Van Gaal was right to lower Depay expectations
of the youngster even since he put pen to paper earlier in the summer –
yes, Memphis has tremendous potential and was a goal machine in the far
inferior Dutch league last season, but the Premier League will be an
entirely different proposition. Sure enough, Memphis was subdued in his
opening two domestic games then devastating, unplayable in the midweek
European win over Brugge – well, Belgium is next door to Holland! Here,
Memphis was back to Premier League type, pushed around a little too
easily, guilty of poor decision making and even poorer execution.
Memphis has a great future but let’s hold the Cristiano Ronaldo
comparisons for a few weeks yet.
Pedro chase concealed concerns in Utd’s transfers
examination but, with Javier Hernandez presumably destined for a career
as Van Gaal’s resident super sub, the England centre-forward is being
asked to spearhead a striking corps of one at present.
While a much fitter Luke Shaw means an upgrade at the full-back
positions from 12 months ago, there are also glaring weaknesses in the
centre of defence, particularly in the air, and the manner in which
Aleksandar Mitrovic was able to head powerfully against the bar in the
first half should have set alarm bells off. Van Gaal insisted that he
was never truly serious about courting Pedro and, based on this, that
makes sense – there are far greater priorities to address in the United
squad before the window slams shut in just over a week’s time.
This is Adnan Januzaj’s second coming
Almost lost in the debate about Wayne Rooney’s effectiveness and the
arrival of Memphis Depay onto the Old Trafford scene has been the form
of a rejuvenated Adnan Januzaj. It seems a footballing lifetime ago that
the pacy winger burst onto the United stage under David Moyes, arguably
the only bright spark of the Scotsman’s ill-fated reign.
But Januzaj clearly stagnated in van Gaal’s first season in charge of
the club, to the extent that the natural assumption was that he would be
going out on loan this season to allow his manager to determine whether
he has a long-term future with the club. Instead, Januzaj has found
himself starting the last three games, filling the central position of
the attacking midfield three playing behind Wayne Rooney. He is
undoubtedly still a work in progress, but at least there is progress.
One moment, when he shrugged off a challenge in midfield and slipped
through a perfect pass that sent Depay clean through on goal was the
sort of moment that was all too rare last season.
Bastian Schweinsteiger’s fitness is key
The German veteran has wasted no time in becoming a firm Old Trafford
favourite, even if he is carrying a couple of extra pounds from his
summer hols and is not exactly the most mobile of midfielders. After a
couple of excellent substitute cameos, Schweinsteiger started for the
first time here and it may well be that Schweinsteiger and Morgan
Schneiderlin will prove to be van Gaal’s midfield of choice when he
plays 4-2-3-1, at the expense of Michael Carrick.
Given his recent injury record, however, Schweinsteiger’s durability
will be the issue and when he emerged from a 28th minute tackle with a
noticeable limp it was not hard to imagine what was going through the
United manager’s mind. Ultimately, Schweinsteiger lasted less than an
hour and, if the Reds reach the Champions League knock-out stages, it is
hard to imagine Schweinsteiger being able to feature in more than one
game per week.
Newcastle’s spending leaves them in safe hands
The figures – based on five in and one out for a net spend of £47.7
million – apparently place the Geordies behind only Manchester City in
the Premier League and AC Milan, Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain as
far as the rest of the continent is concerned. Of course, the figures
fail to take into account the level of talent in the respective squads
before the summer transfer window opened and it could be argued that
Steve McClaren could have doubled that spend and still not been sure of a
top ten finish.
That said, the Magpies have made a major upgrade in one important
department – the dug-out. Steve McClaren may not be everybody’s cup of
tea but the tactical system he set up for the trip to his old club
demonstrated Newcastle are in solid hands.