Sunday’s match against QPR saw Manchester United’s new look midfield play together for the first time and the combined performance holds a lot of promise for the rest of the season.
The main player that grabbed the headlines was Angel Di Maria who as the most expensive signing in English football added much needed pace to the side and his direct runs at the QPR goal caused the London club no end of problems.
The slow build-up play that had become a familiar sight for United fans over the last 12 months and the way QPR set up so sit deep, maybe they were expectant of similar performance. Instead, it just invited Di Maria to run at the QPR defence and this was utilised brilliantly for the second goal, as the former Real Madrid player attracted the attention of QPR players before sliding in a nice pass into the path of an unmarked Rooney.
Di Maria ended the match with a goal – a well placed free kick that went through everybody and straight past Robert Green – and an assist for Mata’s goal in the second half, while he created 4 chances in total including the lofted pass with the outside of his foot to Van Persie.
The Argentine international’s performance slightly covered the performance of another summer signing – Ander Herrera.
As well as the drive in midfield that was missing, being able to control the midfield was an issue for United in their opening 3 matches as sloppy passes continued to break down attacks and allowed the opposition to break forward on the counter. Herrera completed 77 passes throughout the match with an accuracy of 91%.
Herrera has a similar attacking influence as Di Maria with the Spanish midfielder scoring a neatly finished goal while assisting Rooney’s goal that firmly killed the game off as a contest. His close control also frustrated QPR into conceding a needless foul that resulted in the free kick that Di Maria scored from, as well as creating the same number of chances as his midfield counterpart (4).
The number of attacking options also made many wonder how Van Gaal would fit them all in without becoming defensively weak in midfield, but Herrera stepped up to the plate and made 8 tackles against QPR – more than any match he featured in last season for Athletic Bilbao.
While the performance of QPR should keep everyone associated with Manchester United firmly grounded, the performances of Herrera and Di Maria – alongside Danny Blind who sat at the base of the diamond – will encourage there’s a return to winning ways week in, week out.