Manchester United secured an unconvincing 1-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur in their opening Premier League game of the season on Saturday thanks to an own goal from Kyle Walker.
On manager Louis van Gaal’s 64th birthday the hosts rarely threatened the Tottenham goal as the Old Trafford crowd got their first glimpse of some of United’s close-season signings.
The visitors had chances of their own as they rallied late in the contest, but ultimately Walker’s own goal, in the 22nd minute, proved to be the difference.
Van Gaal, as he had promised in his pre-match press conference, did not select David de Gea, explaining that the Spain goalkeeper was not “capable” of the focus required for the match amid speculation linking him with a move to Real Madrid.
The Dutchman instead handed a debut in goal to Argentina international Sergio Romero, signed on a free transfer following his release from Sampdoria.
United also gave full debuts to forward Memphis Depay, midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin and right-back Matteo Darmian.
With four new faces, United’s play was fragmented and passes went astray as they struggled for rhythm during a first half in which none of their players managed a shot on target.
Tottenham almost took the lead in the sixth minute when Harry Kane scooped a clever ball over the top of the United defence for Christian Eriksen, who lifted his effort over the crossbar.
Despite their uncertain start United took the lead, albeit fortuitously, with an own goal from Spurs right-back Walker after Juan Mata had intercepted a lazy pass from Nabil Bentaleb.
– Romero’s late saves –
Mata 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 accidentally poke it past Spurs goalkeeper Michel Vorm.
Mata’s influence grew and he threatened twice after cutting in from the right, while Toby Alderweireld, Spurs’ only debutant, saw a snap-shot from the edge of the area saved by Romero on the stroke of half-time.
United were marginally better after the break as they initially played with more intensity and purpose, although with Young and Mata largely stifled out wide, they struggled to create clear-cut chances.
Van Gaal introduced Bastian Schweinsteiger for Michael Carrick on the hour, and four minutes later the hosts managed their first shot on target.
The impressive Darmian floated a cross into the box in the direction of the German and the ball dropped to Young, who cut inside onto his right foot and drilled in a lot shot that Vorm gathered.
Darmian’s energy down the right flank yielded another chance moments later when he delivered a high ball for Rooney, but the United skipper was not able to properly execute a spectacular acrobatic effort.
United were indebted to Romero in the latter stages as he denied Spurs three times to preserve his clean sheet and ensure that Van Gaal’s side banked the points.
Denmark international Eriksen, arguably Tottenham’s most accomplished performer, struck an angled shot that brought a smart reaction save from Romero.
The Argentine then clawed away a deflected header from Kane before making a low diving save to his right to push a drive from Eriksen away from goal. – Agence France-Presse