Sunday, 27 September 2015

There's a new Martial in town.

He has endured comparisons galore by being dubbed the new Henry, Anelka and Kluivert but there is one thing for certain Anthony Martial has the potential to surpass all of their achievements and become a great among the greats at Old Trafford.

When the 19-year-old arrived at United at the end of the transfer window many eyebrows were raised, not only at United but around the football world, at the size of the fee paid for such a young talent.

The French teenager was signed from Monaco by Louis van Gaal for a fee that will rise to around £50m depending on how successful his career at United turns out to be. There was obviously something that the manager saw in him that many hadn't to make him the most expensive teenager in world football.

The United fans spent the summer trying to second guess who was the one striker that van Gaal had mentioned would be joining the Red Devils, Was it to be Muller, Benzema, Griezmann, Cavani or even Bale? But he surprised everyone by turning his attention to a youngster, who, although well known in France was relatively unknown in England.

However, from the moment that Martial made his debut for United as a scoring substitute in the 3-1 victory over arch rivals Liverpool all that changed and changed dramatically.

The manager had warned the faithful not to get too carried away with the striker, but that was not easy as he then went on to score three more goals, including a double away at Southampton and one in the League Cup against Ipswich Town all scored with that certain quality only a class striker has. His tally so far has equalled Falcao's total for all of last season.

His latest star turn came in the Premiership at Old Trafford in which, although he failed to score against Sunderland he put on a display of such maturity, strength and confidence it was as if he had led the line at United for years instead of only weeks.

The skill he showed in the assist for the Rooney goal was impressive and he also used his power and awareness to set up Memphis who really should have done better. At no time in the match did he shirk his responsibilities and on many occasions during the game he was surrounded by three or four defenders, which shows that opposition players have already woken up to his threat as a forward.

The impressive striker must be full of confidence after all the plaudits coming his way and it is so easy for a young talent to have their head turned by all the attention, especially at a club the size of United, however, there is one important factor in keeping his feet firmly on the ground and that is he is married and has a baby daughter.

Having such a young family means that he won't be spotted coming out of clubs late at night, but will most likely be snapped pushing a pram around shopping centers. Fergie would have loved him.

Along with the likes of Memphis, Shaw, Lingard, Pereira and Wilson, Martial joins a young group of players who have brought the belief back to the team that the future at the club is bright and they will provide the springboard for future success at United.

With all the attributes that Martial possesses he has the chance to write his name into the United folklore much the same as another deadly assassin did, a certain Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, now there's a comparison.

Thanks for reading.

Miles Dunton.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Man United League Leaders.

Manchester United 3 Sunderland 0

Manchester United defeated bottom of the league side Sunderland at Old Trafford and returned to the summit of the Premier League for the first time since 2013.

As United geared up for a busy period, which will see them take on Wolfsburg, Arsenal and Man City, the Old Trafford outfit welcomed Sunderland to the Theatre of Dreams with the hope of another three points that would keep up their momentum in the Premier League on the back of victories over Liverpool and Southampton.

The stand-out performer so far has to be Anthony Martial who continued his scoring exploits against Ipswich by netting a late goal in the 3-0 win that has given him a wonderful start to his United career having scored four goals in four matches equalling Falcao's total for all of last season.

The manager has warned the fans about getting over excited with the French youngster, but it is hard to ignore the Solskjaer like finishing qualities of the 19-year-old. His technique in front of goal is sublime to say the least.

Louis van Gaal chose a starting eleven that was more than capable of dealing with the bottom of the table Black Cats: De Gea; Valencia, Smalling, Blind, Darmian; Schneiderlin, Carrick; Mata, Rooney, Memphis and Martial.

Darmian would start in the left back position for the first time this season. It's not a position he is unfamiliar with as he often switched between right and left back while at Torino. Both Carrick and Schneiderlin returned to the midfield allowing Schweinsteiger and Herrera to have a rest on the bench.

Martial's tremendous form meant that he would start the game and Memphis was also recalled to the side. With Pereira on the bench, United ensured that they had a youth produced player involved in the matchday squad, a record that extends way back to 1937.

Subs: Romero, Jones, Herrera, Schweinsteiger, Pereira, Young and Fellaini.

United took only five minutes to create their first chance of the game when temporary left back Darmian surged down the wing and delivered a well-worked cross that, unfortunately, eluded everyone.

Shortly after, Martial showed his immense composure on the ball while surrounded by three defenders on the edge of the box by holding them off and winning a free kick that Mata wasted with a poor ball into the area.

It was an overly patient approach by the home side as if they were biding their time to strike at the heart of the away side. Mata almost made the breakthrough with a shot that was deflected for a corner.

The giant that is Pantilimon in the Sunderland goal made a costly error when he handled the ball outside his area to gift United a free-kick in a promising position, however, once again Mata squandered the opportunity. Where's Pereira when you need him most?

The away side's first real attempt on goal came in the 23rd minute, but the strike was well blocked by that man De Gea.

Half an hour in and it was the same old story for United this season as they enjoyed the majority of possession but created nothing of note in the final third.

Bottom of the table Sunderland took a leaf out of fellow North East strugglers Newcastle's book in the art of defending and their clear time-wasting started to anger the Old Trafford faithful as it broke up any rhythm to United's play.

There was a worrying moment when Martial went to ground clutching his right knee after chasing down Cattermole. Luckily for the side the youngster eventually got up, dusted himself off and got on with the game.

United wasted yet another free kick after a Johnson handball and this time it was Memphis who took the responsibility, but strangely he hit his effort so weakly that the keeper could have visited the club's museum before collecting the ball.

The breakthrough eventually came in injury time when Blind played a delightful ball into the area which Mata managed to connect with at the far post and his square ball found Memphis who steered the ball over the line to score his first Premier League goal for United and give the Red Devils the lead at half-time.

A first half, which was disappointing in the fact that United failed to produce any decent efforts on goal until a moment of quality from Daley Blind which opened the Black Cats determined defence.

The second half started perfectly as United's new hero Martial collected the ball inside the area and dribbled to the byline before delivering a ball into the six-yard box, which Rooney managed to deflect into the net to make the scoreline 2-0.

The goal by the captain was not only his first Premier League goal of the season, but also equalled Denis Law's league record of 171 goals for the club.

The second goal should have inspired the home side, but it was Sunderland who seemed galvanised by it as they brought an instinctive reaction save from De Gea among a crowd of players down by his near post. The Spaniard came to the rescue again on the hour mark as he saved with his legs when one on one with van Aanholt.

Just before the regular change of Schweinsteiger for Carrick for the last twenty minutes there was an excellent chance for Memphis to grab his second of the day and put the match well out of Sunderland's reach. Martial stormed forward with power and played a perfect pass into the path of Memphis, but when a goal looked certain the keeper came out and blocked the Dutch forward's effort.

Martial almost continued his scoring record when he got his head to a Valencia cross, however, the ball whistled just over the crossbar.

Blind took a nasty knock to the face in an accidental collision and was substituted by the manager with Jones coming on in his place.  Thankfully Blind looked none the worse for wear as he came off.

The final change of the game was Young for the lively Memphis and straight away Young interchanged passes with Rooney, who played the ball to Mata, but his first-time effort was well saved down low by the keeper.

The last ten minutes were played out in a pedestrian fashion with the home fans blaring out to the watching world that United was once again top of the league.

There was still time for Mata to add the icing on the cake when he put the ball away following excellent wing play by Young to make the score a deserving 3-0.

In the move for the goal Young showed once again that he is in superb form and fully deserves the plaudits he receives for his willingness to be patient and take his chance whenever it comes.

Full time and an important win that took the side to the number one spot even though having not played particularly well. However, it's the result that counts at the end of the day.

There were many players who deserve special mention including Darmian, who handled his defensive change without putting a foot wrong and along with his partners, Smalling, Blind and Valencia, ensured that Sunderland didn't really get a look in. In the middle, Schneiderlin produced his normal effective performance without any fuss and Mata once again showed his class and grabbed his first Old Trafford goal of the season.

But it is the French youngster Martial who has given United a new dimension to their attacking style of play and fully deserves to be named man of the match for his all-round display of strength and determination in attack. Although he failed to find the net in this game his overall play ensured that United had the upper hand when on the attack and he certainly has a mature head on his shoulders for a nineteen-year-old.

Let us celebrate the fact that United are back where they belong at the top of the league for the first time since the days of Alex Ferguson. This time under the philosophy of Louis van Gaal.

Thanks for reading.

Miles Dunton.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Pereira's class act at the Theatre of Dreams.

Manchester United 3 Ipswich Town 0

Andreas Pereira was the star attraction at the Theatre of Dreams as United eventually overcame a plucky Ipswich Town to advance to the next round of the League Cup.

Over the years, United has traditionally used the League Cup as a springboard for their young talent,  a platform on which to gain valuable big game experience. The likes of Beckham, Scholes and Neville all benefitted from playing in the competition at the start of their illustrious careers as has been true for many youngsters seeking to break into the first team.

This time round it was the chance of the young Brazilian Pereira to showcase his talents on the big stage and he certainly rose to the occasion with a display fitting of his heritage.

Since the rise and domination of the Premier League the status of the League Cup has diminished and is seen merely as an inconvenience and an early exit is not deemed disastrous as there are bigger challenges over the season. Having said that to lose to a team from the lower leagues is an embarrassment for the big clubs, just ask the United players who were humiliated last season by MK Dons 4-0, but that is not possible as nine of the players who started that match have all left Old Trafford.

United started this season's League Cup campaign against Ipswich Town at Old Trafford. Championship side Ipswich last played United in 2002 in the league, however, the result that sticks in people's minds is the 9-0 thrashing that United handed out to the Tractor Boys back in 1995 with Andy Cole famously netting five goals.

So, how would van Gaal approach the match, would he mix the side with experience and youth, or field a strong first team as a statement of intent? The answer was in his starting XI: De Gea, Valencia, Smalling, Blind, Young, Schweinsteiger, Herrera, Mata, Fellaini, Pereira and Rooney.

On paper a strong looking team with a first competitive start for Andreas Pereira and a chance for him to show off his talent in front of the Old Trafford faithful. Young and Valencia slotted in as full-backs and Rooney would spearhead the attack supported by Fellaini, Pereira and Mata.

Subs: Romero, Darmian, Jones, Carrick, Schneiderlin, Memphis and Martial. Phil Jones returned to the squad after his thrombosis problem, but not fit enough to start the match.

United and especially Pereira started the match brightly and almost took the lead through the youngster on a couple of occasions.

During the opening twenty minutes United looked comfortable in possession and that paid off in the 23rd minute when Blind played a delightful ball over the top for Rooney to latch onto and he made the rest look easy as he shrugged off a defender and instinctively scored his first domestic goal of the season with a left-footed strike to put his team 1-0 ahead. That was Rooney doing what he does best in the position where he is the most dangerous.

United enjoyed so much of the ball it was a surprise that they had only managed to score the one goal in the first half of the match if it hadn't been for some erratic crossing and dithering on the ball it would have been a higher scoreline, same old story so far this season.

Ipswich showed that the home side would not be having it all their own way and had to be on their toes at set pieces as the blues managed a couple of headers towards goal from dead ball situations. Blind and Smalling continued their fine partnership in the center of defence and proved that they have gelled well this season.

A first half that was bossed by United but one they would have preferred to have gone in at half-time having more to show for their efforts as not for the first time this season their buildup in attacks looked nice, but lacked that final thrust proven by the fact that they won no corners in the first 45 minutes.

It was the away side that started the second half on the front foot and United had to use all their experience to defend against the threats from both wings as Ipswich peppered the home box with cross after cross. Interestingly, with all the forward momentum enjoyed by the visitors they didn't muster one shot on goal.

Because of the visitors pressure United struggled to get into any rhythm as they failed to keep hold of the ball and knew they were certainly in a cup tie as the visitors had no intention of rolling over in submission.

It took the reds ten minutes to mount their first meaningful foray forward and it was the lively Pereira on the left who started a move that ended up with a shot from Valencia that was well saved by the keeper.

From the next attack, United won a free kick through Mata on the hour mark, which was right on the edge of the area. Mata and Pereira both hovered over the ball, but it was the Brazilian who ended up taking it and scoring with a delightfully executed curled shot which the keeper didn't even move for.

A superb effort from the youngster who had the confidence to step up and show his ability in front of the Stretford End, no mean task seeing as United have been woeful with free-kicks so far this season.

The Ipswich keeper, Bialkowski, made some amends for the second goal with a smart stop from a Mata drive from the edge of the box. The match was effectively over as a tie so van Gaal used the remainder of the match to both rest key players and also give other players a run-out. He began with a double substitution for the last twenty minutes when Jones and Martial replaced Smalling and Mata.

Martial immediately got in the thick of the action with an effort that followed a one-two with Rooney which the French forward put over the bar. Memphis, then made an appearance for scorer Rooney in the 80th minute which meant that De Gea would see out the final ten minutes as captain.

The excellent Pereira almost added his second in the last moments of the tie, but his effort was saved by the keeper and Memphis was almost played through on goal, but the ball ran away from him.

Then it was the goal machine Martial who wrapped up the game in injury time when he scored his fourth goal in as many games of his United debut season. He burst into the box on the end of a chest down from Memphis, then slotted the ball home confidently across the goal to make it 3-0 to United. The boy showed real composure to add to his tally and continues to excite the fans with his scoring exploits, long may it continue.

United saw out the match in a comfortable fashion and booked their place into the 4th round draw thanks mainly to the man of the match performance from Pereira, a youngster with so much talent in his feet and the confidence he showed on the ball was a joy to watch.

The match won't go down as a classic and at times United struggled to get going, having said that in the end, it's the result that counts and van Gaal's team did their job effectively enough for the Old Trafford faithful to go home contented.

United are blessed with young forwards who all have an abundance of talent with Memphis, Martial and Pereira all possessing the skill and ability to turn a match in a split second and with United busy on four fronts this season there should be plenty of opportunities for all of them to flourish as the season progresses.

After the match, the draw took place for the 4th round and it produced a favourable home tie for United against another Championship team, Middlesbrough.

Thanks for reading.

Miles Dunton.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Martial Goes Marching On.

Southampton 2 Manchester United 3

Following a disappointing return in more ways than one to the Champions League group stage, it was back to the Premier League for United and fittingly as these strange quirks of fate have a way of working out it was a match against Luke Shaw's old team Southampton.

Of course, Shaw would not be present as he starts his long road to recovery after the double leg fracture he sustained in the defeat at the hands of PSV. An injury that made the result secondary as it was the first game and there is plenty of time for the team to get their European adventure back on track.

United's focus was firmly back on the league following their victory over Liverpool last time out, so it was imperative that they kept up the morale-boosting feeling that the win over their arch rivals gave them and three points would put them on the heels of Man City.

With the main absentee being Shaw, the biggest talking point in the build-up to the game was who would take over the left-back position. The two main candidates are Rojo and Blind and it would make sense not to disturb the blossoming partnership that has built up between Blind and Smalling in the middle of the back four.

As was witnessed against PSV when Rojo came on for Shaw he immediately slotted in next to Smalling with van Gaal switching Blind to the left-back position. The problem with this is Blinds' lack of pace and it was proven to be correct when PSV scored the winner, Blind struggled to get back and Rojo's positioning was rusty to say the least due to zero playing time. The obvious choice would be to play Rojo at left back and leave the center-backs to continue their great form together.

On a positive note, Wayne Rooney had recovered from his injury and was available to start and gave the manager more options in attack.

Here is the starting XI chosen by Louis van Gaal: De Gea, Darmian, Smalling, Rojo, Blind, Carrick, Schneiderlin, Mata, Memphis, Rooney and Martial.

Subs: Romero, McNair, Valencia, Herrera, Schweinsteiger, Young and Fellaini.

A strong looking side with Rooney making his expected return to the team and Martial in his first Premier League start after performing well against Liverpool and PSV. There was no place for Schweinsteiger. However, Schneiderlin would start against his old club where he spent many years.

As the match got underway in bright sunshine, it was evident that van Gaal had chosen Rojo to play as left-back and it was the Argentinian's first start since the Copa America final.

The first real chance fell to the home side, but the shot didn't even manage to trouble De Gea. This was followed by another Saints opportunity from which they won a corner.

Southampton began to grow in confidence with every attack and it wasn't a surprise when The Saints took the lead in the 12th minute when a shot from Mane was palmed clear by De Gea only into the path of Pelle who made no mistake putting the Saints into the lead. What was surprising was the shocking lack of marking by the United defence as the original cross was delivered into the penalty area.

A minute after the goal Pelle could have doubled the lead with a shot that luckily for the away side hit the post. A response was needed from United, but it was slow coming as they couldn't seem to keep the ball long enough when in possession especially in the final third.

During the first half hour, all that United could create were half chances for Memphis and Martial. Rooney failed to impress yet again on his comeback with some poor passes and as has happened so many times this season he loses possession in areas where the opposition can launch an attack.

Then just after half an hour up stepped Martial to equalise for United following great approach play from Mata who charged into the box only to be well challenged by a defender who only managed to direct the ball into Martial's path. The Frenchman showed fantastic composure to make room for a shot and he netted with confidence. That was more like it and maybe this would spur United to raise the tempo.

This they did and a combination of Mata and Memphis almost managed to scramble the ball past the keeper before Schneiderlin had a goalbound shot deflected away from danger. Better from United and at half-time it was all square at 1-1. United finished the half on top after a less than impressive start.

At the start of the second half van Gaal decided to freshen things up along the back four by replacing Darmian with Valencia at right-back. To be fair Darmian had been a shadow of his usual self.

Then in the 50th minute all hell broke loose in the away end as United took the lead through that man Martial again. Yoshida of Southampton played a woefully under-hit back pass which the French teenager latched onto and headed towards goal at full pace he then tucked the ball away with great aplomb. Martial is a truly wonderful talent who has fitted well into the side and has shown great pace, awareness and skill for a newcomer to the English game. Long may it last.

Southampton pressed for their own equaliser and following a corner David De Gea pulled off a save that must rank up there with the best he or any other keeper has made as he somehow managed to claw away a header that was bound for the net. A truly unbelievable and instinctive save from the Spaniard, watch and weep Real Madrid.

The usual change of players took place as Schweinsteiger replaced Carrick in the midfield.

Hard working Mata put United in total control at 3-1 in the 68th minute after Memphis had cut inside before rifling a shot off the post, but there in the right place to neatly convert the rebound was Juan Mata. The goal came at the end of a long passing spell by United which added up to around 45 passes and was orchestrated by Schweinsteiger.

A tired Marcos Rojo was replaced by youngster Paddy McNair for the final twenty minutes of a match that United were now in total control of.

Goal hero Martial came in for some rough treatment around the edge of Southampton's penalty area which only goes to show that the defenders were well aware of his immense talent and in a weird way showed him respect by fouling him, something that he will have to get used to around the grounds.

From the resulting direct free-kicks both Mata and Memphis failed to find the target and this is an area where United have got to make them count as both Martial and Memphis have the pace to cause defenders problems and the side will keep on winning fouls in those dangerous areas.

As is usual with United they left the fans hanging on until the end as the defenders allowed an unmarked Pelle to head in a goal in the last five minutes to make it 3-2 and give the home support the voice to try and get their side back level in the five minutes of added time.

It was all backs to the wall for the Red Devils as Southampton tried to peg United back and there was David De Gea again to produce another wonderful save from a long range effort from Wanyama. De Gea showed fabulous athleticism to turn the shot away with his fingertips and once again proved that he has to be regarded as the number 1 not only at United, but in the world.

Once again United produced a match-winning second half after a dire first 45 minutes in which they lacked a cutting edge and had no style, flair and above all no inventiveness. Whatever van Gaal said to the team at half-time had the desired effect as the players approached the second period in a different vein. If only they could produce that style of play from the kick-off.

As regards the man of the match both De Gea and Martial have to be considered, but it was a very close call to give it to the young striker, anyway De Gea's shelf must be sagging under the weight of all his awards time to let someone else have the limelight.

One issue that needs to be addressed is van Gaal's use of his captain. Rooney's talents are wasted when playing deep and it will be interesting to see how the manager deals with this dilemma as it is clearly not working. Moves tend to break down too easily when the team try and play through him when he's in that position, a Paul Scholes he is not and never will be. Get him back where he can do the most damage or use Herrera in that number 10 spot.

The win pushes United up into second place only two points behind Man City and there is good reason for optimism because if they can collect three points from an average performance just imagine what they can achieve when firing on all cylinders.

Thanks for reading.

Miles Dunton.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Stay Strong Shaw.

It was that sick feeling that you get in your stomach when you know that something serious has happened to a player as he goes down, visibly in agony.

That was the feeling I had as soon as I witnessed the challenge from PSV defender Hector Moreno on United's Luke Shaw in the 15th minute of the Champions League clash at the Philips Stadion on Tuesday evening.

As soon as Shaw hit the ground everyone knew it was serious, but of course nobody knew how serious. However, judging from the expressions on the faces of the players surrounding their young teammate you understood that it was bad. The depressing image of him being stretchered off the pitch with an oxygen mask attached to his face didn't bode well as to his state.

After being taken to hospital everyone's worst fears were confirmed that Shaw had suffered a double fracture to his right leg and immediately underwent surgery in a bid to reset his bones.

There had been discussions and debates even before the match ended as to whether or not it was a fair challenge by Moreno. I personally believe it was a free-kick and, therefore, a penalty and warranted the minimum of a yellow card, but maybe I'm a little biased. All that is secondary now and the main thoughts have to be with Luke and his inevitably long road to recovery.

The England international has many positives to fall back on the main one being his age at only 20 years old, he has time on his side and being a sportsman his level of fitness will only aid his situation, but more importantly, he is at the right club where he will receive nothing but the best treatment to aid him in his recovery as United have the perfect facilities for recovering players at their training HQ at Carrington.

Shaw also has the benefit of modern medicine and the advances in treating such injuries have been vastly improved over recent years to such an extent that he will expect to recover completely from the injury unlike some players in the past whose career would have been over for something less serious.

The biggest problem will be the psychological aspects of the recovery as he will be training mainly alone as faces being out of action for around nine months according to specialists. He will have to remain focused during his rehabilitation period, but he only has to talk to his colleague Antonio Valencia who also suffered a serious leg injury.

Valencia broke his ankle while playing for United in the Champions League against Rangers back in 2010. Sure, his injury wasn't as serious as Shaw's but he did have to go through exactly what his teammate will face and I'm sure he will advise him on how to remain focused.

The outpouring of sympathy from all fans and players around the world, not just United, must have uplifted his spirits and I'm sure that it will continue until the day that we see him back on the pitch in his No.23 shirt stronger and fitter than ever. In a strange quirk of fate United's next match will be against Shaw's former club Southampton at St. Mary's stadium where I'm sure both sets of fans will spare a thought for the popular full-back.

I leave the last words to him "Thank you, everyone, for your messages, words can't describe how gutted I am, my road to recovery starts now, I will come back stronger."

Be Lucky Luke.

Miles Dunton.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Shaw Injury Blow To United.

PSV 2 Manchester United 1

Sometimes events on the pitch far outweigh the result and this was true about United's opening defeat in Holland as defender Luke Shaw suffered a double fracture of his right leg which will rule him out for six months if not longer.

After a season of watching from a distance it was time for United to take their place among the European elite once again as they played their opening match in this season's group stage of the Champions League against PSV of Holland.

The match saw the quick return of Memphis to his old stomping ground after signing for United in June.  He left the club a hero and received a warm welcome from the home fans in recognition of the service he gave to the Dutch outfit over eight years.

Louis van Gaal was also returning to his native homeland, but his record at the Philips Stadion is not a glowing one as a manager as out of ten matches in charge with AZ,  Ajax and Barcelona he has only enjoyed two wins.

After the victory over Liverpool the manager had a tough decision to make and that was whether he should start with the side that began against Liverpool or go with the eleven that finished the match because the first half was not a patch on the second.

Ashley Young brought a much-needed injection of urgency to the second half at Old Trafford last Saturday and, of course, there was a scoring debut for new teenage striker Anthony Martial.

In the end, the manager decided that his starting XI would consist of: De Gea, Darmian, Smalling, Blind, Shaw, Schweinsteiger, Herrera, Young, Mata, Depay and Martial.
Subs: Romero, Rojo, Carrick, Valencia, Fellaini, Schneiderlin and McNair.

A very attack-minded side with Martial given his first start as a United player after van Gaal admitted that Fellaini was too ill to start the match and with no Rooney he was left with little choice. Chris Smalling was given the captain's armband as Carrick started from the bench.

Man United got the match underway wearing their new black third strip for the first time and the first quarter of an hour was all United as they used the wings to great effect and dominated possession and would have been hoping to turn it into goals until a horrendous tackle on Luke Shaw by defender Hector Moreno changed everything.

As Shaw entered the penalty area after a surging run he was scythed down by Moreno and went to ground in obvious agony as clearly something serious had happened. After receiving medical assistance, Shaw was stretchered off clearly in pain with an oxygen mask easing his obvious discomfort.

The amazing thing was that Moreno wasn't even cautioned for his awful challenge and quite why the referee didn't even deem it dangerous in any way is beyond belief.

On a side note of the sad turn of events, as Shaw was stretchered off to warm applause throughout the stadium Marcos Rojo entered the action as he replaced the England international for his first start of the season.

The United players were visibly upset by the injury to their teammate, but they had to find a way to clear their minds and get on with the job in hand.

United stepped up the pressure five minutes before half-time and it paid off as Memphis collected a great pass in the 41st minute from Blind, who had moved to the left back position, and the former PSV hero danced into the penalty area then placed a low left-footed shot past the keeper to give the visitors a deserved lead.

The Dutchman almost followed that up with his second before captain Smalling found himself in the unlikely position of a striker, however, his effort was blocked for a corner. A case of captain literally leading from the front.

With so much added time to be played due to the injury to Shaw PSV rubbed salt into United's wounds by equalising from a corner and it was the player who shouldn't even have been on the pitch, Moreno, who had his header deflected into the net by Blind.

Even with the two late goals the first half was all about the terrible injury to Luke Shaw and it was made worse by the fact that the offender Moreno celebrated his goal with such aplomb. Shaw had started the season extremely well after so many injuries last season, so this was a real blow to the youngster.

The second half got underway with the home side on the offensive and their attacking play caught United on the back foot after 57 minutes when a high cross into the box eluded Rojo and found Narsingh at the far post to head home to put PSV in the lead.

Interestingly, it was Blind who had struggled to get back to track the scorer in the position where Shaw would have been. Blind has been solid at the back alongside Smalling but as a full-back his pace is suspect to say the least which begs the question why wasn't Rojo used as a direct replacement for Shaw to keep the partnership of Smalling and Blind together.

Moreno was at it again, this time on Young, who was brought down by another dangerous tackle, but this time he was eventually booked.

Mata had a great chance to equalise or even square the ball across the box to an unmarked Memphis, but his initial control let him down and the big chance was wasted.

During the second half there was a lot of huffing and puffing by United but without the ability to blow the home defence down as they tried to play their way through the middle of a compact back four and when they did go wide the deliveries from the wings were poor.

Van Gaal tried to freshen the side up when he replaced Herrera with Fellaini for the last twenty minutes and shortly after the change Martial almost recreated the Mark Hughes goal from the '91 Cup Winners Cup final but the teenager shot weakly wide.

Valencia replaced Young in the last throws of a match that was increasingly slipping away from United with the home supporters raising the roof as the away side struggled to create any chances of note with Fellaini guilty of slow reactions inside the box probably due to his illness.

There was a moment that summed up United's night when in injury time they won a free-kick on the edge of the box for a handball and with the penalty area full of players ready to attack the expected delivery they decided to play it short and the chance had gone.

Full time and United had been beaten 2-1 by a determined and well-organised PSV side. As for United they can take solace in the fact that things can only get better.

The injury to Shaw left a black cloud over the match and the performance of the referee should also be questioned as he let so many bad challenges by the home team go without any cautions, but the Red Devils only had themselves to blame as once they had taken the lead they should have made sure of the result with enough chances to put the game out of the reach of the hosts, but they allowed the Dutch side to bully them into submission and were left wanting in the end.

There is still no need to panic just yet as there is a long way to go in the group and if United can win their first home game against Wolfsburg then they will be firmly back on track.

But it was a night when everybody's thoughts in the football world turned to Luke Shaw and with the well-wishing came the hope that he will make a full and speedy recovery as did Antonio Valencia when he suffered a bad break to his ankle, also in the Champions League.

I will leave the last words to Shaw himself: "Thank you, everyone, for your messages, words can't describe how gutted I am, my road to recovery starts now, I will come back stronger."

Thanks for reading.

Miles Dunton.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Van Gaal Flatly Denies Rift at United.

'Don't wash your dirty laundry in public'.

Louis van Gaal went on the defensive in his pre-match press conference before the clash with Liverpool after admitting that his captain Rooney and vice captain Carrick had informed him that the atmosphere within the dressing room had been flat recently.

It was honest of him to share this information, but maybe it would have been advisable not to address the issue as what happens behind closed doors should stay there.

There are two issues to look at from his statement one being the fact that the manager shared publicly what should really have been kept in-house, something that Alex Ferguson would have handled without informing the media, and the second being that surely it's the responsibility of the captain to rally the troops and boost morale when it's flagging and not to tittle-tattle to his manager.

To be a club captain takes a certain type of character and a person who can both lead on and off the field and United have been blessed with leaders and imposing personalities in the past that have pulled their teammates up by the scruff of their necks. When you think of the likes of Charlton, Buchan, Robson, Bruce, Cantona, Keane etc. they led by example and earned their teammates' respect by making sure that no player forgot who they were playing for. It does make you wonder how the present crop of players felt once they had heard that Rooney informed the manager of a possible lack of morale.

In the dressing room it is a known fact that van Gaal doesn't say very much before a game as all his work is done in meetings in the days building up to the match so that leaves one person with the responsibility to ensure that the players are focused on the task in hand and that's the captain. However, that is going to be a little harder now that the news is out there and it will be interesting to see how it effects the relationship between the captain and his players.

All this happened on the eve of the clash with United's bitterest rivals Liverpool so the timing wasn't exactly perfect as the media are always looking for any type of discord within the ranks and will spin it to the extreme. Van Gaal tried his best to play down the situation by remarking that his relationship with the players was healthy and his is an open door policy.

Also, where does Giggs fit into all this? As assistant coach he is there to assist and not just in the coaching side of the job but also as an ear for the players, a bridge between them and the manager one would presume.

The rumours of players being unhappy started to come out of the club concerning the treatment of certain team members by the manager and the Spanish contingent being unsettled about the Valdes and De Gea dealings, but this is just an example of teammates and friends looking out for each other. Now that the De Gea situation has been resolved, maybe that will give the squad a much-needed boost for the long season ahead.

With all the new faces in the team, it takes time for players to adjust to their new environment, colleagues and languages. If the atmosphere is flat within the squad then maybe all the players should take a deep look at themselves and never forget that they are playing for the biggest club on the planet and be UNITED.

Thanks for reading.

Miles Dunton.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

'Martial Law' Imposed at Old Trafford.

Manchester United 3 Liverpool 1

It is every young, and old, United fan's dream to score at the Stretford End on your debut against the clubs bitterest rivals Liverpool, well it became a reality for teenage sensation Anthony Martial as his first goal for his new team put the result beyond the reach of Liverpool and immediately gave him hero status among the Old Trafford faithful.

At the end of the latest round of internationals, it was a much-welcomed return to the Premier League and what a return as the two bitterest rivals in English football locked horns again at Old Trafford.

All the international talk prior to the match was the achievement of United's captain Wayne Rooney as he surpassed Sir Bobby Charlton's England scoring record by netting his 50th goal from the penalty spot against Switzerland and now has his sights set on the scoring record at club level, however he will have to wait a little longer as he was ruled out of this clash with a hamstring problem.

On the eve of the game United were boosted by the news that keeper David De Gea had put pen to paper and signed a new four-year contract with the option of an extension. There was, however, no news about whether or not a clause had been added that Ed Woodward could tell Real Madrid where to go if they returned for their main transfer target. At least if the Spaniards do come calling again in the future they will have to pay for the privilege of taking our number one.

Louis van Gaal had a big decision to make with the absence of his captain Rooney in who would he choose to lead the line up front, would it be Fellaini, or the newest arrival at Old Trafford French starlet Anthony Martial?

In the end, the manager chose this as his starting XI: De Gea, Darmian, Smalling, Blind, Shaw, Carrick, Schweinsteiger, Mata, Herrera, Memphis and Fellaini.

On the bench were: Romero, McNair, Rojo, Schneiderlin, Valencia, Young and Martial.

An interesting selection with the experienced duo of Carrick and Schweinsteiger starting in the midfield together, with Fellaini chosen to lead the attack which meant that new signing Martial would start his United career on the bench.

The United defence would have their hands full with Rodgers choosing a double strike force of Benteke and Ings to test Blind and Smalling.

The choice of Michael Oliver as match referee didn't exactly fill the Old Trafford faithful with confidence as his record in United's matches is poor to say the least, who can forget the red card he issued to Di Maria last season for the player touching him but Joe Hart got away with a headbutt against the same official.

United started the match on the front foot and looked up for the challenge from the off with the 'old timers' Carrick and Schweinsteiger controlling the middle of the park. A huge roar greeted De Gea first touch of the ball followed by a chorus of his name echoing around the ground.

A mistake by the Liverpool keeper Mignolet led to the first real chance for Fellaini but his attempted lob over the retreating keeper was not on target.

The away keeper was kept busy during the first ten minutes as Memphis tried his luck on a couple of occasions. The Dutch winger showed great pace down the left and gave the defence the jitters so much so that they resorted to fouling him.

On the right-hand side, it was player of last month, Darmian who was stretching his legs to good effect as he played a wonderful ball into the feet of Fellaini but the Belgium looked at bit rusty as he failed to react quickly enough to get a shot away. This season the Italian full back is showing exactly why he was the right buy over Liverpool's Clyne.

After the first 30 minutes, it had been all United with the visitors not being able to trouble David De Gea in goal or for that matter the defence as all the play was at the other end. United did have a let off when Benteke was ruled offside when one on one with De Gea.

The match lost its way towards the end of the half as United seemed to run out of ideas as to how to break through the visitors defence with a lot of nice passing from the likes of Herrera and Mata with no end result.

Not a thrilling half by any means, but one that was governed by United's superior midfield and with chances that they should have done better with especially Fellaini who showed poor control in the box. Liverpool looked decidedly disjointed especially in the midfield as they let the home side dictate the pace and were probably happy to go in at half-time all square. One thing was for sure Louis van Gaal didn't appear at all happy.

The United manager decided to make a change at the beginning of the second half by bringing Ashley Young into play in place of Memphis Depay. It was Young who provided many of Fellaini's goals last season with his deliveries on a plate for the Belgian.

What a substitution it was as straight from the off Young created havoc in the Liverpool defence and was brought down on the edge of the box and from the resulting free-kick Mata played the ball to a waiting Daley Blind who smacked a brilliant shot into the top corner from the edge of the area. 1-0 to United and full credit to Young, who looked up for the challenge.

A great start to the half for the home side and they seemed invigorated by the goal and pressed hard for the second.

After ten minutes, David De Gea was clearly bored as he tried to help the visitors out with some erratic passing, but redeemed himself with a fingertip save from Ings. David is most certainly back.

Fellaini finally began to put himself about more and was brought down for a free-kick in a great position for United which Young flashed just over the bar.

Once again Matteo was the star on the right as he continued to press forward and seemed capable of creating chances with every foray forward.

There was a heart in mouth moment for the home fans as Blind proved his worth at the other end with a heroic defensive clearance off the line to save United's skin.

The 66th minute should be remembered as it was the moment French teenage sensation Anthony Martial made his United debut as he replaced Mata. In doing so, he became the first Man Utd player to make his debut v Liverpool at Old Trafford since John Thompson way back in 1936.

Then in the 69th minute Herrera was scythed down inside the box and the referee rightly pointed to the spot and it was Herrera himself, who got up, dusted himself down and dispatched the penalty firmly into the net. A goal created and finished by the impressive Spaniard who could have made a claim to become the new spot kick king.

Carrick was replaced by Schneiderlin which meant that Chris Smalling took over the captain's duties for the final twenty minutes of the match.

On a slightly negative note full-back, Darmian, blotted another impressive game with yet another yellow card, something that he has to keep an eye on as it is becoming a regular event.

There was still time left in the game for David De Gea to remind the football world why he is regarded by van Gaal as one of the best keepers around as he pulled off a wonderful save at full stretch to prevent an effort from Ibe. However, he could do nothing about the goal from Benteke in the last five minutes as the striker pulled one back with a bicycle kick reminiscent of Rooney's brilliant strike against Man City back in 2011.

Then it was the turn of Martial to take centre stage at the Theatre of Dreams with a debut goal of supreme class in the 86th minute as he collected the ball outside the box and went on a confident run, which ended when he slid the ball meticulously past Mignolet to make it a magnificent start to his Old Trafford career.

The goal earned his new side a 3-1 victory along with the three points, but more importantly a deserved victory over a very disappointing Liverpool who were tepid to say the least in their approach to the game.

The match certainly changed in momentum with the introduction of Young at the beginning of the second half as his non-stop display down the left gave United the impetus to grab the game by the scruff of the neck and turn their possession into goals, earning him a good shout for man of the match ahead of Herrera and Darmian, however Daley Blind deserved the nod above them all for his all round defensive performance and of course the opening goal.

The sweet win moves United up into second place level on points with Arsenal but five points behind local rivals City who had to rely on a last gasp winner away at Crystal Palace.

Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick had informed the manager that the dressing room atmosphere had been flat prior to this match so to be a fly on the wall after this result would have been one to savour as the players surely would have been in buoyant mood after this result.

Let's hope that the positive mood is taken into the next challenge as United return to the group stages of the Champions League where they will face a tricky match away at PSV in Holland and a game that will see the return of Memphis to try and get one over his previous club.

Until next time thanks for reading.

Miles Dunton.