Walker own goal gifts Manchester United opener-day win
Tottenham Hotspur's Kyle Walker gave Manchester United a 1-0 victory in an undistinguished season opener.
LONDON - The Premier League kicked off in unique fashion on Saturday as an own goal by Tottenham Hotspur's Kyle Walker gave Manchester United a 1-0 victory in an undistinguished season opener at Old Trafford.
Never before had the competition begun with a player scoring into his own goal until full back Walker inadvertently prodded the ball past Michel Vorm in the 22nd minute when desperately trying to dispossess Wayne Rooney.
Tottenham had dominated until then but the goal helped United, with five expensive debutants in their ranks, relax as the Londoners' verve deserted them until a late attacking flurry was repelled by the hosts' new Argentine keeper Sergio Romero.
Even if the fare was mediocre, Walker's present on a warm, muggy lunchtime was the ideal 64th birthday gift for manager Louis van Gaal after a huge close season investment took United's spending to about $356.39 million in his 12 months at the helm.
Romero made three important late saves while Italian defender Matteo Darmian, French midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin and Dutch striker Memphis Depay also made useful first starts.
Germany's World Cup winner Bastian Schweinsteiger, United's highest-profile summer recruit, also gave a robust half-hour cameo in which he received a booking for a foul.
"It's always difficult, it's the first time they've played at Old Trafford," said Van Gaal on BT Sport, reckoning that he would celebrate his birthday in his favourite restaurant later. "But I like the performance, especially from Darmian."
On last season's opening day, United lost at home to Swansea City, prompting a poor start to the campaign, and a noisy Old Trafford was demanding a quicker break from the blocks from a new team assembled to seek a 21st English title.
"We've played better but after what happened last season, getting off to a bad start at home and having a bad series of results after that, today was all about the three points," said Rooney. "We've gone out and done that."
United started nervously as, for 20 minutes, Spurs, who finished fifth last season, one place behind United, were firmly in control until Nabil Bentaleb carelessly gave away possession in midfield allowing United to rampage down the right flank.
Ashley Young's cross looked to have put Rooney in at point blank range only for Walker to dash back madly to rescue the situation before his attempt to rob the United captain saw him nudge the ball into the corner of his own net.
United did get better but not a great deal more threatening as they only had one shot on target all match and when Spurs finally awoke from their stupor, Romero proved his international quality with a series of fine stops.
His performance delighted Van Gaal, who had dropped his number one keeper David De Gea because he felt the Spaniard's mind could not have been on the job amid speculation about his possible move to Real Madrid.
"Romero kept the zero. I think he was wonderful in saving the ball but not in building up situations and that's logical because he's only been with us one week," said Van Gaal.
Spurs manager, Mauricio Pochettino, could not hide his dismay. "I'm very frustrated and disappointed because until this moment (of the goal) we had played much better and dominated the game. Then with one mistake, we gave them the opportunity to score."