Manchester United sealed a first win of the 2014/15 season on Sunday – and in some style – as the Reds, inspired by new signing Angel Di Maria, romped to a 4-0 win over Queens Park Rangers at Old Trafford.
Di Maria, playing his first match for the Reds in front of the home crowd, was in sizzling form throughout and kicked off the scoring on 24 minutes with a curling free-kick. He played a part in United’s second goal from Ander Herrera, before Wayne Rooney added a third before half-time. Di Maria then set up Juan Mata for a fourth after almost an hour.
It was a day of debuts at Old Trafford as Marcos Rojo, Daley Blind and Radamel Falcao, who began the game on the bench, all made their United bows. There were also welcome returns from injury for Rafael and Herrera, while there was a return of a different sort as Rio Ferdinand came back for his first match since his summer departure. In tribute to 12 years of service, the defender was presented with a memento of his time at United by Sir Bobby Charlton before kick-off.
Despite having begun his tenure as United boss with three at the back, Louis van Gaal opted to switch to a tried-and-tested back four with Rafael, Jonny Evans, Tyler Blackett and Rojo the chosen ones. Blind sat just in front of them with Herrera, Di Maria and Mata ahead in a diamond midfield formation, while Rooney and Robin van Persie were up front.
It was Rooney who began the move to create the first real opening of the game on seven minutes with a lovely cross-field pass to Rafael on the right. He slipped the ball to Herrera who found Mata, but the Spaniard blasted over from just inside the box. But after a spell of good possession, the Reds took the lead on 24 minutes through Di Maria. The British record signing curled a free-kick from the right into the box and it evaded everyone, including QPR keeper Rob Green, as the ball sailed in at the far post Van Gaal’s men were determined to keep the pressure on and after Herrera had a penalty appeal turned down following a tackle from Clint Hill, van Persie headed over. United and David De Gea in particular breathed a sigh of relief at the other end when the stopper came rushing from goal to intercept Niko Krancjar’s pass over the top to Matt Phillips. De Gea was thankful to have Evans on hand to block Phillips’ effort on an empty goal.
Di Maria threatened every time he had possession and it was his bursting run forward that led to United’s second goal nine minutes from the break. As the Argentinian reached the box he slipped a pass to Rooney and after his initial shot was blocked, he teed up Herrera to drill low shot into the bottom corner for his first competitive goal for the Reds. And the game was all but over as a contest on the stroke of half-time as excellent link-up play between Mata and Herrera led to Rooney receiving a pass from the latter before powering home a low drive.
The Reds weren’t about to settle for three goals and after De Gea saved well with his feet from Krancjar early in the second period, Mata and Rooney both went close. The Spaniard made no mistake on 58 minutes though when, after being found by Di Maria, he smashed home from close range. It might have been five when Falcao entered the fray on 67 minutes and was denied a debut goal six minutes from time as he followed up on Blind’s 30-yard drive which had been parried clear by Green. The QPR keeper recovered well to block the chance and also kept out substitute Adnan Januzaj late on.
Overall, it was a job well done by the Reds with attacking play aplenty, goals, a clean sheet and, most importantly, a first win of the season.