MAN UNITED 1, TOTTENHAM 0
Manchester United were given an unlikely helping hand as they made a winning start to their Barclays Premier League campaign on the day manager Louis van Gaal celebrated his 64th birthday.
Kyle Walker’s first half own goal decided the outcome of the Reds’ match after they toiled against Tottenham at Old Trafford.
“I am 64 and the Beatles have a song. When you hear what they are singing, all my wishes are fulfilled,” he joked.
United’s manager admitted that there is scope for improvement explaining that the victory was all important.
“There was a lot of pressure on this match because we had a bad start last year. May be I put too much pressure on the match,” he explained.
While United were far from their best, the positives were that they won and also kept a clean sheet. Yet a huge negative was they had only one on target goal attempt in the whole game.
“We didn’t play well, but dug in and won the game,” admitted defender Chris Smalling who was named man of the match.
“It was important for the fans that we got off to a good start which we managed to do,”
Those comments were echoed by captain Wayne Rooney who admitted the new-look side is still gelling pointing out they have had a shorter than usual pre-season.
Van Gaal added that both teams pressed high up the pitch, and both struggled to come to terms with that style pointing out his side pressurised Tottenham into the mistake which led to United’s goal.
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino was left to reflect on what might have been.
He said: “It is frustrating. I am happy with the performance, but not the result.
“We played well for the first 20 minutes and created chances only for a mistake to lead to their goal.
“For 94/5 minutes, United only had one shot on target which is good for us. We created chances, but didn’t score and did not have luck which you need.”
It was all change for the Reds who had four debutants in their starting line up – goalkeeper Sergio Romero, right-back Matteo Darmian who was singled out by van Gaal as the pick of the new boys, midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin and attacker Memphis Depay.
In addition Bastian Schweinsteiger, another new-boy, was on the bench.
Spurs had central defender Toby Alderweireld, a summer signing from Atletico Madrid, making his bow, though they had new-boys Kieran Trippier, Dele Alli and Kevin Wimmer in reserve as substitutes.
There was an early let off for United when Harry Kane released Christian Eriksen who lobbed keeper Romero only for the ball to land on the roof of the net.
Spurs, who had won on two of their three previous visits to Old Trafford, made the livelier start and Romero had to be quick off his line to block from Walker.
United went ahead after 22 minutes with their first chance of the game, and then it was an own goal.
Depay released Ashley Young who squared the ball to Wayne Rooney who looked set to score until Walker, sticking out his leg to intercept the cross, only succeeded in diverting the ball past keeper Michel Vorm.
It is the first time the opening goal of a Premier League season has been an own goal, a priceless nugget of information gleaned from stats company Opta.
Schweinsteiger made his entrance after an hour replacing Michael Carrick in a straight swop in one of the two holding midfield positions as he became the first German to play for the club.
United were struggling to carve out chances, though Young fired low and hard at Vorm midway through the second period, their first on target goal attempt of the game.
Schweinster’s first contribution to the game was a booking nine minutes after making his entrance following a trip on Nacer Chadli.
In the latter stages Spurs produced a stirring finish as United were forced to defend resolutely to protect their lead.
Goalkeeper Romero twice came to United’s rescue in the dying minutes to prevent Smalling putting through his own goal and then diving full length to turn away a low drive from Eriksson.