A NEW season, same old United. If last Sunday’s Community Shield heroic overhaul of the snarling mercenaries of Moneychester City told us anything about how the reds are shaping up, it is this: the group ethic is as strong as ever, but we may have to rely upon a sprinkling of rookies and a bamboo scarecrow of a goalkeeper to keep the championship pennant flying in the Salford breeze. But as the opening day win at West Bromwich shows, the personnel may change but the philosophy is as constant as the Ferguson scowl.
We showed little charity as City cowered behind their shield. It was a battering. The versatility of the front four was at times exhilarating, culminating in a beautifully-crafted second goal. Barcelona pinball passing.
Nani and Young are versatile wingmen who can slot in behind the strikers and their licensed chaos caused massive problems for City’s lumbering nephilim defenders. But United’s attack masks midfield paucity. United began with the dawdling duo of human Haribo Bear, Anderson and that riddle-wrapped-in-an-enigma-inside-a-roll-of-carpet we call Michael Carrick. Five years at United and he still gets taken off more times than Ryan Giggs’s underpants. A middling midfield.
So on came the kids. Tom Cleverly kept running in between Fatty Toure’s oil-rig thighs and delivered the round thing to a grateful Rooney and Wellbeck with impunity. From that moment, just like Fergie’s gum, we were mint. Now with ITV wresting coverage from the BBC, we actually got to hear the Moonfaced One answer a convoluted transfer-rumour question with an expansive ‘eh, no’. Emphatic and yet disingenuous.
Watching Alex Ferguson on a wide-screen Hi-Def telly is like glimpsing footage of the surface of some talking moon as captured by the Hubble Space Telescope as he wrong-foots the media over the quest for a top midfielder. He’d love Modric, Nasri or Sneijder, but what he will forever yearn for is a young Paul Scholes and a fit Owen Hargreaves. Sniffle ... Maybe he’ll find consolation in the promising Cleverly or the rangy athleticism of Paul Pogba.
Living in the past isn’t his thing. He has won the first silverware of the season and in the Wembley sunshine he treated us to a grin which bisected the lava filled craters of his lunar cheeks and Mons Huygens hooter, contemplating the rich potential of these mere kids. Jones, Smalling, the Da Silva twins, Wellbeck and the mercurial Hernandez will be the bedrock of the new order. But it is the talented but unimposing ’keeper De Gea upon whose narrow shoulders will rest the greatest burden. No other position requires such maturity of mind and ability to deal with pressures psychological and physical.
No, United are in such rude health that the only physical concerns are the brain-tickling potential of Wayne Rooney’s hair transplant and the constant dread of Rio Ferdinand falling prey to a dose of Tweeter’s Thumb. It’s not what it sounds like.
A new era at the bridge
Read Donal Benson next week on Fernando Torres’s return to form – and why Didier Drogba will see out his career at Chelsea.