Finally a performance to get supporters excited. Van Gaal ditched the restrictive 3-5-2 in favour of a diamond that functioned perfectly. Blind, Mata, Di Maria and Herrera controlled the game and United now have a midfield to envy. It was refreshing watching the team pick apart the opposition at Old Trafford, as it has not happened so efficiently since Sir Alex retired. The defence still doesn’t look solid but the game was a vast improvement on van Gaal’s awful start. Since it was only the first time these players have played together, fans can get excited about what is to come.
De Gea: A mixed game for De Gea. He made two characteristically brilliant saves with his feet to keep a clean sheet, however he also handed them their best chance when a mix up led to Mattie Phillips having an open goal and only Evans great tackle denied him. David’s distribution was perfect as always but it would be best if he avoided the errors that marred his first season at the club.
Rafael: Tenacious tackling and surging runs combined to mark an excellent return to the first team for Rafael. Herrera didn’t drift as wide as Di Maria so he could run forward at will and got into great positions. Rafael avoided his tendency to commit poor tackles and he won the ball legally throughout. As United’s only out and out right sided full back it is important he stays fit and on form so we don’t have to revisit the nightmare of Smalling at right back again.
Evans: After his calamity against MK Don’s, Evans upped his game and played as United’s most experienced centre back should. Other than a mix up with Blackett in the second half, he was solid. Surprisingly it was Evans who stepped out of defence and made forward passes, which is a part of his game we have rarely seen. Further improvement is needed before Evans can be the leader of this new defence but he took a step in the right direction.
Blackett: It is great to see a product of the academy retain his place in the starting eleven and Tyler did not disappoint. He is so assured on the ball, to the extent that he looks too relaxed in possession! His height and strength help his game and he looked a lot more comfortable in a four man defence. The future is bright for Blackett.
Rojo: After the baffling situation with his work permit, Rojo finally got to make his debut. Playing left back Rojo looked experienced, confident and calm. He is extremely strong and should slot in at centre back without any issues. Di Maria’s tendency to drift wide meant he didn’t get forward as much as Rafael but it didn’t stifle the formation at all. One overlap saw him put through by a great Di Maria pass but his cut back led to a blocked shot. A great debut for the Argentinean who will be a fine asset to United’s limited defensive options.
Blind: What an intelligent footballer he is. Blind was the pivot of the team at the bottom of the diamond. His reading of the game is exceptional as he dropped deeper beside Blackett when Evans stepped out and he snuffed out attacks before they had a chance to cause trouble. He always popped up in the right positions and was everything United have been missing for a few seasons. A good strike in the second half would have capped off a masterful midfield performance where the Dutchman was my man of the match.
Herrera: Ander operated brilliantly on the right side of the midfield three. He roamed forward when needed but his defensive edge shored up the centre and insured it was solid. He took his goal wonderfully and linked well with Rafael who over lapped him constantly. Ander’s performance is another testament to how effective the midfield diamond is.
Di Maria: United’s new number seven was wonderful. Every time he received the ball he drove the attack forward and created space for the rest of the players to exploit. A perfectly whipped free kick, a little luckily, found the back of the net for his first United goal. Angel’s brilliance shone when his flicked outside of the foot pass found Van Persie who could only volley straight at Green. Fans can expect more moments of genius such as this from an extremely special footballer.
Mata: Juan will be over the moon with United’s new signings and change in system, as he finally has space to operate. QPR were so preoccupied with over lapping fullbacks, Di Marias driving runs and Rooney and RVP’s movement that they couldn’t focus on shutting Mata down. It paid off as he found positions to make on-twos, get into shooting positions and to act as the conduit between midfield and attack. A goal rewarded a great performance by the Spaniard who really is a class act when on song.
Rooney: Answered his critics with a composed display. Rooney was involved in most attacks and intelligently interchanged with Mata throughout to confuse the QPR back-line. A goal and an assist marked his best game this season and the diamond seems to be working for him at international and club level.
Van Persie: A quiet evening for Robin as he was United’s furthest player forward so he was living of longer passes and through balls. He combined with the other attackers when necessary and a characteristic run led to an uncharacteristic finish when he missed a volley following a great ball by Di Maria. It would have been nice for him to get off the mark but with the attacking talent United now possess, the goals will come for Van Persie.
Falcao: Probably the best reception a player has ever gotten warming up at Old Trafford. No other United signing has been treated with such enthusiasm and I was as disappointed as anyone when his name didn’t appear in the starting eleven. The Colombian still got over twenty minutes to do his thing and he almost succeeded when Blind’s rebounded shot fell to him but Green made a great save with his leg. The game had lost its intensity by the time Falcao deputised but he was classy in possession and you can almost sense his obsession with scoring goals. Fans will be eager to see him start against Leicester next week.
Valencia: His lack of creativity was highlighted when surrounded by great players. Valencia got into the right positions but as always failed to pick out a final ball. Keeping Valencia as a backup right back will be of benefit to the squad but his days as an effective winger are over.
Januzaj: Again Adnan frustrated. He showed his class when he made a clever one-two with Rafael to get into a threatening position but instead of crossing to Falcao or Van Persie, he blasted over from an impossible angle. We can put this down to his youth for now but he should take notice of Raheem Sterling’s mature performances and add better decision making to his game.