possession play seem to be in the minority and the less-than-silent majority could be well heard at the break. In the second session however the brewing possession in midfield finally bubbled over into clever breaks and threats in the final third seemed less and less empty. Blind’s goal 3 minutes after the restart was indicative of the organisation instilled in training ground routines and Herrera’s penalty was the result of a clever move. Whether the second half success was a result of our own guile and determination and not down to incompetence from the poorest Liverpool side for a decade remains a question, but the up side is our style of play is not only wearing most supporters down but defences also.
2) Our strongest midfield three?
The debate about our strongest midfield concoction from an array of truly world-class players has been a welcome change to bemoaning the lack of a cultured midfielder or natural leader in that position. Days when Rafael would be thrown into the mix in the absence of a seasoned pro are long gone but the new issue is how to get the right blend from Schweinsteiger, Carrick, Herrerra and Schneiderlin. On Saturday it looked as though the right match had been found with Schweinsteiger and Carrick holding the ball beautifully and allowing Herrera room to break forward and spread the ball out to the wings when needed. Carrick has carved out a niche in the side that would be hard to take away from him, he’s simply too experienced. When paired with the German World Cup winner the two display a mutual, natural understanding and eat up possession and then have the luxury of feeding Herrera. The boy from the Basque country is evidently enjoying his football and his performances have been outstanding of late. At only a few games in, it looks like a familiar midfield is finally moulding.
3) No love lost – Still the biggest fixture around
Liverpool have come in for some (not unreasonable) criticism from members of the press and fans alike recently, being dubbed by some as the ‘worst Liverpool team in years’. Despite the falling standard of playing personnel lining up for them from down the M62, one thing has never altered and that is the value of victory over Liverpool FC. Even those who aren’t old enough to remember the gnawing soreness in perennial Scouse victory in the 70’s and 80’s, or those who aren’t close enough to feel the heat of the Manchester-Merseyside rivalry, each and every one knows that this game is the pinnacle not only for the two sides but for English football. The fraught nature of the fixture still resonates amongst the supporters, and few cared to acknowledge that Martial’s goal had no bearing on the result. What mattered was that it was another notch of dominance over an old foe. Old Trafford was engulfed in a proper bear pit atmosphere that carried on long after kick off and into the night. That in itself is a reason to celebrate.
4) Young at heart – Ashley is central to our attacks
After an impressive last term it has been surprising that Ashley Young isn’t at the forefront of Van Gaal’s attacking plans this season, especially when his replacements seemed to falter. The stagnation of the first 45 was redeemed when Young replaced Depay at half time with the Hertfordshire man bringing directness and a willingness to challenge full backs whose weaknesses would otherwise be unprovoked. It wasn’t long before he committed Clyne to win the free kick from which Daley Blind registered the opener and his first ever goal at Old Trafford. If United are to combat staleness in attack and reluctance to move forward, then Ashley Young needs to be included from the beginning. His presence is a massive complement to a rapidly maturing Luke Shaw.
5) Martial Law – Fellaini not needed as a no.9
Anthony Martial exorcised any demons still lingering from the previous number 9 arriving from Monaco in the summer. Aside from good intentions, Radamel Falcao brought little else to the team and left many supporters wondering how long it would take for United to find a suitable target man. Apparently it would take all of the 64 days the summer transfer window was open for United to acquire a player with the dynamism to take players on and create chances for himself. Enter Anthony Martial. The man from Massy, France, took his goal superbly well and showed confidence belying the occasion and any pressure placed on not yet 20-year-old shoulders by the hefty £36m price tag. Martial was labelled on arrival as one for the future but it looks like the future starts now. His emergence should allay any fears reds have of Fellaini being relied upon to score the goals.