MANCHESTER UNITED 1 TOTTENHAM 0:The swagger and arrogance were there, with a few histrionics thrown in for good measure – perhaps Manchester United have struck upon a player worthy of the No.7 shirt.
The number conjures up the mastery of George Best, the free-kicks of David Beckham, the stuck out chest and upturned collar of Eric Cantona and the dazzling step-overs of Cristiano Ronaldo.
However, since Ronaldo left for Real Madrid in 2009 its incumbents have included Michael Owen, Antonio Valencia and most recently the departed expensive flop Angel Di Maria.
Memphis Depay, aged 21 and costing €35m, gave a few hints against Tottenham on Saturday he can join the celebrated Old Trafford icons as opposed to the latter group.
He is raw, and will make mistakes, but the young Dutchman’s unerring confidence to try a trick or beat a man in a tight situation on his home debut suggested a player hungry to make an impression.
Depay is aware of the history that comes with the shirt, but shrugged off the significance.
“I know the history about the number,” Depay said. “I appreciate it. But I want to be my own man. I want to show that I can wear it with pride.
“I know about it. Last year I played with number seven and I scored a lot of goals so I am confident with that number.” Depay was deployed in a slightly different role to the one he fulfilled at PSV Eindhoven, slotting in behind United captain Wayne Rooney, which restricted his opportunities to run at defenders.
Louis van Gaal will invariably light the fuse on that explosiveness at some point, but for now he was happy with the youngster’s debut “Memphis has speed so he can go also at defences,” Van Gaal said.
“New players, especially young players, want to show their qualities and the next match shall be better for him to do that.
“It is a new position for him and he has to adapt to the new position. Because he is a goalscoring type but we have to wait and see if he can fulfil the demands of this position.” Overall, this United performance was a typically undercooked early season display.
The hosts secured the points fortuitously, with an own-goal from Spurs defender Kyle Walker after Juan Mata had intercepted a lazy pass from Nabil Bentaleb.
Mata had sent Ashley Young scurrying clear down the right flank and his low cross picked out the unmarked Wayne Rooney only for Walker, in his haste to deny the United captain a shot at goal, to accidently poke it low past Spurs goalkeeper Michel Vorm.
Vorm did not have another save of note to make and the attention was on his opposite number Sergio Romero.
The Argentina international responded to being thrust into the spotlight because of David De Gea’s lack of focus with two important late saves on his debut.
Van Gaal, who celebrated his 64th birthday on Saturday, said afterwards De Gea’s future, amid speculation of a move to Real Madrid, is not sealed and suggested he had not played his last game in a United shirt.
“Can he play for United again? Of course,” Van Gaal added.
“The position of the goalkeeper is a position especially that you needed the highest concentration and the highest focus during 90 minutes.
“We have observed in the preparation, in the matches against PSG and Barcelona. And that was not the David De Gea, and he felt the same, as last year.” Walker’s unfortunate own-goal was untimely, with Spurs having recruited Kieran Trippier from Burnley in the summer, but the England man remained resolute afterwards.
“I don’t feel pressure. When I came here I was probably the fifth choice right back. I don’t feel pressure, I probably thrive on it.
“I know it will make me a better player. And I’ve got to believe in myself, Kieran Trippier is a good friend but he’s competition and he is a human being just like me.
“Whoever plays I’m sure will do a fantastic job for Spurs and I wish him all the best.”
MAN UNITED (4-2-3-1):
Romero 8; Darmian 8 (Valencia; 81), Smalling 6, Blind 6, Shaw 5; Carrick 5 (Schweinsteiger; 60; 5), Schneiderlin 6; Mata 7, Depay 7 (Herrera 68; 5), Young 6; Rooney 6.
Vorm 7; Walker 5, Alderweireld, 7 Vertonghen 6, Davies 6; Dier 5 (Alli; 77; 6) Bentaleb 5 (Mason; 53; 6); Dembele 6 (Lamela; 68; 7) Eriksen 8, Chadli 7; Kane 7.
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