Sergio Romero, Matteo Darmian, Morgan Schneiderlin, Memphis, Bastian Schweinsteiger: Manchester United debuts assessed
By Peter Smith
Last Updated: 08/08/15 9:05pm
After a busy summer of transfer activity at Manchester United, Louis van Gaal fielded five debutants in the opening day 1-0 win over Tottenham.
Goalkeeper Sergio Romero, right-back Matteo Darmian, central midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin and attacker Memphis all got a starting spot, before Bastian Schweinsteiger replaced Michael Carrick with 30 minutes to play.
So how did United’s newboys do? We assess their Old Trafford debuts…
This may have been Sergio Romero’s first league game of 2015 but the Argentina international was razor-sharp when United needed him most on Saturday.
In the opening 45, Romero was off his line in a flash to close the angle for Christian Eriksen, blocked Kyle Walker’s close-range drive and comfortably claimed Toby Alderweireld’s effort on the stroke of half-time.
He saved his best for the latter stages of the game, though, twice denying Eriksen and parrying a Harry Kane header in the final ten minutes as Spurs pushed for an equaliser.
Romero’s distribution – he completed just 19 of his 36 attempted passes – has plenty of room for improvement but his display on Saturday suggests a potential David de Gea departure needn’t spell the end of United’s title hopes.
While Antonio Valencia commendably adapted to a right-back role last season, the signing of Matteo Darmian this summer seems a smart move by Louis van Gaal, as he aims to sure-up a defence which made more errors leading to shots than any other Premier League team last season. Cramp forced the Italian international from the pitch on 80 minutes but by then he’d already impressed.
No Manchester United player had made more clearances than Darmian when he left the field (five) and the former Torino full-back demonstrated his awareness of danger as he stepped inside to cover Chris Smalling on several occasions.
Going forward Darmian showed potential, too; the 25-year-old linked up well with Juan Mata (the pair exchanged sixteen passes) and delivered two inviting balls into the box. Expect him to be first-choice right-back from here on.
Morgan Schneiderlin, United’s big-money signing from Southampton, was almost left red-faced just 12 minutes into his debut when he was caught dwelling on the ball by Mousa Dembele. Fortunately for the 25-year-old, Daley Blind was on hand to block Harry Kane’s subsequent shot.
However, from there on Schneiderlin assumed control in the middle of the pitch. No midfielder from either team made more passes (50) and Schneiderlin was the chief destroyer of Tottenham’s attacks, making five tackles (more than any other United player) and three interceptions.
It appears Michael Carrick and Bastian Schweinsteiger will be battling to partner Schneiderlin at the heart of the Manchester United midfield this term.
After scoring 28 goals in all competitions last season, Memphis was perhaps the most eagerly anticipated new signing on display at Old Trafford on Saturday – although the United fans will have to wait a little longer to see the Dutchman at his best.
In a bright first half the former PSV ace set Ashley Young free down the right in the build-up to Kyle Walker’s own goal and played a smart one-two with Wayne Rooney on the edge of the area before feeding Young once again, although this time the move came to nothing. After half an hour Memphis hadn’t misplaced a pass.
However, by the time he was withdrawn on 68 minutes, the 21-year-old’s influence had faded, his passing accuracy had dropped significantly (to 86.2 per cent) and he had failed to trouble Michel Vorm with any of his three shots.
Of United’s three high-class defensive midfielders, it was Bastian Schweinsteiger who missed out on a starting spot. However, in the 30 minutes the German was given on Saturday, he demonstrated just what he’ll bring to United, following his summer switch from Bayern Munich.
Just three of Schweinsteiger’s 23 passes went astray as he spread the ball across the park with efficiency. That class on the ball was coupled with a more cynical streak - a trip on Nacer Chadli earned the 31-year-old a yellow card but crucially broke up a threatening Spurs attack. As the visitors surged forward in search of an equaliser late on Schweinsteiger and Schneiderlin provided an effective barrier for United’s defence.
He may not always be the first name on the team sheet, but that doesn’t mean Schweinsteiger won’t have an impact in this campaign.