New Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal sprung something of a surprise as he announced his first team selection in a competitive fixture, as he gave two league debuts to academy graduates, Tyler Blackett and Jesse Lingard.
While Lingard only lasted 25 minutes before having to be removed with injury, Blackett played the full 90 on his first ever Premier League, but he was unable to guide the Red Devils to an opening day victory as they fell to a 2-1 defeat at home to Swansea.
With United suffering a raft of injuries going into the Premier League curtain raiser, young Blackett was thrown in at the deep end, but it proved a baptism of fire for the young defender, as the Swans went away with the spoils as United slipped to their first ever opening day defeat at Old Trafford in the Premier League era.
It was a new look United side as they fielded three at the back, but with Johnny Evans still lacking in fitness, it was young Blackett that was selected to play alongside Chris Smalling and Phil Jones for the first 45, before Van Gaal reverted back to a 4-4-2 formation in the second half.
While Blackett was hardly to blame for United’s disappointment, he did little to stand out as a long-term solution to United’s defensive situation either as United attempt to return to the title race, perhaps heightening Van Gaal’s pursuit of a more experienced leader for his defence.
In terms of possession, one could hardly fault the rookie defender, as his passing proved exquisite throughout the game as he completed a mightily impressive 82 passes to team-mates, with 93% of his distributions finding a red shirt, but defensively he perhaps needed to do more, despite Swansea’s offensive threat being somewhat diminished in the second period.
Blackett failed to win a single tackle throughout the 90 minutes and only attempted the one, as Swansea’s attackers often found themselves uncontested in the final third of the pitch, with the midfielders doing very little to protect their defensive colleagues.
He did, however, show a reasonable reading of the game as he made two interceptions and made three clearances, while he proved a dominant force in the air as well, to give United fans a glimmer of joy in life after the imposing figure of Nemanja Vidic in the heart of the back-line.
Blackett was strong enough to win all three of his contested aerial duels against Swansea, which came as no mean feat as he was up against the powerful figure of Wilfried Bony, who failed to record a single victory in his headed contests.
It’s early days in his career just yet and Blackett will have many further chances to impress, but with United needing a quick start to ensure that they can re-establish themselves in the title race, one would hope they do not have to repeatedly rely on a rookie to marshal their back-line.
Blackett hardly shamed himself despite the result, but with Swansea being able to inflict an early set-back to the Red Devils in their lofty ambitions, one can only wonder if perhaps he could have done more.
However, he proved himself to be an interesting prospect and a useful member of the squad going forward, but perhaps a bit more experience will be needed going forward, as the necessary nous at the back isn’t quite all there, as yet.
Related Teams: Manchester United