Getting off to a winning start was always the important thing today and United managed it thanks to an own goal from Kyle Walker. That the game was decided in such a way says much about the cagey, generally very even nature of this opening encounter. Spurs will doubtless consider themselves to have been worthy of a point, having produced a far more spirited effort than in their last visit to Old Trafford in the spring. United fans, however, will not only be happy with the three points, but with the performances of the four competitive debutants who started the game along with a loudly applauded cameo from Schweinsteiger who came on as a second half sub.
While Luke Shaw struggled for form on the left of the defence, Darmian had an excellent game on the right, his positional sense and attacking pay both excellent, suggesting that – injuries permitting – we may finally have a player who can convincingly make the right back position his own. Schneiderlin was tidy and efficient in central midfield, while there was great relief that, on this showing, Romero may yet be a worthy replacement for the presumably soon-to-depart De Gea. He pulled off a particularly vital save late on and his distribution of the ball was generally outstanding.
Spurs enjoyed a lot of possession early on but United always looked dangerous on the break, the fourth of the debutants Memphis Depay impressing with his strength and speed, while Young looked a consistent threat on the left. It was no surprise that one of these breaks brought United the lead and what would turn out to be the decisive goal. A poor pass from Bentalab allowed the Reds to move the ball swiftly to the other end of the pitch, Young this time turning up on the right to deliver a perfect pass to Rooney, who appeared to dwell on the shot only for Walker to help him out when his attempted challenge let to him prodding the ball past Vorm.
United were the better side after the break, although Spurs still carried a threat and the Reds looked ponderous at the back on occasions; Eriksen forced a fine save out of Romero while Smalling’s tackle on Chadli prevented what had looked an almost certain goal. Although these were nervy moments, United produced some superb attacking play at times, with Young forcing a save out of Vorm while Rooney’s flamboyant overhead kick to finish off a high tempo Reds passing move went over the bar.
It was, in truth, a performance of sporadic highlights rather than a comprehensive victory and Van Gaal’s side continues to have the look of a work in progress. Even so, there remains an impressive spirit in this side that, when placed under sustained pressure at times, never looked like wilting. Which certainly couldn’t be said about the side that capitulated so meekly against Swansea in the first game last year. Job done, but areas t hat need working on still very apparent.