BURNLEY 0, MANCHESTER UNITED 0
ANGEL DI MARIA MAKES HIS UNITED DEBUT; DALEY BLIND SET TO JOIN UNITED FOR £13.8m
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal admitted that a lack of confidence was affecting his side after a 0-0 draw at Turf Moor against Burnley.
“I think that’s normal when a club like United loses the first match and draws the second one.” van Gaal told United’s official website.
“The pressure is higher and you have to cope with that. I could see in the first half that the players were very nervous to play the ball.
“We restored that in the second half, and maybe that will raise our confidence.”
The United defence might not have been pierced by Burnley at Turf Moor on the day but the jitters that have been present all season were still in evidence.
£59.7m British transfer record signing Angel Di Maria was handed the iconic number seven shirt and was also given a start against a Burnley side keen to deliver yet another bloody nose to a United side who were still reeling from their 4-0 mauling at MK Dons and only threatened in fits and starts against a committed Burnley side.
Di Maria wasn’t handed a wing-back berth, however, but started in midfield due possibly to a United’s injury crisis with four missing senior midfielders.
The Argentine speedster had an immediate impact with expansive runs, well chosen passes and was an attacking threat before he was substituted after taking a kick to the calf.
One of his most eye catching moves was a beautifully placed pass which put Robin Van Persie through on goal but Burnley ‘keeper Tom Heaton blocked the the shot.
Van Persie later had a shot blocked on the line by Dean Marney.
Ironically, United’s draw with Burnley may have been the first surprise result of the weekend but it wasn’t the last as much of the early running was made by the home side.
David Jones, a former Reds player, hit the woodwork after just three minutes with a curling free kick that came back off the crossbar but could so easily have handed Burnley the lead.
A minute later, Jonny Evans, the only outfield player retained from United’s Milton Keynes debacle, sold De Gea short again but the Spanish ‘keeper spared the blushes of the Northern Ireland international by making the save off Lukas Jutkiewicz.
The theme looked set to continue but for a recovery of sorts by Louis van Gaal’s side who at least didn’t concede any goals today and had a case for a penalty after replays appeared to show that Ashley Barnes may have handled an Ashley Young strike in the 87th minute.
With hours ticking away until the close of the summer transfer window, and United expected burst into life with a myriad of moves to complete van Gaal’s summer business, the question that must be posed is simple.
Why did Manchester United have to wait until almost the tail end of the transfer window to agree a deal for Ajax’s versatile left footer Daley Blind in a deal worth £13.8m?
Blind filled in at left wing back, left sided centre back and as defensive midfielder for the Netherlands during the World Cup and seemed a perfect fit for United’s squad shortcomings after an eye-catching campaign for the Dutch.
Like last season, however, United have been slow off the line where Premier League rivals Chelsea and Manchester City polished off the majority of their transfer business early in the window – completing deals which had been heavily mooted in the preceding weeks for sums of money that would be regarded as good value in the light of other deals that have have been announced.
In comparison, United’s transfer dealings have been public, expensive, and of increasingly dubious utility to the squad. Van Gaal had already curiously mentioned the fact that he had “five number nines and four number tens” in his squad, while implying that United didn’t have wingers on the level of Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel Di Maria.
The arriva of Di Maria may signal the future, and a January approach for another Dutch van Gaal favourite, midfield schemer Kevin Strootman of Roma, who is currently out with a long term knee injury, has also been strongly suggested.
None of these would address the defensive shortcomings that appear to have convinced van Gaal to deploy a three at the back system that seems to be challenging for the players who have been asked to play there. Some of the player trialled in the back three, such as Tyler Blackett, have only just made their debuts this season.
To be fair, United have already made two defensive signings but neither have been able to make their competitive debuts – Marcos Rojo is still awaiting final work permit clearance while Luke Shaw sustained an injury while working on improved match fitness.
Another newcomer, Ander Herrera, was unavailable today as United’s midfield injury list lengthened in recent days – Michael Carrick, Marouane Fellaini and Jesse Lingard were already out.
Returning to Daley Blind, the Dutchman will arrive subject to successful medical and agreement of terms, and van Gaal’s dream United side will finally begin to take shape, perhaps with a 4-3-3 formation, after the transfer window slams shut on Monday.
“He’ll come to Manchester to have a medical, and then we might have a new player.” commented van Gaal.