Manchester United, without really getting out of second gear, eased past Championship side Ipswich Town to book a place in the last 16 of the League Cup. Louis van Gaal selected a very strong side to start the Capital One Cup campaign perhaps a little mindful of what MK Dons achieved against his side some 13 months ago.
There was however room for 17 year old Brazilian midfielder Andreas Pereira. The diminutive play-maker started out on the left, one of his many positions across the forward line, and immediately proved to be United's brightest player in the opening exchanges. His eye for goal was evident with the number of times he stung the palms of Bartosz Bialkwoski albeit with no success. His moment however arrived in the second half off a free-kick won by Juan Mata. The Spaniard was kind enough to give the Brazilian the set piece, especially because up until that point, the game had not been won. United had endured a nervy start to the second half, adding to the importance of that particular free-kick.
Pereira struck a beauty of a dead-ball finish, leaving Bialkwoski rooted to the spot. That it came at the Stretford End on his first start for the club made the youngster tick all the boxes of a dream debut. Louis van Gaal, always careful not to glorify the individual ahead of the group (another facet of his philosophy), made the point afterwards that Andreas was competing with Mata, Memphis, Young, among others, for a place in the starting line-up. It came off as an explanation in advance in the event that team news on Saturday is released and United's man of the match yesterday is nowhere near the line-up.
Regardless, United can pride themselves in the fact that they have within their ranks another young player that could reach the very top of the game. It's an admirable pool of young talent that Louis van Gaal can mould and take credit for half a decade or so from now. United have not had much success with Brazilians in the side down the years, but having grown within the club set up, there is a genuine feeling that the reigning Jimmy Murphy Player of the Year will light up Old Trafford very soon and every week.
However, there are those meant for the future that are doing their very best to be for the here and now. Anthony Martial, signed as a long term option in the United attack came on and scored yet another goal taking his tally to four in four since he was declared a 'Waste of Money' before kicking a ball. Again, there was the turn of pace and again there was the coolness of head and composure to slot past the goalkeeper. At some point, the goals will dry up, but he has bought himself enough credit in the bank to allow him to recover. Certainly, for the 'unreasonable' ultras for him logic is not a thing, that goal against Liverpool effectively paid back his obscene transfer fee.
Speaking of recovery, Wayne Rooney finally ended his domestic duck, opening the scoring with goal number 235 of his Manchester United career. He didn't look like much of an improvement from what we have seen so far this season but least he scored. Goals do bring confidence and the opposition on Saturday suggests that he should also end his premier league goal drought then, before it becomes tough again.
It didn't go unnoticed again that Daley Blind provided an assist, pinging Wayne Rooney through this time. If anybody still questions United's transfer policy in terms of central defenders in the last window then you might want to work out why Blind has three assists and a goal to his name from centre back. van Gaal clearly still holds on the notion that in the modern game, the centre back has more space before him than the Number 10 and can therefore dictate the flow of the game much better. All play-makers in world football would associate themselves with Daley Blind's numbers in 8 games. Except that they are play-makers and he is the centre-back!
It's Middlesbrough next in the Fourth Round of the Cup. The Championship pacesetters represent an improvement in quality of opposition but a home draw again makes progress a matter of expectation. Louis van Gaal made it clear that the intention is to win the competition in his programme notes last night. It is one of his best shots at a trophy before he departs the club.