Admit it, you walked into work this morning with a certain swagger and joie de vivre, with an air of invincibility that that is like no other. Even if your boss has bollocked you at 9.01 am for not brewing up, you don’t give a toss, because that feeling, that buzz you get from Manchester United beating Liverpool is unparalleled, it’s the one we all want, we all crave. And we got it! You little beauty!
It was the same old, pedestrian story in the first half. You could have been forgiven for looking up at the scoreboard and asking yourself, is this actually a United versus Liverpool game? Jan Molby and Bryan Robson could have been in the wishfully worded ‘engine room’ such was the lack of intensity. There was no blood, thunder, passion or speed, it had a testimonial feel about proceedings. It beggared belief we were witnessing a derby game. In boxing terms, no-one was laying a glove on one another.
After the limp surrendering of a goal lead at Swansea and Fellaini seemingly winning a competition to play up front for the day, you wondered where a goal was going to come from at the break. Three goals and an increase in tempo were beyond our wildest dreams going in deadlocked at half-time. It took the introduction of Ashley Young, replacing the ineffective Memphis, to offer a new-found directness and suddenly United looked a completely different outfit, one more fitting of the standards we expect.
There were ample opportunities to get at Nathaniel Clyne in the first-half, with the once again excellent Luke Shaw taking up the invitation with an indefatigable ease, Memphis did not follow suit. Van Gaal’s instructions to Young were reportedly simple: Get at Clyne. The message was received and heeded within 60 seconds- Young’s trickery resulting in a free-kick, and what a well-worked one it was too: Schweini’s expert wrestling afforded Daley Blind the space and time to brilliantly place a shot past Mignolet to send Old Trafford into raptures.
Blind seems to be growing into the role of centre-back, forming a thus far excellent partnership with Chris Smalling, who continues to grow in stature by the game. The fear going into this game was Benteke would expose Blind a la Gomis the previous match. He stood up to the challenge though, and his two heroic clearances deserve more than just a passing mention- those interventions preserved the lead and the Dutchman deservedly got the man of the match accolade.
Anthony Martial. Could even he have dreamt a better moment than that? The Stretford End going balmy, slotting in to seal a famous victory against the bitterest of foes on your debut in the famous red shirt of Manchester United? We have all dreamt it, this young man has lived the moment.
It’s important to stay grounded with Martial. Remember Kiko Macheda? Actually, nah… Let’s enjoy this moment! This is what football is all about- that excitement a new signing brings, having an impact like that only whets the appetite, doing it against that lot- what a way to endear yourself and starting repaying the huge money. It’s up to the manager to temper expectations, and Van Gaal will- you know how he is… no matter how well you do, he will always shit on someone’s parade to not get them above their station.
What a noise inside Old Trafford as Martial’s cool finish hit the net. It has not been that loud for a good while, there was a dual sense of relief and wow, what have we here? It is moments like that you live for as fans. It was explosive, it was direct, it was the real United. Pace and rawness are two exciting attributes and, when put together, potentially devastating.
That great goal will either raise expectation or take the pressure off his shoulders, what he has done is buy himself some time- can you imagine how he’ll be feeling today? Nine foot tall, the toast of Carrington, desperately hoping for a start against PSV tomorrow. The confidence levels should be brimming, that goal should do him the world of good settling down. Even if he goes through a lean spell for a while, he will have the insurance of a wonder goal on the biggest of stages and we now know what he is capable of.
I read a piece from former red striker Louis Saha, he said that Martial will surprise a few people this season and many, given the Monaco links and his rawness, have compared Martial to the great Thierry Henry- forgive me for not refuting that comparison, that finish was Henry’s signature over years in the Premier League.
It’s impossible to not touch upon the reception given to David de Gea: if he had any doubts about how he’d be received after the summer saga, any reservations will now be quelled. We are a special set of supporters, who recognise genuine quality when we see it, even if the guy sat next to me saluted him with the middle finger and told him to Foxtrot Oscar to Madrid.
No disrespect to Sergio Romero, but you have to doubt whether he’d have got to Danny Ings’ or Jordan Ibe’s efforts in the second half. With De Gea in the sticks for at least another year, you can virtually guarantee we will claim 10-15 more points than had we not got his services. Even if we do not have him for the best part of this new four year deal, we should cherish having him as our keeper- there is no doubting who is the man for that position now like there is no doubting what we can achieve with a full season of De Gea in net.
We have a swift return to action with our return to the Champions League proper getting underway against PSV on Tuesday night.
Marouane Fellaini’s place up front (we should never be saying that), has to be in jeopardy after a rancid display against Liverpool. Will he throw Martial into the team in his place with those soaring confidence levels? Will Memphis be overawed on his first return to the club that served him so well? Where does Ashley Young fit into the side, after his vital cameo against Liverpool?
These are all good questions for Van Gaal to contemplate. Here’s to kicking on from such a euphoric victory against Liverpool and getting our European campaign off to the best possible start.
Come on United!