Van Gaal needs to fire up lacklustre Devils
Red Devils still look like a work in progress as Walker's own-goal saves their blushes
MAN UNITED 1
(Kyle Walker 22-og)
The new English Premier League campaign kicked off to a vociferous roar at Old Trafford yesterday, as Manchester United got off to a winning start.
If only the Red Devils' performance was as rousing as the reception they received.
It took an own goal for them to seal a 1-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur, and the players needed 65 minutes before they chalked their first shot on target.
Manager Louis van Gaal, who celebrated his 64th birthday yesterday, kept a grim face in the dug-out, refusing to celebrate even when Kyle Walker knocked the ball into his own net in the 22nd minute.
His body language suggested that he knows his team are capable of much more.
The Dutch veteran had earlier stressed that it is usually into his second season that his teams get into their groove.
His charges' display yesterday, however, still mirrored that of a work in progress.
It's far from a disastrous opening day for United, of course.
A win - never mind the manner in which it was achieved- was all that mattered.
The way they ground out the result without really playing well should be cause for optimism.
On the pitch, there were some promising signs as well.
Morgan Schneiderlin recovered from a shaky start to settle into his role in front of the defence.
Along with Michael Carrick, they provided a defensive midfield shield that didn't exist last season.
Chris Smalling clocked a confident shift in the heart of the backline, providing the first signs that he could finally come good.
Memphis Depay, while not exceptional in his first outing in a United shirt, showed glimpses of what he could do. Deployed in the hole behind striker Wayne Rooney, there were a few instances when he combined well with his new teammates to worry the Spurs defence.
Fellow debutant Matteo Darmian was the most impressive of the new faces, patrolling the right flank with finesse and tenacity.
But, there is also a feeling that United have some way to go before they can fulfil the expectations of a demanding fan base.
Spurs might have ended up on the losing side, but their zest and creativity in the first and final 15 minutes of the match were the highlights of the game.
It wasn't until Walker's stroke of misfortune that United began to get a grip on the match.
Van Gaal must be hoping that his side's lack of dynamism in the final third of the field was not a sign of things to come.
Juan Mata, and Ashley Young on the flanks, rarely offered penetration to threaten a suspect Spurs backline.
Depay's performance suggested that he may take a while yet to adapt to the physicality and speed of the English game.
Rooney up front looked like a lonely figure in need of a soulmate, someone who understands his game and someone to share his responsibility.
Should he get injured and, if United still have not signed a centre forward by then, the Red Devils will be in serious trouble.
You can't blame van Gaal for not celebrating when the referee blew for the final whistle.
He knows the Red Devils have a lot of room of improvement and time is not on his side.
Bournemouth 0 Aston Villa 1
Everton 2 Watford 2
Leicester 4 Sunderland 2
Norwich 1 Crystal Palace 3
WHAT VAN GAAL SAYS
WE WERE LUCKY
"We could not cope well with their pressure, but we had a lot of possibilities. They had the first chance through Christian Eriksen and (if he had scored) then it (would become) another game, so we were lucky today."
DARMIAN IMPRESSED ME
"I liked the performance of Matteo Darmian. When I have to think of one player, it’s him, as he was the best performer. Sergio Romero kept a clean sheet and made some wonderful saves but (was not so good) in building up situations."
WE WANT TO KEEP DE GEA
"He has been our best player for two years chosen by the fans so we cannot let him go easily. We have to pay a lot of money for all the players we want and we want to sell at the same level. We want to keep him, of course."
By the numbers
2 Tottenham have twice scored an own goal in an opening game against Manchester United in the Premier League history. The first was by Ramon Vega in August, 1997.
5 Manchester United have won of their last seven season-opener.
65 Ashley Young's effort in the 65th minute was Manchester United's first shot on target in the new season.
MAN UTD TOTTENHAM
1 Offsides 2
12 Fouls 12
1 Corners 2
25 Throw-ins 24
2 Dribbles 7
22 Tackles 25
9 Total Shots 9
1 On Target 4
4 Off Target 2
0 Hit Woodwork 0
4 Blocked 3
82% Pass Success 80%
39% Aerial Success 61%
47% Possession 53%
MOVERS & SHAKERS
25 Age 23
1.81m Height 1.75m
75kg Weight 71kg
86% Pass Accuracy 70%
0 Aerials Won 0
50 Touches 43
5 Fouls 0
0 Shots 3
0 Dribbles Won 0
5 Tackles 2
7.3 Rating 7.0