Depay Delights Only The Tip of The Iceberg For Manchester United

Louis van Gaal's Manchester United stepped out of the warm early season treacle and slid forward on a tray of hot sugary delights on Tuesday night. Three games, three wins, but for the first time we have a sense this team can enthrall us as every United side is surely obliged to.

In contrast to mechanical wins against Tottenham and Aston Villa, this was a United blessed with exuberance and expression again.

Most notably, Memphis Depay delivered a compelling candidacy as Old Trafford's red revivalist in residence. His first goal was an intricate work of poise and precision; his second a stunning statement of the special made ordinary. 

In the week that saw us reminded of Cristiano Ronaldo's blistering United debut against Bolton, 12 years ago, Depay confirmed the presence of a precocious talent, well formed in Van Gaal's ranks. His manager wanted to kiss him afterwards, and you can understand why - what better antidote to a morale-sapping own goal than watching your next big thing flick a ball over his marker, glide past a couple of tackles and pass the ball into the bottom corner?

Depay would follow that with a fine curled shot to put his side ahead and then the cross for Marouane Fellaini's goal in added time, which surely seals the tie's outcome and plots a path to Champions League riches ahead. Enter United's new starlet, mapping a way to the future and at the same time playing his part in an ode to their recent glorious recent past.

"Scoring goals in extra time and pi**ing the rest of England off in the process," tweeted @retrounited. "United are back in Europe."

Depay's contribution was far from the only good story news for Van Gaal in a game against Club Brugge he billed as the most important of his tenure so far. In truth, barring Michael Carrick's unfortunate moment, things could hardly have gone better had he scripted them himself.

Chris Smalling's evolution to consistent excellence in central defence continues apace. The 25-year-old was near flawless and has already achieved what seemed impossible a year ago - by shifting transfer talk away from his potential replacements to other areas on the pitch. In this form the only conceivable question is who might come in beside him.

Luke Shaw and Matteo Darmian, meanwhile, both performed their duties on the flank and look to have the full-back slots to lose. As confidence grows in both, we might only ask that their forages forward result in more serviceable deliveries into the box. Nobody needs that more than Wayne Rooney, who as Michael Cox rightly pointed out in the Guardian, is being starved of crosses due to the tendencies of United's attacking wide men to cut inside.

We can all agree Rooney is not quite firing, but then again neither was Memphis in the games that preceded this one and look what a difference 90 minutes can make. The positive spin for Van Gaal is that his team are winning with an under-performing Rooney allowed time to correct his form. Arguably United's best player has all-but gone missing, and they've got away with it. Think what might happen to Newcastle if Rooney finds those shooting boots.

United's best goalkeeper is not being missed either. Once again Sergio Romero was barely tested and the argument still stands that we don't really know if he's any good yet. One goal conceded in three games, and a freak one at that, will keep Romero between the sticks against Newcastle and the David De Gea transfer circus, maddening as it is, still to hurt United in any manner on the pitch. Sharks are being jumped.

More good news in midfield, where Morgan Schneiderlin has instantly found a home. Whether Carrick can hold off the challenge of Bastian Schweinsteiger is a great problem for Van Gaal to have and one he'll be mulling very closely ahead of the weekend's Premier League action. Don't be surprised if it's Schweinsteiger who gets the start based on his second-half performances, and the speed at which he's embraced this new challenge. To see the German celebrating Depay's second goal from the bench was to witness his total investment in the project at hand.

Moving forward to the line behind Rooney, Juan Mata has arguably been United's most consistent attacking force in the three games thus far. The Spaniard is picking his passes with aplomb and appears to be developing a strong understanding with Adnan Januzaj in particular.

As for Januzaj, he came in against Villa, scored the winner and will likely keep his place against Newcastle. After watching his team struggle to break down Spurs, Van Gaal knew he needed a more beguiling presence in the final third to fire the spark and Januzaj could be that man. The big question now is whether his manager will show him the kind of faith in youth Sir Alex Ferguson was famous for and give Januzaj an extended run to prove he should be a first-team regular.

Having brought him in to instant success, Van Gaal is now invested in Januzaj as he is in the players he chose to sign - every one of them delivering and making their manager the anti-David Moyes in his contentment level and off-the-charts self-satisfaction.

Take in the substitute turns from Fellaini and Javier Hernandez against Brugge and there's not much for Van Gaal to complain about this week. De Gea aside, things could barely be going better for him.


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