Get your Radamel Falcao scarves, only a fiver. And how they shifted, at a rate Nani, Anderson and Tom Cleverley memorabilia never came close to matching, even if the man himself did not make the starting line-up. How we love this kind of football exotica, a striker blessed with a hair band and a lethal antenna.
The romance building around this new chapter of Manchester United history seems to have coalesced around the emblematic Colombian. The Premier League’s record signing Angel Di Maria simply had to find a secondary spot in the pecking order being hastily re-established in the hearts and minds at Old Trafford. Daley Blind, Ander Herrara and Marcos Rojo will just have to settle for roles in the chorus line.
All three looked excellent in Sunday’s 4-0 thrashing of Queen’s Park Rangers, particularly the Dutchman, whose quietly efficient promptings bore the look of a grand design. Blind is ultimately the key to a smooth functioning of United’s defensive system, his ability to break from deep, distributing the ball quickly and intelligently, had the crowd on its feet like days of old. The tackle to block the danger presented by overlapping Mauricio Isla on the hour was typical of his watchfulness, industry and precision, a quiet cog at the heart of Louis Van Gaal’s emerging machine. When the ball was up the pitch Blind would be at the base of the attacking structure, ever ready to receive it and keep the wheels turning.
Fluidity of this sort has been no part of the United template since the championship winning season of 2012-13 when Robin van Persie was on the end of everything and Wayne Rooney looked a player. This was the mapping Van Gaal could not quite engineer with his three centre-backs and why perhaps he so mourned the injury to Michael Carrick on his arrival.
Blind is in effect Carrick-plus, an old-fashioned libero playing in front of the centre-backs, breaking up play and initiating quick raids from deep. He is also alert to the half-chance, his late strike almost leading to a debut goal for Falcao after goalkeeper Robert Green failed to smother his rasping drive. By then the game was up, Rangers no match for the bullion lining United’s pockets.
Manchester United 4 QPR 0 player ratings
Manchester United 4 QPR 0 player ratings
1/22 David de Gea
Was found wanting in the first half after very nearly being caught out by Matty Phillips. Did well to save from Armand Traore in the second period, however. 7
Posed a considerable threat throughout the match down the right flank and broke effectively. A good outlet for United. 7
3/22 Marcos Rojo
Slotted into the Manchester United backline with ease. Looked decent with the ball at his feet and showed a willingness to get forward. 7
4/22 Tyler Blackett
Perhaps a misfit on a teamsheet of Galacticos, the young defender didn't look out of place in Louis van Gaal's side. 7
5/22 Jonny Evans
Needed to be alert to a QPR counter attack in the first half but had precious little to do. 7
6/22 Angel Di Maria
Showed the ambition and ability to really trouble a poor QPR side at Old Trafford. His goal had an element of luck about it but his quality is undeniable. A man of the match display. 9
7/22 Daley Blind
Cut a composed figure at the heart of Manchester United's midfield and showed the Red Devils supporters exactly what they've been missing of late. 8
8/22 Ander Herrera
Took his goal really well and linked Manchester United's defensive midfielders up with the more attacking players brilliantly. 8
9/22 Wayne Rooney
Seems more mature with the captain's armband on. The England man put in another decent shift and grabbed himself an impressive goal too. 7
10/22 Robin van Persie
While the Dutchman always poses a considerable threat, he looks out of sorts at the moment. 6
11/22 Bets of the bench: Radamel Falcao
Didn't have long to make his mark but showed enough drive to enthuse the Old Trafford regulars. 7
12/22 Rob Green
Any goalkeeper who concedes four goals isn't going to score too highly. Made a number of decent saves which keeps his score respectable. 5
13/22 Mauricio Isla
Was brought to the club to give QPR a threat down the flank but continues to struggle in English football. 5
14/22 Steven Caulker
While the former Cardiff City man didn't do a great deal wrong, he went missing for large periods. 5
15/22 Rio Ferdinand
Would have had dreams last night of scoring the winner against his old club but was easily overrun by the new United talent. 5
16/22 Clint Hill
Taken off at half-time, his deflection took Angel di Maria's cross into his own net. A poor afternoon. 5
17/22 Junior Hoilett
Made little impact on the game but shouldn't let it get him down. These aren't the games which count for Rangers. 5
18/22 Niko Kranjcar
Showed glimpses of class but, like many of his team-mates, he failed to make his mark. 5
Didn't look match-fit at times and subsequently delivered a lukewarm performance on his debut. 5
20/22 Leroy Fer
Returned to the Premier League with QPR after relegation with Norwich City. Did little to suggest he will avoid that fate again. 5
21/22 Charlie Austin
A dangerous player at QPR's disposal but was left isolated for large periods. 6
22/22 Matty Phillips
Was bitterly unlucky not to score in the first half after David de Gea's error but it wasn't to be. 6
Throw enough money at it and any problem is ultimately solved. Mark the hour; 23 minutes and 26 seconds past four on the afternoon of 14 September, the point at which the blood began to pump around Old Trafford once again.
One-nil, Di Maria. This was the catharsis for which the punters had packed the early trains out of Euston, for which the scarf vendors had prayed, for which the red-shirted diaspora yearned and the board hoped.
The goal had a chunk of luck attached, a free-kick hit, as Glenn Hoddle might say, in the right area, found its way into the net unadulterated by friend or foe. The United strikers, for whom it was intended, missed it and so did the compliant QPR defence.
It did not so much raise the roof as shred the invisible web of anxiety that has had this club in its grip since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson 16 long months ago. The frustrations fell away and it was possible to believe that all was right with the world once more. All of a sudden the back heel was back and the mesmeric rip down the wing, and a goal, all in the feet of one man. Di Maria’s infectious enthusiasm, married to a sharp first touch, blinding pace and dipping shoulders connected the No 7 on his back to a historic thread binding generations of iconic figures, all of whom, one way or another defined an era . Echoes of Cristiano Ronaldo, David Beckham, Bryan Robson and the great George Best bounced around Old Trafford as Di Maria did his stuff.
And all around, bit by bit, pieces began to fall into place. There was love, too, for a returning soldier, Rio Ferdinand. A high five from the United kit man triggered a mighty hand from the Stretford End as Ferdinand approached the tunnel after the warm-up. The applause received further amplification when Sir Bobby Charlton handed him a long service award before kick-off.
Ferdinand must have half wished he had stayed. Even his ageing legs would function around Rojo, Blind et al. If Di Maria is already a demi-god here, Falcao a full-on deity after a late cameo, Blind is destined to find a place in the pantheon if he maintains this kind of authority.
Older heads will recall another Dutchman with an adhesive left foot who relied on similar intelligence and timing. Arnold Muhren shaped the play further up the pitch but the aesthetic was just the same, see the pitch, find space and move the ball around quickly. Carrick must already be making retirement plans, or at least checking out places at an alternative place of employment.
Van Gaal spoke of a trajectory established with this performance. He wondered about his pronunciation. He needn’t have bothered. We knew what he meant.
He has packed half his team off for English lessons, but, like love, the language of football is universal. Once the whistle blows this new ensemble already appears fluent in the lingua franca of the game. There will, of course, be tougher engagements than QPR, even if manager Harry Redknapp was not overly impressed by his conquerors.
But how many of those seeking to make the top-four behind Chelsea and Manchester City shivered after a sideways glance at the television today.
This week marks the return of the Champions League. Brendan Rodgers and Arsène Wenger will hardly have a Tuesday or Wednesday off this side of Christmas.
Tottenham and Everton will spend too many Thursday nights flogging around Europe in pursuit of a pot few care about winning. Meanwhile Van Gaal and his players get to sit with their feet up before retiring for another early night. Sweet dreams.Reuse content