The sight of Anthony Martial turning Martin Skrtel into human origami was a stark reminder of the magic that has been sadly lacking at Manchester United since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson.
The recently crowned most-expensive-teenager-in-the-world’s spectacular debut goal, to secure a 3-1 victory over United’s arch-rivals Liverpool, in front of the Stretford End, was the type of fairytale that supporters of the 1999 vintage came to accept as common place.
Not any more though is Old Trafford a bastion of entertaining football.
The Moyes Mistake cast a pall of negativity over United that an eccentric Dutchman and a quarter of a billion pounds have, as yet, failed to shift.
It is ironic that Louis van Gaal, a natural entertainer in press conferences and end of year award ceremonies, can insist upon such a dour ‘philosophy’ of football that would seemingly only be perfectly content if United drew 0-0 after having 100% of possession.
On Saturday for instance, Old Trafford was buoyant after seeing their side score three against the old enemy in 45 minutes of helter-skelter and cut-and-thrust, with Martial’s magnificence the icing on the cake.
Yet Van Gaal informed journalists afterwards that he preferred his team’s performance in the first-half – a first-half that was devoid of anything other than a sense of comical unease at seeing Marouane Fellaini as the sole striker in a match of such significance.
“We played better in the first half,” Van Gaal asserted, following this with: “We had far more control, but we didn’t create much.”
And herein lies the problem with the Dutchman’s vision for Manchester United, for what use is control without creativity?
If Martial had have been fully indoctrinated into the Van Gaal system, would he have even attempted to dribble past Skrtel and Nathaniel Clyne, or would he have considered, thought better of it and tamely passed the ball back to Luke Shaw?
Control is all well and good, but Manchester United demands more.
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A spectacularly unpredictable summer of cricket came to an end yesterday, in a somewhat disappointingly unspectacular way.
England came to Old Trafford with the chance of winning an ODI series against World Champions Australia, after snatching the Ashes from them previously, and conquering their fellow World Cup finalists New Zealand before that.
They left Old Trafford with an eight-wicket thrashing, a first series loss of 2015, a concussed captain and a parting shot of reality after an unreal few months.
Regardless of England’s stumble at the final hurdle, this has been a defining summer of cricket for what was a beleaguered nation at the season’s start.
Alastair Cook may not be scoring runs like he did at the turn of the decade, but his form his fine, his leadership is flourishing and his team are responding.
The philosophical split between formats has aided his recovery – and the captaincy of Eoin Morgan has given England the impetus that they have craved for generations.
Add that to the emergence of charismatic and engaging characters such as the pugnacious Ben Stokes, the enthusiastic Joe Root and the downright crackers Mark Wood, and this is a group of cricketers that the whole country can get behind for years to come.
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Anthony Joshua overcame his latest challenge with seeming ease at the weekend, but we would be well-advised not to vilify his choice of opponents.
Gary Cornish was an unbeaten boxer, a man who had his sights set on knocking Joshua out and announcing himself as a player on the international scene.
However, one dose of Joshua’s right-hand had the Scotsman’s knees sagging to the canvas, and the second signalled the end of the fight, after just 97 seconds.
It is a sight that we will likely get used to seeing over the years.
It will always be hard to gauge until the 25-year-old is fighting for world titles, but it seems that his punching power is unparalleled.
Kevin Johnson trash-talked his way into his fight with the Londoner, only to succumb in the second.
That was a man who had never been stopped, who had challenged for world titles, who had taken Vitali Klitschko the distance.
Some will question his so-far untouched chin, but there is no reason to believe that this herculean monster of a man will be unable to take a blow.
Britain’s recent heavyweight offerings have established notoriety not through their exploits in the ring, but for their lack of sense out of it, for being brash and ill-behaved and controversial.
It is refreshing to see Joshua not only performing like an elite athlete, but behaving like one as well.
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Image courtesy of FullTime Devils, via Youtube, with thanks.