Louis Van Gaal was left searching for his first League victory once again as the Red Devils failed to hold onto a first-half lead given by Juan Mata. Although United scored, it was totally against the run of play and the home side deservedly got back on level terms after Jack Rodwell scored from a corner. From then onwards, it looked like a case of two attacks who were struggling to create too much and it was no surprise to see the game finish 1-1.
Here are the three major talking points from the game that gave Van Gaal his first point as aPremier League manager.
United lacked pace and creativity up front
If there is one thing that is evident from the current Manchester United squad, it is that the attackers aren’t only more experienced but are of a higher quality than the defenders currently at Van Gaal’s disposal. A front three of Wayne Rooney, Robin Van Persie and Juan Mata looks perfect on paper, but against Sunderland, it was far from that. What was most surprising about United’s attacks was the fact that it lacked any real pace or penetration, something even the arrival of Danny Welbeck and Januzaj couldn’t change. And the goal was an aberration, rather than a culmination of everything good about their attack, because quite frankly there was none.
Of the three players, it was Juan Mata who looked the most likely to create an opening of some sort and it was no surprise that it was he who scored United’s only goal. Rooney had very little of the ball and at times had to drop really deep to pick up the ball and do something with it. The arrival of Van Persie was heralded as just the right tonic the club’s attack needed, but the Dutch striker still looks ring rusty and it might well be a few more weeks before he is firing on all cylinders.
Youth may well be the way forward
In Manchester United’s opening League match, Van Gaal granted League debuts for youngsters Tyler Blackett and Jesse Lingard. Against Sunderland, young Michael Keane got his first taste of Premier League football as he came on a few minutes before half-time. What is striking about all these debuts is the fact that they got their chance because of lack of players more than anything else. While there is no doubt that all three are talented and were going to break into the first-team sooner rather than later, the fact that all three have been introduced into the action so early on shows that the defence is down to its bare bones.
The departure of Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra has robbed the side of a chance to bed these youngsters in alongside a seasoned campaigner. Instead, they have been thrown the gauntlet right from the start and so far at least they seem to have taken it. Although Luke Shaw and Marcos Rojo have been signed, neither have been able to take part so far, and unless the Red Devils snap up a couple of seasoned centre backs, the club might well be forced to count on youth by default.