Also making its first appearance was Wayne Rooney’s new head of hair. He looked younger and played like the Rooney scored the opener and made a good nuisance of himself all day, dropping back just the five or ten yards to find space, get the ball, and turn to face goal. Ashley Young and Nani patrolled the flanks – playing as typical “chalk on the boots” wingers, Young almost capped his debut with a goal, but the dubious goals committee decided that two deflections on the way meant it was an own goal. Hel inked up with Rooney and Fabio particularly well, though he won’t be pleased that not one of the ten crosses he whipped into the box found its target – although it’s positive that he’s getting into the positions to get those balls in. Smalling found himself played at right-back again, and got forward well too. Injuries to choice centre backs Vidic and Ferdinand will provide an early test for United’s squad depth
Manchester United were the only member of the established big four to win on the opening weekend of the Premier League. Similarly to the Sunderland v Liverpool game, the surprises weren’t that one team played 4-4-2 and the other 4-2-3-1, but which team played which formation. Hodgeson played mainly 4-4-2 whilst in charge of Liverpool last year, and varied between that and 4-2-3-1 with West Brom. But the trend for last year in the Premier League was for bigger teams to play the 4-2-3-1, emulating successful European sides, and for mid-table and lower teams to stick it out with the tried and tested 4-4-2; but here was Sir Alex sending out two banks of four and two forwards. League debuts were handed to ‘keeper De Gea and Ashley Young, who played left wing.