Manchester United opened up the 2015-16 Premier League campaign with a 1-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford on Saturday. An own goal by Kyle Walker was the decider, and it was the first time the first goal of a Premier League season was an own goal.
Despite getting the win, United have much to work on as the performance was lackluster.
United manager Louis van Gaal celebrated his 64th birthday with a win. After last year’s opening day loss against Swansea, it was good for United to get off to a winning start. But the visiting Spurs had the upper hand until Walker’s own goal in the 22nd minute.
“It was a very difficult game because it was two teams who wanted to press, so every player was on the ball for a small amount of time” van Gaal told ManUtd.com after the game. “We didn’t keep the ball too much but, in transitions, we created a few chances. We could not cope well with their pressure but we had a lot of possibilities. They had the first chance through Christian Eriksen and then it [would become] another game, so we were lucky today.”
You can always blame some of it on opening day nerves, and the fact that United had a couple new players in the lineup. New right back Matteo Darmian had a fine game and was voted Man of the Match by the fans. He was very good in his positional play and he looks more and more comfortable going forward with each game he’s played with the team. Van Gaal was pleased by Darmian’s performance.
“I liked the performance of Matteo Darmian, said van Gaal. “He played a good match in the Spurs half and when they had the ball, plus he didn’t lose the ball much and was very good in his ball position with the opponent. When I have to think of one player, it’s him, as he was the best performer.”
United had trouble penetrating the Spurs defense, but after the getting the lead, they controlled the game which will not go down in history as a classic opening day game. It was a rather drab affair, but that’s often the case in the beginning as teams are trying to find their form and get new players into the side. United only had one shot on goal, compared to Spurs’ four. Christian Eriksen had a couple of great chances for Tottenham, but he was unable to get it past Romero.
Sergio Romero got the nod in goal, as transfer rumors still surround David de Gea. Romero looked a bit sketchy when playing the ball with his feet, but he had a couple of good saves late in the game when Tottenham were pushing for an equalizer. Van Gaal weighed in on Romero’s debut for the Red Devils after the game.
“Sergio Romero kept a clean sheet and made some wonderful saves but [was not so good] in building up situations,” said van Gaal. “That is understandable because he didn’t play with the boys [before] and he has only been with us for a week so it is a process that we have to wait for. We decided, as staff, on Wednesday and with David on Thursday that he could not play.”
De Gea is still on Real Madrid’s radar and it remains to be seen if the 24-year-old Spanish international will leave Old Trafford before the transfer window shuts at the end of the month.
United needs to improve on the play in the final third and utilize the flanks more often. Both Ashley Young and Juan Mata have the capability to beat their defenders, and they’re both good at cutting in and taking a go at goals. Van Gaal’s style of play might not be the most exciting to watch, but fans will be pleased with the three points.
Next up for United is Aston Villa on Friday at Villa Park. Villa managed to get a 1-0 win away to newcomers AFC Bournemouth after a goal by Rudy Gestede in the 72nd minute. Spurs will host Stoke City on Saturday at White Hart Lane.