LVG faces his old adversary Koeman as Utd take on the Saints! – Apostolos’ XI


GOAL | David de Gea
I still can’t believe this man is playing in goal for us! After his collapsed move to Real Madrid on the penultimate day of the transfer window Big Dave began his reconciliation with the club that made him a superstar by signing a new deal and committing himself to another four years. The Liverpool game last Saturday had the potential to be a seriously tough test for a man who hadn’t played a minute of competitive football all season, but thankfully Benteke and co. had a thoroughly uninspiring afternoon, giving de Gea a comfortable return to Old Trafford. Sunday’s trip to St. Mary’s could be another fairly quiet game for him with Southampton starting the season badly (five goals scored and three points in the first five games).
DEFENCE | Matteo Darmian, Chris Smalling, Marcos Rojo, Daley Blind
United’s defence has been arguably our most consistent and best performing area of the pack this season – a far cry to the makeshift, inexperienced appearance that presided over our defencive line-up this time last year, when Blacket and Fletcher regularly made up part of our back four! However the four players that have played together in all eight games (all comps) this season has very suddenly been forced to change as a result of Luke Shaw’s awful injury vs. PSV in the Champions League. Rojo will come in in place of Blind, who will play at left back (as he did for the majority of last season) however more worryingly is the news that Shaw, who has vastly improved from the player he was this time last year when he first joined, will be out for up to nine months. An awful incident and one that I hope he’ll be able to come back from stronger like Antonio Valencia and Aaron Ramsey before him.

MIDFIELD | Juan Mata, Michael Carrick, Memphis Depay, Ander Herrera, Ashley Young
Young has been restored to the side – and rightly so – after his awesome 45-minute appearance in the Liverpool win. He wasn’t quite as influential against PSV during the week, but there is no denying he is currently a more well-rounded option on the wing; someone who can attack well and cause defences problems while also helping out his own defence when called upon.

Mata and Memphis – who we are still waiting to transfer his European form to the Premier League – are regulars for me at the moment, although I’ve heard a suggestion that Mata will be dropped to allow Herrera to play behind the striker and have Young and Depay operate on the wings. I’ve never rated Herrera as a no.10, seeing him more as a ‘later years’ Paul Scholes who can control the game in the centre of the park with his vision and passing. Add the ever-reliable Michael Carrick into the mix and that creative pairing should cause S’oton some problems.

ATTACK | Anthony Martial
Undoubtedly United’s problem area. Martial Mania has rapidly dampened after a timid performance against PSV followed his heroic cameo in the league last weekend. Rooney looks set to miss the third game in a row thanks to his hamstring, so Martial will more than likely lead the line again. Having been at the club for a few weeks now, and with the pressure placed on him to score his first goal out of the way, hopefully we will start to see a more composed, clinical side to his game. Let’s face it, we could do with the goals.


Apostolos Lambrianides Talks… ‘Manchester Utd’ 28/8/2015


As much as United’s start to the season was dubbed as “easy” by the national press when the fixtures were announced in June our fourth game sees us try to beat a tricky Swansea team for the first time since the 2013/14 season. They too have started the season brightly, winning a respectable five out of a possible nine, with the opening day draw away to Chelsea being the most impressive. However in contrast to United’s goal-shy displays (two goals in three games…one of which is an own-goal) Gary Monk’s team has already netted five times.

In defence however we’re looking better than we have done in years – ironic seeing that our no.1, United’s best player for the past two seasons who has been involved in arguably the most drawn out and frankly boring transfer saga of all time, hasn’t played a minute of football this season. De Gea’s (current) replacement in goal however, Sergio Romero, has not had an awful lot to do and so cannot claim much of the credit, as the newly established defensive pairing of Smalling and Blind – protected by the brilliant Morgan Schneiderlin in midfield – have helped United have the joint-best defensive record in the league so far. Credit to Luke Shaw at LB as well who has been superb (a completely different player to the one that started his United career last summer), as has new boy and Fantasy Football favourite Darmian on the right.

Wednesday’s performance against FC Brugge in the Champions League qualifier 2nd leg was by far United’s best attacking display of the season that will hopefully inspire us to take our European form into the league. Depay, who has endured a slow, frustrating start to life in the Premier League, slid effortlessly through the Brugge defence all evening, while Mata was producing passes straight of his 2010 repertoire. Even Herrera, the forgotten man making his first start of the season, got involved with some sexy one-touch passing for United’s third as well as netting the fourth. However most encouraging of all was Wayne Rooney – lambasted by the media prior to the game for his poor form in front of goal – who bagged a hat-trick to emphatically end his 10-game run without a goal.

Still, one decent performance against Belgium’s 2nd best team is hardly anything to get too carried away with as in the league there is no denying we are very obviously struggling in attack – when “o.g” is your joint top scorer after three games you know something is wrong!

Depay has been poor, reminding me at times of a skilful yet wasteful Ronaldo circa 2005, while Mata has only enjoyed mere flashes of brilliance so far. All this has led to the delivery and support for lone-striker Rooney to be of a very poor standard. It is easy to use Rooney as the scapegoat and burden him with the blame as, of course, the only stat that will ever matter to a striker is number of times you put the ball in the back of the net, so zero out of three isn’t looking great. But that certainly doesn’t tell the full story.

It is in Rooney’s nature, both as a leader and a workhorse, to get involved and try and create opportunities for himself when no one else appears to be – it’s what sets him apart from Falcao and RVP, two players who in contrast to Rooney were deemed superfluous by the manager. His performance away to Villa a couple of weeks ago is a good example of this, where he was heavily criticised for not having a single touch in the Villa box until the 93rd minute. This stat however was rather naively used to highlight the Rooney struggling and being unable to play in this role, rather than indicate the lack of creativity and innovation from the players around him.

On Wednesday night however van Gaal’s master plan of playing Mata and Depay alongside Rooney finally made sense and worked a treat. The link-up play between the three at times was superb with Herrera, who looked far more comfortable in the no.10 role than Januzaj whom did in the first half, helped create an effective line of attack that Brugge had absolutely no answer for. Let’s hope that this is now the turning point that will spark our lethargic league displays into life.

Prediction: Swansea 1-2 United

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