You can’t expect a cohesive performance in a match that’s a little bit more than a friendly, especially considering the weak opposition, but Manchester United continue their ways of boring out wins, relying on individual brilliance, twice coming from their best player, Robin van Persie, and the only bright spot that has nothing to do with the Dutch man, Wilfried Zaha.
At the moment, Zaha is pretty much the only signing United have made this summer. He was purchased last season, but made his official debut in the Community Shield win over Wigan (2-0), as he might be the one that offers a bit more complete version on the wing in contrast to the very limited cadre United have at their disposal.
The game was over before it actually really got going. Van Persie scored the opener after six minutes, and it was smooth sailing from that moment, as he added another one in the second half.
The most evident thing about United’s “new-look team” which is actually just a new manager with mostly the same players from last season is the mobility up front. Robin van Persie began the match as the lone striker, with Welbeck on his left and Zaha on his right.
Van Persie began in the middle, but later moved to the left and actually got his second goal off a deflection while cutting to the middle from the right. Wilfried Zaha switched wings at some point while Danny Welbeck, usually the hardest working player on the pitch, was pretty much everywhere.
If there’s one thing to be excited about for United fans it’s going to be Zaha. He might be trying too hard to show he has the trickery of Nani but with a lot more directness in his game, but it seems United have hit another bingo with another winger, at least before his weaknesses are revealed, if at all. Zaha creates so many problems for opposing defenders as he never tries to waste time. He’s constantly on the attack, constantly looking for a way into the box. He’ll have to improve his accuracy in crossing and decision making, but at his age, there’s plenty of time.
The bad? The Carrick-Cleverley-Giggs trio in the middle didn’t have too many problems against Wigan, even though Wigan’s unit is probably better than the usual standard offered by Championship teams. And still it doesn’t seem like a good enough group, even with changes (Anderson instead of Giggs?), to show this kind of dominance and ease in the long 38-match season. It didn’t seem like enough last season as well, but the Ferguson factor kicked in, and despite the Rooney bashing being a very popular trend these days, his presence in the middle of the pitch helped last season. There’s also Shinji Kagawa to consider, and how his functioning will work, and at the cost of who.
The defense? Didn’t face big risks, but their problems against aerial threats is worth mentioning. Nemanja Vidic hasn’t been a world class centre back for over a year, and it doesn’t seem like a healthy summer is going to change that. Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and the aging Patrice Evra didn’t offer much help to the Serbian as it created some awkward moments that Wigan didn’t have the quality and focus to make the most of.
In typical United fashion, they did their job without impressing anyone. It worked well last season, but it’s going to take more than just a clinical Robin van Persie to make it work a second time.