It began badly then ended with an unexpected homage to Fergie time—thank you kindly Marouane Fellaini—but some interesting things happened in between. Here are three of the thoughts I took away from the match that happily concluded Manchester United 3-1 Brugge.
1. Goalkeeping Trend When Defending Set Pieces
If you watched the UEFA Super Cup between Barcelona and Sevilla you’ll remember that the first three goals were all scored from free kicks. In every case the keeper chose to defend one half of the goal leaving the other entirely exposed. Similarly Sergio Romero was far to his left on the inbound ball that deflected first off the wall then Michael Carrick for Brugge’s stunning early goal. Why keepers are creeping further and further to one side is beyond me but if this is a coaching trend in European football it won’t last long the way leather is finding the back of the twine.
2. Is LvG Taking A Page From American Baseball?
I don’t know whether Louis Van Gaal found the time to take in a few innings during the club’s pre-season tour of the US and received a tutorial on pinch hitting from Bruce Bochte but he does seem to understand the concept of platooning. Michael Carrick’s response to his unfortunate own goal, setting up Memphis Depay with a brilliant diagonal for the equalizer then making several other incisive passes, should have kept him on the pitch for the second half unless he picked up an injury. Assuming that he didn’t the idea of exchanging his two thirty-something defenders at the half in other matches beyond United v Brugge may be intriguing Louis Van Gaal.
There is something to it. In outings against lighter opposition, such as Brugge, Carrick can open with some excellent service to establish the lead. A fresh-legged Bastian Schweinsteiger would then relieve him in the second half to tighten things up a bit defensively. He’s not Roy Keane, but Schweini has a knack for winning the ball. The reverse could work against more dangerous teams. Basti can occupy attacking mids at both ends of the pitch for 45-60 minutes, then Carrick can come on just as the opponents begin to take some risks to get a look at goal. Either way you can get maximum output from two players who, at a combined age of sixty-five, are on the back end of their careers.
3. Everybody Likes Memphis, Janujaz Not So Much
If United’s new number seven can continue to make the scorching runs and thrilling goals that he did in the first half of this match, the singer Marc Cohn will find his UK royalties for the hit Walking In Memphis on the rise.
Meanwhile his counterpart on the opposite flank is not walking with his feet ten feet off of Beale. Not only has young Adnan been hearing it from his manager for his failure to hold the ball but he was forced to endure a hair dryer treatment at the highest setting from match referee Deniz Aytekin. After watching the player go down easily on two or three occasions the German, head and shoulders taller than the Belgian winger, dressed him down severely. Twice Janujaz attempted to walk away and twice was called back in front of 75,000 fans to be told he was dreaming if that was the type of theater he thought the occasion warranted. If the lecture was not sufficient he was then lifted early in the second half for Chicharito, who has sadly managed to become the Anderson of Van Gaal’s United tenure. Things are not looking bright for Janujaz, who received less than enthusiastic thanks for his game winner against Villa on Friday last.
Next week, it’s the second leg. Until then, Vaya Con Chicharito.