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The season begins the United way

Gonzalo Maldonado Monday, August 8, 2011

The season couldn’t have started better for us. A win over the noisy neighbors after thrilling second half comeback saw United recover from a two goal deficit at half time and lift the community Shield.

It was a leveled first half, with United creating more chances than City, but we had ten disastrous minutes. Our centre backs were unable to prevent Lescott from scoring as David de Gea remained static a step away from the goal line. City dominated the last minutes of the first half and took an exaggerated two goal lead, things weren't looking good then and people were already predicting our collapse and demise!

Sir Alex shows yet again how great a manager he is
United are always safe as long as Fergie stays at the helm and his three half-time substitutions proved vital to the comeback. Rio and Vidic had surprisingly average matches, and were responsible for the goals conceded. and half time saw Sir Alex make a bold change by bringing on Phil Jones for his debut and also Jonny Evans to replace Rio and Vidic. I was particularly surprised by Evans, who was confident and gave security to the rest of his teammates.

But it was the third substitute who made the real impact in the game. Tom Cleverley replaced Carrick and showed how much he has developed after a season-long spell at Wigan. He, along with Nani and Wayne Rooney, crafted a beautiful equalizer after 58 minutes. A move started by Cleverley, and then finished by Nani with a chip over Joe hart. Cleverley was clearly set on impressing the manager, and he did exactly that as he and Anderson dominated the midfield. Why Cleverley was so effective, well unlike Carrick, he's a player who prefers to pass and move into space for the return pass, and this added life to our midfield.

Sir Alex once again showed that he's willing to take risks, and why he's considered one of the greats of Football management. Very few woud have risked bringing on three youngsters when a team is 2 goals down, but he did, and it was the right move to do as all three were excellent in the second half.

Nani must stay
It seems a bit obvious to claim the Portuguese winger should stay after an outstanding display which included two goals (the first a beauty). Summer in Europe comes along with numerous transfer rumors, especially in big clubs, and once Young was signed, rumors of Nani's departure were rampant. He was thought to be moving to Bayern Munich, but Sir Alex knows how valuable the Portuguese is and Nani will intend to assure fans and manager that he can keep last season’s level.

Problems with set pieces solved
I never doubted Ashley Young’s abilities. He is a true world-class winger, but I wasn’t so sure about his capture because in Valencia and Nani we had two quality wingers. It was the difference in quality of set-pieces that made me realize how much we needed a player like Young. His performances in the preseason games were good, he seems to have formed an instant partnership with Patrice Evra, together they are a threat to any defense on the left flank. It was Young's excellent free-kick that Smalling converted for the first goal, that set the ball rolling for our comeback.

Smalling, a right back option
It was not Smalling’s first game as a right back. Fergie had played him some times last season and also during the US Tour. United do have five quality centre backs, but with the departure of Brown and O'Shea we do seem to be lacking wing backs. With only three natural wing backs, Sir Alex tested Jones and Smalling at RB and Evans at LB during the pre-season tour. Chris Smalling must have impressed Sir Alex to get the nod ahead of the others. He was committed to attack and skillful on the ball. In addition to this, his height helped us balance City’s aerial force. In Smalling Sir Alex has found a player capable of playing at right back and also provide an attacking impetus when needed!

The future looks bright
Next Sunday, United begin their attempt to retain the Premier League title, and as usual it will be a close race among possibly 6 clubs for the title. But going by the second half performance of the youngsters, we have nothing to worry about in the near future as the team already looks like a bunch of winners hungry for more! The team which ended the game had an average age of just 23! The inclusions of Cleverley, Jones and Welbeck will give the gaffer headaches (the kind he'll like). Cleverley, to me, is a certainty in midfield for United’s trip to West Brom, and his performance has silenced, at least for now, those who insist we must bring a central midfielder (I am one of those). Rest assured because this youthful team who, according to Rooney gave City a ‘footballing lesson’, is yet to peak and what we saw at Wembley was just the appetizer!


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