Manchester United hopes rely on two world-class players – Richard Fay – Manchester Evening News

Manchester United hopes rely on two world-class players – Richard Fay – Manchester Evening News

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United duo respond to critics

From the moment the team news dropped alarm bells were ringing around Old Trafford as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer opted for safety rather than for style, it turns out the Norwegian might know what he is doing.

Manchester United supporters know exactly what they are going to get from Fred and Scott McTominay as a double defensive midfield pivot, they also know exactly what it is they won’t get.

Even in the opening day win there were moments of concern with how easily Leeds got at the United defence, Luke Ayling’s wonder goal was itself underpinned by the fact Fred failed to close him down.

Yet it could be a safety net which is still affordable in certain matches for the campaign ahead with Pogba and Fernandes pulling the strings in front of them and greater reinforcement behind.

If that was United playing defensively then we can’t wait to see them on the attack.

Greenwood as a No.9

It seems ridiculous now, but there was genuine concern before the match that United could struggle in the absence of Edinson Cavani – they needn’t fret.

Mason Greenwood might only be 19, but he is already a household name in the Premier League and judged with the harshness of a veteran striker rather than that of a teenager.

It is credit to the youngster that he continues to deal with such pressure and still manages to take to the pitch with the same calm and methodical approach which saw him burst through the ranks at academy level.

While he might lack the physicality to front the United attack as a traditional No.9 he has carved a new role for himself as somewhat of a false nine, playing in the outside channels and punishing defenders with his pace, rather than matching them up with muscle.

His fluidity means a regular role in the United attack is not beyond him again this season, though perhaps at the slight expense of specialising in one area.

It makes United’s win over arch-rivals Leeds even sweeter that it was spearheaded by the boy-wonder from Bradford.

Two world-class midfielders

Raphael Varane’s pre-match unveiling naturally led to a focus on the new arrivals at United, but it is two players almost taken for granted who will likely hold the key to a successful Premier League title challenge.

Of course any title triumph will rely on better defensive work and utilising their squad depth to affect, though nothing will be quite as important as the displays of Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba in midfield.

The duo are both indisputable world-class talents in the United squad and were at the heart of everything good done by Solskjaer’s side in the opening day victory.

Four assists for Pogba, three goals for Fernandes – those are the numbers needed to win the league.

Set-piece threat

United might not have had any new signings on the pitch for their opener against Leeds, but the impact of staff addition Eric Ramsay was apparent once again.

Last season United missed an abundance of chances from set-pieces and it is clearly a priority improvement for the new campaign thanks to the expertise of their new specialist coach.

Twice in the opening 15 minutes United earned corners, both times Luke Shaw searched for international teammate Harry Maguire with an out swinger.

Solskjaer’s side had scored from the exact same situation in their final pre-season outing against Everton a week ago, it’s a change that could transform their attacking threat in the season ahead.

United didn’t score from a set-piece against Leeds, but it won’t be long before they do.

Jadon Sancho debut

The first match of a new season is always about fresh hope and energy, nobody personifies that more than summer signing Jadon Sancho.

He was mocked by chants of ‘you let your country down’ by the vocal Leeds fans scarred by European Championship final defeat, his hopes of lifting silverware might not need to wait that long.

While his debut will be best remembered for the performances of Pogba and Fernandes it was still important for Sancho to get his first taste of a raucous Old Trafford crowd, next time he’ll hope to be the one orchestrating such a passionate band of supporters.

This content was originally published here.

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