By Adam Hicks.
1. ‘You can’t win anything with kids’
Having proven Alan Hansen’s now infamous statement meaningless it doesn’t seemed to have stopped Sir Alex from having another go. The average age of Manchester United’s starting XI tonight was just 23 and on another note it contained seven British players. United’s policy of placing trust in their younger players has been a key part of their success under Ferguson particularly with ‘Fergie’s Fledglings’ in the mid 90s. Now there’s a new crop of young talent hoping to make the step up from the academy into the first team on a full-time basis. One such player is Danny Welbeck who opened the scoring tonight with a superb header converting a cross from fellow academy graduate Tom Cleverley. Welbeck was again involved in a beautifully worked second goal which he back heeled for Anderson to slam home and effectively end the game as a contest. Welbeck did struggle at times during the game but didn’t lose his head and that determination will have no doubt impressed Sir Alex. It was a great display from United’s youngsters particularly in defence, Phil Jones made his home debut but didn’t show any sign of nerves and Evans also handed in a solid display while Smalling was a handful for Tottenham going forward at right-back.
2. David De Gea banishes earlier mistakes
It seemed nobody had told David de Gea people were starting to question his ability after a couple of shaky displays for his new club. The young Spanish keeper delivered a near faultless display on his home debut, but for one incident. De Gea came to collect a cross but misjudged the flight of the ball and fumbled it into the path of Jermaine Defoe who crashed a shot against the post. It was a blip on an otherwise convincing performance. Although he didn’t make any world class saves De Gea was tested from distance on a number of occasions and his handling was put to the test. He arrived with a reputation of being a great distributor of the ball and it was his quick thinking that allowed United to go forward and open the scoring through Danny Welbeck. There will certainly be sterner tests ahead for De Gea but for now he can celebrate keeping his first clean sheet for United.
3. Sir Alex finds a winning formula in midfield
There’s been a lot of talk about how Manchester United are going to replace the mercurial talent of Paul Scholes. Wesley Sneijder has been linked with a move all summer, along with a host of other names but perhaps the club have had the solution right under their noses all along in Tom Cleverley. After learning his trade down in the lower divisions before being loaned out to Wigan last year the 22 year-old is now on the tip of every fan’s tongue. Another impressive display from saw him set up the first goal to finally break Spurs’ resistance. Carrick has now been overlooked in the last three competitive games with Sir Alex for now seemingly happy with Anderson and Cleverley taking full responsibility in the centre of midfield. With Anderson now in his fourth year at Old Trafford, he is finally fulfilling his potential by delivering more consistent performances. Ironically he’s been playing in a slightly deeper role but managed to get on the score sheet tonight, something he hasn’t done too often in the past. However, with Darren Fletcher close to a return it may disrupt the partnership that Cleverley and Anderson have been forming. But for now it seems Sir Alex has found a winning formula and it will be interesting to see if he sticks with it for the visit of Arsenal this weekend or whether he will opt for the experience of Ryan Giggs.
4. Young defenders coped well
Sir Alex named his back four for the game during Friday’s press conference and revealed Smalling, Jones, Evans and Evra would line-up against Spurs. Along with de Gea it was a very young back line and Harry Redknapp must have thought it was a good chance for Spurs to get their first win at Old Trafford since 1989 – but no such luck. United’s defence was rarely troubled, there was no aerial threat with Defoe playing as the lone striker and United’s disciplined defending meant Tottenham were left shooting from outside the area. The injuries to Ferdinand and Vidic could have been a massive blow to Man United’s season but the valuable experience Smalling gained in the first team last year and the purchase of Phil Jones in the summer has meant United are well equipped to deal with any injury crisis at the back. Jones was especially outstanding. His Old Trafford debut was full of fantastic tackling, defensive blocks, headers, interceptions, accurate passing and surging forward runs. Not bad for a 19 year old! Future United captain? Whisper it quietly… It’s unclear how long Ferdinand and Vidic will be sidelined for but in the coming weeks United will seemingly be able to cope at the back without their most experienced defenders.
5. Wayne Rooney has started with a bang
Rooney has now scored in the first two Premier League games of the season to continue the form he rediscovered in last season’s run in. He looked sharp all game and was his usual energetic, creative self and after squandering what looked like a simple tap in, he converted Giggs’ cross with his head late on. The striker formed a formidable partnership with Javier Hernandez last term but with the Mexican still not fully fit Rooney has been playing alongside Danny Welbeck with whom he has also formed a strong understanding. It is clear Rooney is back to his goal scoring ways after netting two weeks running with two completely different goals. It leaves him one away from a total of 150 goals for the club.