For the first time this season, Manchester United didn’t concede a goal. That’s about as good as it gets for Louis van Gaal and his players, including Angel di Maria making his debut, as they come away with a 0-0 draw against Burnley, the newly promoted side winning their first point of the 2014-2015 Premier League campaign.
Big names keep coming in and a lot of money keeps getting spent. However, Van Gaal is sticking to his 3-5-2 formation which includes both Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young on the wings in roles that both aren’t quite suited for, especially when it comes to Young himself. The defense remains a trio, this time consisting of Phil Jones as the responsible elder, Jonny Evans who is lacking even the slightest form of confidence and Tyler Blackett, who might be getting a bit too many minutes for someone without any sort of experience.
Burnley didn’t play like a team frightened of their rivals. Lukas Jutkiewicz and Daniel Ings kept that trio busy as Burnley stuck to long balls and crossed that sometimes even forced United into some defensive scrambling, which isn’t so surprising considering what we saw from them so far this season, the formation that the players aren’t used to and Darren Fletcher, a committed but very limited player taking on one of the more important roles on the team.
Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney, Angel di Maria and Robin Van Persie. Plenty of talent, goal scoring and creating ability. And yet, the best Manchester United can come up with is a dubious penalty shout for a handball and some crosses. This isn’t the David Moyes era in name only. In terms of confidence and the output on the field? Manchester United just had their worst 3-match opening in the Premier League era, although the last time they had only two points out of the first possible nine, they ended up winning the 2007-2008 championship after a super season from Cristiano Ronaldo.
Angel di Maria played as one of the two central midfielders and was probably the most dangerous of Manchester United attacking players. However, he isn’t exactly match fit, and isn’t exactly in sync with his teammates or the demands of his new manager. Michael Duff and Jason Shackell were commanding and dominant inside their own box, as Burnley fell back further and further as the match dragged on, but never once being put under real risk.
Manchester United will be looking even more different and new in the coming weeks. Daley Blind is coming, Luke Shaw is going to be back from injury. The wound and problems at the club are deep, and Van Gaal has asked for months of patience. For now he’s getting them, but it’s getting harder and harder to explain why a team with so much talent is looking this bad.