Manchester United took the initiative and rose to the Premier League summit for the first time in over two years with a 3-0 thumping of league strugglers Sunderland. Despite the Black Cats’ efforts to get men behind the ball, after conceding late in the first half they never looked like stealing any points from the efficient Reds.
The young number seven’s long awaited Premier League moment just had to come in the seventh game. The modest finish capped a spectacular combination of passes which arose from a delightful twenty yard pass from Daley Blind, precisely picking out Juan Mata who calmly squared back for Memphis to finish. Despite squandering a seemingly routine one on one opportunity after Martial’s fantastic through pass, Memphis’ influence grew as the game continued and spaces were created. His willingness to impress the Old Trafford faithful is plain to see and is reminiscent of a certain Portuguese youngster some years back…we can only hope this goal is the beginning of a run of goals for young Dutchman.
The longest goal drought in Wayne Rooney’s premier league career came to an end within the first minute of the restart, as Rooney scored from Martial’s excellent build up play and final cross. It was off Wayne’s knee, but he won’t care and neither do the fans. Despite Rooney’s insistence that he is not bothered by the ‘boo boys’ it can only improve his confidence and he is arguably still one of the most important match winners in the first team. Great team work from Mata also to look out for Martial. The sigh of relief for the skipper in the stadium was palpable.
Ashey Young found an unmarked Juan Mata at the back post who coolly finished to put the game to rest. Mata has now equalled the number of league goals he scored at Chelsea albeit in less games in a Red shirt. An impressive stat for a man so easily dismissed by Jose Mourinho at Chelsea, two years on Mata is now arguably a focal point in the team that sits atop the premier league. Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea is nowhere to be seen in the top half of the table.
Mata again had an influential game with an assist and a goal, which earned him a nomination for the MOTM. His current form has seen him earn 3 assists and 2 goals in the last 5 league games. (A special spotlight blog on Juan Mata is coming)
It’s never a United game without a good David De Gea save. No doubt he is amongst the most important players this season already. In the 24th minute he denied Sunderland’s Lens with an instinctive save with his legs. In the second half he denied Toivonen’s close range effort and later Van Aanholt, the closest the Black Cats came to score, keeping his first clean sheet this season.
Life without Luke Shaw
The back four on the other hand, was reshuffled. Matteo Darmian played as a left back, and he was exceptional. Chris Smalling proves to be a leader at the back again which is what United lacked last season. This could be the season most fans have been waiting for in terms of Smalling’s potential. Antonio Valencia was rarely troubled, and provided an attacking option on the right hand side. A late cameo from Phil Jones was most welcome, once fully fit I can only imagine he will slot into central defence so that Blind and Darmian can return to familiar surroundings at left and right back respectively.
Man of the Match
Anthony Martial claimed his second MOTM in as many matches, with an assist and many more chances created. He has proved to be a team player, as his partnership with Memphis looks promising after three games together. You can’t ignore Martial’s strength and touch whenever he holds the ball, accompanied by his pace and composure when through on goal. It’s particularly telling, when a striker wins this award without scoring. We definitely have a player here, but as LVG says, we must be patient and give him time. Look for our extensive spotlight blog on Anthony Martial.
And finally, Manchester United is back to where we belong – at the top. Do we have what it takes to stay at the top? All the young players will hopefully have gotten a taste of what it feels like and will not relinquish the summit easily…