It’s taken a while, but Louis van Gaal finally had most of his new signings available for selection. Interestingly, he abandoned the formation he had so far persisted with. Whether this was due to the players performing poorly in their tactical duties, or simply because he has more attacking talent to fit into the same XI remains to be seen. One thing is undeniable, Di Maria has added a cutting edge not seen at Old Trafford in a long time (from the home team, anyway).
On the same weekend Real Madrid lost to their city rivals, Di Maria hosted a masterclass of attacking football at Old Trafford. There is an argument that Di Maria was not exactly what this top-heavy United squad needed, but when a player of his talent becomes available, it is very hard to resist.
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Arsenal and Manchester City played out one of the games of the season so far, with both sides contributing to a phenomenal 2-2. City fans will be disappointed that new signing Fernando missed the game through injury, while Yaya Toure was not included in the squad after his midweek travelling with the Ivory Coast. 36-year-old Frank Lampard made his debut in their absence and it was not surprising that City boss Manuel Pellegrini reshuffled his pack at half-time, moving James Milner into the centre and replacing Lampard with Samir Nasri. Lampard may have been a phenomenal player for Chelsea, but his influence waned towards the end and City will hope that Yaya Toure has sufficiently recovered to face Bayern Munich in midweek.
This was supposed to be different. At least, that’s the narrative we have been fed throughout the summer: Southampton had their heart ripped out, with their best players all jumping ship after a successful season together. Newcastle, meanwhile, had invested wisely, with Alan Pardew finally assembling the attacking flair required to replace Demba Ba and Hatem Ben Arfa. Newcastle weren’t just beaten by Southampton, they were systematically dismantled. The result leaves Newcastle bottom of the table, while the Saints are in the Champions League places. It’s early days, but things have to improve on Tyneside, and quick.
Villa are another side who are defying the pre-season predictions. Widely tipped for a relegation struggle, the Villains have picked up 10 points from 4 games; a feat bettered only by table-topping Chelsea. In a game not dissimilar to Stoke’s win at the Etihad two weeks ago, Villa put in an impressive defensive showing against one of the title challengers. Liverpool will point to the injury Sturridge sustained whilst on England duty, but Villa were also missing their captain and defensive lynchpin, Ron Vlaar. Villa couldn’t have asked for a better start to an extremely difficult run of fixtures, but on current form, they will fancy their chances of taking points from Arsenal next weekend.
Oh, Stoke. A home game against one of the promoted sides should have been routine for Hughes’ men after their phenomenal victory against the Premier League champions last time around. Instead, the Potters fans watched their team lose at home for already the second time this season. The lack of a cutting edge was painfully evident as Stoke bossed the first half, despite a significant investment in attacking talent this summer. One of the biggest disappointments so far has been the impact of Bojan, but are we simply expecting too much from a young talent who hasn’t fulfilled his teenage potential?Categories: Premier League , soccer