As the dust settles on the most anticipated Premier League derby in history, the bragging rights return to the blue side of Manchester along with three crucial points early in the season. Sure, United’s 100% record is no more, but a lot can be taken from the first few weeks of the season, showing the team look capable of operating at a level that has been absent in previous seasons. The fear factor of Old Trafford is slowly creeping back and with heavy transfer investment by new manager Jose Mourinho, there is a swagger in the Stretford End.
The Special One’s summer signings make the Red Devils look a more cohesive, fluid and stronger unit. Zlatan Ibrahimovic looks like he has been playing in the Premier League for years and Paul Pogba is back home, although the recent social media attacks on his early form do carry some weight when analysing the stats. No goals and direct assists suggest that Pogba isn’t significantly influencing United games, but his impact will seem underwhelming when compared to Zlatan’s goal tally and the rock solid displays from Eric Bailly at the back.
Along with David De Gea, the three new arrivals are forming an impressive spine, but after giving Manchester City two goals through momentary lapses in concentration, there was just too much work to do in the second half against a team with such quality.
The squad’s strength in depth has given Jose much to ponder when making his team selections, which in hindsight looks to be his undoing in the Derby. Restoring Jesse Lingard and giving Henrikh Mkhitaryan his first start, undoubtedly did not play out how Mourinho would have wanted and the impact of teen sensation Marcus Rashford in the second half, certainly hints that his time is very much now.
That takes United to the Europa League clash with Feyernoord this week, and paper talk sees Rashford getting the nod in the first eleven. Squad rotation will be a key part of Mourinho tackling expectations at the Theatre of Dreams, but he will need to quickly find a way to get all his pieces into the puzzle.
To accommodate Rashford, Captain Wayne Rooney may have to take a deeper role in midfield, where he appears to be influencing the game the most, but try telling Jose his pre-season comments about Rooney’s future as a forward are possibly misguided.