Our takeaway from Sunday’s win over West Ham.
Four things to take away from Manchester United’s opening day win over West Ham United.
- Matic holds the key
It is very quickly very clear just why Nemanja Matic was seen as an integral part of Jose Mourinho’s summer plans. Hands up, this writer wanted Tiemoue Bakayoko, and even liked the idea of Eric Dier, but it was clear Matic was the manager’s first choice and we were okay with that because his record in the market was very good last year. We still underestimated the manager. Matic isn’t just important, he is clearly going to be crucial to the way United play. Paul Pogba was not as below-par as many would like to have you believe in his first season back at the club but today, without the responsibility of looking back, he was able to influence proceedings in front of him. It was one of his best games for the club and Matic was a big part of that. To end the praise there is doing a huge disservice to Matic, though, whose own performance was exceptional.
On our first video show of the season, Nipun made an excellent point; Matic does almost everything, almost as well as all of our other midfielders, but perhaps one point remained which is crucial – he is an upgrade on Michael Carrick now, without question, and on his league debut he looked like Carrick at his best.
- Lukaku has settled in
One big doubt over Romelu Lukaku has been his ability to step up to the big stage. Okay, so, he scored against Real Madrid, but he did miss a great chance just before. United icon Clayton Blackmore told us earlier in the day that he wondered whether Lukaku might struggle to adjust to playing on the much bigger pitch at Old Trafford compared to Goodison Park. Not only did he do much to calm those worries, he also provided elements of play that were perhaps surprising; on a couple of occasions he made surging, powerful runs with the ball down the channels, and as soon as a wavelength is established with his team-mates, this could be an unexpected bonus.
- Left hand already sorted?
Enough said with the headline; but with the repeated links to Ivan Perisic and the rumoured link to Gareth Bale, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial gave a timely reminder that the most exciting attacking outlet the club currently has comes from those two players.
- Defensive conundrum
Victor Lindelof’s omission raised eyebrows. Jose Mourinho confirmed afterwards that it was a selection decision rather than an injury and murmurs of what happened with Mhikitaryan and Martial suddenly became very loud. However, one thing the manager has earned is patience with these decisions and United’s win, and assured defensive display, justified that decision. If Lindelof is to be eased in gently, then there should be no knee-jerk reactionary questioning of the manager’s ability to handle his players like there was in the early weeks of last season.