Red Devils fare better without their new millionaire stars
MAN UNITED 3
(Marouane Fellaini 9, Michael Carrick 19, Wayne Rooney 34)
Manchester United ran out to the Rocky theme. They like the golden oldies at Old Trafford.
And so it proved against Tottenham Hotspur yesterday (Singapore time). Louis van Gaal found a bright future in the club's illustrious past.
He's tested the patience of the United faithful by backing his summer signings, but this tremendous victory must be the tipping point.
The new kids are on the chopping block.
United's best performance of the season was achieved without Angel di Maria, Luke Shaw, Marcos Rojo and Radamel Falcao.
Di Maria was suspended, Rojo injured, Falcao benched and Shaw unceremoniously dropped as van Gaal stepped back in time to find the old Manchester mojo.
With the golden oldies restored to their rightful places, United were suddenly on song. They were swinging at Old Trafford.
The first two goals were fashioned along the left flank. Even allowing for Tottenham's dire defending, the symbolism was lost on no one.
Di Maria favours that side. The Argentine often switches at the behest of the Dutch tinkerer, but the winger works best on the left.
Suddenly, the Reds were devilish without Angel. They feasted along the left side, gobbling up space and opponents.
From back to front, Daley Blind, Ashley Young and Marouane Fellaini ruled in positions none of them were expected to fill when van Gaal took charge.
Blind was certainly not signed to play at left back - Shaw was a shoo-in - and Young and Fellaini were not tipped to feature when di Maria, Falcao and Robin van Persie were all fit.
But the three wide men were knitted together beautifully by Michael Carrick.
Even at 33, United's best midfielder continues to operate with the grace and efficiency of an accomplished seamstress.
In a midfield of Young, Fellaini, Juan Mata and Ander Herrera, Carrick was still master of all he surveyed. He had no pace at 23, let alone 33, so his perceived lack of movement is irrelevant when his speed of thought trumps the twitch fibres of those around him.
The slowest man in midfield makes United move so much faster when he's pulling strings. His pass to Fellaini for the opener was just perfect.
And his delightful, arched ball to Young's laces, some 30m away on the left wing, ultimately led to United's second goal - from Carrick's head.
Fellaini's blood and thundery performance, winning headers, chasing passes and swinging in crosses from the left, stole the plaudits, but Carrick was key.
He was a metronome in midfield, establishing an authority and control that United have often lacked this season.
After 15 Premier League appearances, Carrick has an 89 per cent pass accuracy rate and a 100 per shot shot accuracy. How United have missed him.
The same could be said for Wayne Rooney. He's always been present, but not a clear danger. The England marksman now has 14 goals in his last 14 EPL appearances at Old Trafford, but has seldom featured as a striker.
Instead, he's been down more holes than Rory McIlroy. He's played behind the front two, in the No. 10 position, out wide and in a holding role.
He's been everywhere except where he should be, where every nerve and sinew propels him to be - in front of a terrified goalkeeper.
When he bypassed Spurs' back four, his solo goal summarized United's invigorating performance. It was a throwback, a captivating return to retro at Old Trafford.
There was a solid back four, Carrick dictating the tempo, Young making a nuisance of himself, Rooney raging in the box and Fellaini looking like he was back at Everton.
The old boys were kings once more. They ruled without the great pretenders.
So where does that leave the newcomers? Precisely where they were yesterday, out of the starting 11 and out of harm's way.
Shaw and Rojo will have a United future beyond this season, but the victory appeared to rubberstamp the exit visas of both Falcao and di Maria.
The Colombian's departure already looked inevitable, but United's effectiveness on their left side seriously undermined di Maria.
Since Dec 1, the 27-year-old has failed to score and managed just three assists in 10 appearances. His heart never belonged at United. His head now seems elsewhere, too.
When the Red Devils head to Anfield on Sunday, they would be better off without their record signing. The same could be said for Falcao, Rojo and Shaw.
To paraphrase the famous movie, United is proving to be no club for new men.
"I don’t think he’ll be changing that too quickly because that was head and shoulders Manchester United’s best performance of the season. The tempo in the play today was far better than it has been at any point."
- Gary Neville on the 4-3-3 system Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal used against Tottenham
- Everton 3 (James McCarthy 20, Romelu Lukaku 56pen, Ross Barkley 90+3) Newcastle 0
CAPTAIN MARVEL: Teammates congratulate Wayne Rooney (right, on ground) who feints a knock-out blow. PHOTO: CARL RECINE/ ACTION IMAGES
Wayne Rooney captained Manchester United to a 3-0 victory against Tottenham at Old Trafford yesterday morning (Singapore time), hours after footage emerged appearing to show him being knocked out cold by his former teammate Phil Bardsley in a sparring session in his kitchen. How about his performance on the pitch?
DID HE PACK A PUNCH?
Rooney was having a relatively quiet game until the 34th minute, when he seized upon a misplaced Nabil Bentaleb pass, burst through a clutch of Tottenham players and slotted past Hugo Lloris - before celebrating by recreating the video, throwing a flurry of air punches boxer-style and then falling backwards to hit the deck.
Having brought the crowd to their feet, he showed less potency thereafter in his centre-forward role, sending a few efforts off-target, at least one of which he probably should have done better with.
Very early on, his link-up play was not coming off, a notable example being when he failed to pick out Juan Mata with an attempted cut-back in the box.
He was also not involved in either of the first two goals - but his influence soon grew as he produced several nice touches to help build attacks, as well as getting on the scoresheet himself.
LASTING THE DISTANCE
Went the full 90 minutes, and while not exactly a constant threat during that time, he caused plenty of problems for Tottenham in what was a commendable display overall.
Undoubtedly delivered one with the goal and celebration, nicely showcasing his strength, technique and willingness to poke fun at himself all in the space of a few seconds.
- PA Sport.