MANCHESTER — After Manchester United beat Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 at Old Trafford on Saturday to start the season with a win, Louis van Gaal will be a happy man.
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Spurs started brightly but faded badly, as United hardly set the world alight but did what they had to do.
Here are three things we learned from a day where debutants took center stage.
New guys settle in well for United
Matteo Darmian, Memphis Depay, Morgan Schneiderlin and Sergio Romero all made their full United debuts on Saturday and all four proved they are worthy additions over the summer.
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Romero looked a little shaky at times, while Schneiderlin uncharacteristically gave the ball away on occasions, but the longer the game went on (especially with Romero) the better they got. Darmian and Memphis were both substituted in the second half, with Darmian putting in an accomplished display at right back. The man who wants to be known as Memphis showed glimpses of his talent with tricks and flicks. He seemed to be on the same wavelength as Wayne Rooney, which is a good sign going forward. Bastian Schweinsteiger came on for a cameo in the second half, with the midfielder keeping things ticking over and also becoming the first German to play for United. Overall, United’s five new players already look like much better additions than those bought over the past two summers.
Same old story for Spurs
Early on Spurs took the game to United and Mauricio Pochettino’s men failed to make the most of it. Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen linked up brilliantly in the 4th minute to rip open United’s defense but Eriksen’s lob went just over. Daley Blind looked a little shaky at center back under Spurs’ high pressure but he and Chris Smalling kept Kane quiet for most of the game and Spurs’ bright start faded badly. What this defeat proved is that Tottenham are not far away from being a top four club, especially with an improved defense anchored by Toby Alderweireld, but they are not that close to breaking into the top four either. Work to do for Spurs if they’re going to better their fifth place finish from last season.
Romero ready to replace De Gea
By the end of the game, the name of Sergio Romero was being chanted by the United faithful at the Stretford End. The new Argentine goalkeeper had a few shaky moments in possession early on, but perhaps that is to be expected in his first game for his new club. With David de Gea sat near me in the stands, the Spanish goalkeeper continues to be unavailable for selection with van Gaal claiming his mind is not right with interest from Real Madrid continuing. The saga surrounding de Gea rumbles on, as he has just one-year left on his new deal but has not committed his future to United. Until that happens, there’s no chance de Gea will play. And, given Romero’s solid debut, maybe United no longer need him to.