Manchester United started the new campaign with a win over rivals Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford. United won the game courtesy an own goal by Kyle Walker, after a largely unconvincing first half. Though the Londoners impressed with their pace and movement, they were unable to best Manchester United’s makeshift defence when it mattered.
Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United won their opening fixture on the manager’s birthday, edging Tottenham Hotspur 1-0. While an own goal from Kyle Walker settled the score, United dominated most of the exchanges following the goal. The battle of the game was largely concentrated in the midfield, while recurring problems of service to forward players prevented United from making any meaningful plays. Tottenham made a late charge in the dying stages of the game, but were impeded by debuting keeper Sergio Romero and centre-back Chris Smalling, both playing a vital part in keeping United in the lead.
In the post match interview, The Dutchman acknowledged the tough start and admitted it was not easy by any stretch, “You have seen two teams that want to press, so every player had the ball at very small time to play” said the manager in response to the tempo of the game. Though seemingly unhappy, van Gaal did admit that he was happy with what United created, commenting that,
“In our transitions, we have created a few chances, and out of one we scored, maybe it was also an own goal!”
The Dutchman was also impressed with the new signings, as Matteo Darmian and Bastian Schweinsteiger received thunderous ovations on their exit and entry respectively. All eyes however, were affixed onto Memphis Depay, and while the attacker showed flashes of brilliance, he was unsure and unconvincing in attack.
“He doesn’t have to play with too much eager and passion” said van Gaal, in reference to the Dutch winger, who was brought off after a testing d but at Old Trafford.
Italian right-back Matteo Darmian earned rave reviews, with van Gaal praising his ball possession in both defence, as well as when the opponent had the ball.
Van Gaal’s counterpart Pochettino was similarly blunt in his appraisal of his team’s performance, stating simply that
“We wasted the game”
His comments seem to be drawn by the fact that Tottenham did dominate the opening exchanges of both halves, creating chances aplenty, but not finishing a single one.
“I think our mistake was that we allowed Manchester United to score” said the Argentine, regarding his team as superior in both chance creation as well as movement. Pochettino was honest in the defence of his team, though he did concede that his team switched off, as an easy pass gave the ball to the opponent, leading to a goal.
The Argentine was nonetheless pleased with his side’s performance, given the daunting task of playing the opening game at Old Trafford. “We need to be happy, because today we showed that we are a team” remarked Pochettino, highlighting that the way they worked was the ‘right way’
While Tottenham did not emerge victorious, it is Manchester United whom will have more kinks to work out, given their hectic schedule over the next month. Issues of midfield balance, and absence of penetration will hinder United is not addressed head-on. Tottenham’s young chargers proved why they deserve a senior team spot, because they exited the game as equals and not inferiors, to their opposition.