At Swansea – If I could bottle confidence…

The most impressive thing about this result was the confidence. The scoreline, embellished by 3 goals in the last 10 minutes, is impressive but that was only a product of the control and poise with which United played. The first half was all United possession, probing to break down Swansea’s disciplined 3-6-1. The breakthrough came from a corner kick, yet another set-piece goal – something we didn’t see much of last season.

As my post earlier in the week said, there’s no need to draw any long-term conclusions from the West Ham result – the same applies here. 2 games, 2 convincing wins, 6 points. What we are seeing is a work in progress, a construction on the right path. While there remain certain tactical questions – the absence of width in possession being an obvious one – the team is crafting an identity for itself. As @nanu759 says, a partonopei (“pattern of play”) is the first step to establishing sustained dominance. As almost certainly the tallest team in the league, the aerial threat is superbly complemented by the pacey brio and strength of a more mature Rashford, the finishing of a hungry Lukaku, and the clever scheming and direct running of Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Speaking of the Armenian, he was a class above today without ever looking like he was trying hard. His ability to turn off both feet was priceless while with his direct running late in the game, as it opened up, recalled the very best of the Bundesliga’s Player of the Season for 15/16.

The team’s spirit and togetherness is a welcome sight. As reports indicate, it is the best in years – Martial’s goal was eagerly celebrated by Marcus Rashford, with whom he’s obviously in direct competition with. Lukaku scored, and Martial celebrated it with a double fist pump – once again, a player happy for another whose presence in the team is a threat to theirs.

A final shout for Phil Jones. 2 games in and no hobbling must be a beautiful thing to see. His reading of the game was measured, his tackling strong. His partnership with Eric Bailly seems to be blossoming.

3 points, onto the next one.



Opening Day at Old Trafford – avoiding lazy conclusions

To paraphrase @dianekristine, there’s a tendency, in football (particularly football), to draw permanent conclusions from temporary situations. The media cycle is so rapid, the readership’s hunger for ‘expert’ opinions so ravaging that amidst the rush to generate the rowdy conversation that echoes in our pubs, bars, classrooms and living rooms, nuance is often the sorry victim.

This past weekend, Manchester United set out a perfect example. At Old Trafford, Manchester United spanked a strong West Ham side. 4 goals, a comfortable clean sheet and goals from players who, for varying reasons, needed them. In the aftermath, the reaction of the so-called experts has ranged from “Manchester United laid down their title credentials” to “Were Manchester United that good or West Ham were that bad?”

On one hand, you get an unequivocal statement and on the other, a statement which necessarily, for media purposes, provokes the sort of incendiary debate that obscures what is evident. What is evident then? That Manchester United played a very good game from 30 minutes onwards. For the first 30 minutes, there was a lack of cohesion and fluency – West Ham held a solid shape, allowed very little space between the lines and it looked like 16/17 again. However, Lukaku’s opener was symbolic of what this new United represents – pace and power, with the ability to punish teams on the break. With the goal, confidence flowed and the team played with greater panache. 4-0 was hardly flattering, notwithstanding that the final two goals in the dying minutes.

Was West Ham bad? Are oranges orange? It’s like asking to see heads of a coin expecting tails. It’s not common, in football, or any sport in fact, to be good, to execute properly and be properly trounced. As good as Manchester United was, the first 2 goals could be ascribed to lapses in concentration from West Ham players. Doth two individual lapses a narrative create? Perhaps not.

Taking a step back as a supporter that has been burnt by optimism in the last 4 seasons, a 4-0 win to begin the season is a strong start. But it’s 3 points – that’s all. United travels to Wales this weekend to face Swansea – that’s another match, another opportunity to pick up 3 points. A poor performance (or worse, a poor result) will have the murmurers murmuring again, jumping to conclusions.