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Champions make it a tough first night

Posted on 22 August 2011  - 12:00

Our Premier League season got underway with a defeat as three second half goals sealed victory for Manchester United at Old Trafford.

Our Premier League season got underway with a defeat as three second half goals sealed victory for Manchester United at Old Trafford.

Goals from Danny Welbeck, Anderson and Wayne Rooney came after an enterprising start to the second half by the team but, when the first goal came, United picked up the momentum and the outcome of the game seemed unlikely not to end up in favour of the home team.

Harry Redknapp made just one change from Thursday night's Europa League play-off, first leg win at Hearts, but it was a notable one as Brad Friedel came in for Heurelho Gomes for his Spurs debut. Jake Livermore made his first Premier League start alongside Niko Kranjcar in central midfield and Kyle Walker got the nod at right-back.

Younes Kaboul was in lunging action inside the first minute when Ashley Young centred in the direction of Welbeck after a sweeping United move down the left, with the centre back stooping to the challenge of denying the England Under-21 striker an opening goal.

Tom Cleverley then gave Friedel his first touch of the evening with a header that did not unduly trouble the American. The same could not be said on seven minutes when on a swift counter, Rooney squared in the direction of Cleverley, who struck low and true, with the goalkeeper reacting superbly to his left to divert away.

Rafa van der Vaart had a shot deflected wide of David De Gea's goal, having earlier tripped a Spanish goalkeeper keen to impress on his home debut. Michael Dawson nodded onto the roof of the net from the resulting corner.

Gareth Bale tested De Gea to his right in the 22nd minute, cutting in from the left to work a shooting opportunity. Van der Vaart then tried out the keeper with a speculative effort after breaking clear of his marker.

On 27 minutes Young came very close when he headed a measured Rooney cross just wide from the far post with the goalkeeper rooted to the spot, which is all De Gea needed to be in order to field a Niko Kranjcar shot at the other end.

It was a cagey contest, with United wanting Spurs to commit in order to execute lightning counters, while the team were clearly content to play more of a waiting game and not leave themselves exposed. It did not make for a thriller in the first half, but United are a team who tend to play on the break home and away, whereas most home teams go straight on the offensive.

Full-backs Kyle Walker and Benoit Assou-Ekotto held their defensive positions much more than they normally would, in order to safeguard against quick breaks, but this did nullify some of the usual fluency of the team's forward play.

Vedran Corluka was introduced at half-time in place of Walker, who was struggling to contain the darting runs of Nani in the first half. Van der Vaart opened the second half with a shot over the bar from the right hand corner of the area.

Friedel saved well from Young but there appeared to be a clear handball by Cleverley in the build-up that was not spotted and would have no doubt been a talking point had a goal been scored.

Lennon defeated Patrice Evra down the right flank five minutes into the half and, with van der Vaart in waiting, was unable to clear the red shirts in front of him.

Anderson forced Friedel into a parry before foiling a Rooney rebound as United sought to take the sting out of a promising Spurs start to the half.

The lead was taken on the hour by the home side to the relief an an edgy Old Trafford when a Cleverley cross from the right was nodded into the bottom corner of the net by Welbeck, giving Friedel no chance. The goalkeeper then denied a likely looking second when he clawed away a Rooney free-kick that looked, at first glance, destined for the top corner.

Friedel foiled an overhead kick from Welbeck on 67 minutes as United seized the initiative, moments later gloving away a downward shot from Jonny Evans.

Roman Pavlyuchenko was ready to take to the field with 18 minutes remaining and was joined by Tom Huddlestone - Kranjcar and Livermore making way. Van der Vaart moved into central midfield alongside Huddlestone, with Pavlyuchenko up top with Defoe.

On 75 minutes the home lead was doubled when Anderson and Welbeck combined - the striker with a deft back-heel - to create a path through on goal for the Brazilian, which he strolled through and dispatched past Friedel.

Defoe struck the post after De Gea failed to deal with a Bale cross, with Pavlyuchenko crowded out of capitalising from the rebound. Van der Vaart forced an uncertain save from De Gea with five minutes remaining, but it was United who had the final say four minutes from time.

Possession wide on the right led to substitute Ryan Giggs darting into the area and delivering a pinpoint cross onto the head of Rooney, who placed past Friedel.

De Gea was then not convincing in dealing with a Huddlestone shot and got caught by Defoe in grabbing the rebound, but he kept a clean sheet as Mr Probert moments later called time on proceedings.

United (4-4-2): De Gea; Smalling, Evans, Jones, Evra; Nani, Anderson, Cleverley (Giggs, 81), Young (Park, 81); Rooney, Welbeck (Hernandez, 81). Unused subs: Lindegaard, Carrick, Fabio da Silva, Berbatov.

Spurs (4-4-1-1): Friedel; Walker (Corluka, 46), Dawson, Kaboul, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon, Kranjcar (Pavlyuchenko, 74), Livermore (Huddlestone, 75), Bale; Van der Vaart; Defoe. Unused subs: Gomes, Bassong, Jenas, Townsend.

Goals: United - Welbeck (61), Anderson (76), Rooney (87).

Attendance: To follow.

Referee: Mr L Probert.