There was a sense of foreboding as Radamel Falcao warmed up on the touchline just before the hour-mark in Manchester United’s demolition of QPR on Sunday. Raptures of excitement and appreciation reigned down from the packs of fans inside of Old Trafford who, with United 3-0 up and coasting, could unleash the giddiness that has come with their latter-transfer window activity.
As they cheered their new number 9, a fourth goal was rammed home emphatically by their current number 8, Juan Mata, rounding off a display of fluidity and dynamism that came before the Colombian could even step on the field.
Ten minutes later and “El Tigre” was on, replacing Mata who had just moved to 8 goals in his last 10 games with his effort. The 28 year old came close to rounding off a brilliant afternoon for his new club, seizing on a rebound off QPR goalkeeper Robert Green only to see .his shot saved with just 6 minutes to go. The score remained at 4 and Falcao, with his 25 minute cameo, had to settle for a footnote in a display of vibrancy that has been absent from Old Trafford since Sir Alex Ferguson passed on the reigns more than a year ago.
The delirium will be sobered considerably by how compliant the opposition were. QPR were hamstrung by a woeful lack of ambition and feeble resistance, United barely putting their foot on the gas as they raced to a 3-0 lead by half-time. Still, there was much for the home side to be enthusiastic about, there was indication that the fear-factor, so often synonymous with the Manchester United of the Premier League era, was on its way to being restored.
Angel Di Maria, the other star signing on show, was irresistible, injecting the electric pace and drive that has been missing from their teams for so long and topping it all off with a debut goal. A sensational through ball, crafted on the outside of his left boot, to Robin Van Persie on the 65th minute mark will linger in the imaginations to the fans who now dare to dream again after the year spent under the dreary spell of David Moyes.
Wayne Rooney’s instinctiveness would grab him his second goal of the season, shooting on the turn to beat Green at his near post to take the 28 year old to joint-third on the all-time Premier League scorers list with 175. It is a tally that is likely to keep rising with the England captain now surrounded by such esteemed company.
His fellow striker Van Persie meanwhile failed to hit the net and, despite hitting the bar with a speculative cross, looked subdued and passive for large portions of the game. The Dutchman is still battling back to full fitness however after failing to make the season’s opener with Swansea, and after firing under the stewardship of Louis Van Gaal with the Netherlands, there will be a feeling that it won’t be too long before he realises the same form under the same coach at United.
One of Van Gaal’s first tasks upon taking charge in Manchester was to find a system that would allow Rooney and Van Persie to thrive, hence the experimentation with the 3-5-2 that had reaped just 2 points from the opening 3 league games and left United short of attacking invention.
They reverted to 4 at the back and a midfield diamond against QPR, instantly looking more comfortable with their potent forward-line balanced by the industry and guile of Ander Herrera and Daley Blind behind them, alongside the excellent Di Maria. Blind looked especially brilliant, tallying 112 passes as he calmly and quietly instrumented the victory from the base of midfield.
United in total registered a 91% pass completion rate, the highest of any team in any match so far this season but the need to stay grounded was uttered by Falcao, calling for patience as him and his team-mates continue to settle in at the new club. “Bit by bit we will gel together as a team and the new players will feel more comfortable” he said. “I hope everything continues for us like it has done today. I am very happy for this victory and the support was great.”
Falcao’s move to Manchester was welcomed with a great deal of cynicism by those who perceive Old Trafford to be the latest stop on the money-orientated route of the Colombian’s agent Jorge Mendes and the Doyen Sports Investment company the forward is listed with. Such claims are intensified by a weekly wage of £265,000 a week but with Van Gaal tasked with returning the club to the Champions League, a competition of which United’s absence will cost them an estimated £48 million, such details won’t matter to the manager.
Regardless of the money they are paying him, or the torn knee ligament that ruined his year long spell at Monaco, Manchester United are in possession of a striker that hit a mouth-watering 72 goals in 87 games with Porto before managing 71 in 91 at Atletico Madrid. If Falcao is kept hungry and supplied by the likes of Mata, Rooney and Di Maria, then the goals will inevitably flow, drowning out any complaints that United may have “lost their identity”.
To many Manchester United fans, their true identity is one of sustained success, achieved with the expansive and flowing football that ensures entertainment as well as dominance, all done with the finest players. On Sunday that was in effect again, but the bigger challenge would be to carry such form onto much tougher opposition than QPR. The next stop will be Leicester on Sunday lunchtime.
“I hope to score the next game”, said Falcao. Few will bet against his first goal coming sooner rather than later.
Written by Adam Gray
Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250
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