5 talking points from Saturday's Premier League action

United’s disappointing loss, Jack Grealish’s Villa performance and more.

Louis van Gaal saw his United side suffer a disappointing opening day defeat.
Louis van Gaal saw his United side suffer a disappointing opening day defeat.

1. Swansea punish depleted United

IT STARTED BADLY with United’s injury crisis forcing them to hand Tyler Blackett his competitive debut in defence while Jesse Lingard, another debutant, was also in the side.

Perhaps the latter’s appearance said more. Known as an attacker (he scored four times in his first appearance for Birmingham when he was on loan there last season), Lingard was asked to play as a right wing-back.

Certainly, United have a litany of first-choice players in the treatment room but they paid for a lack of progress in the transfer market too. After Louis van Gaal switched formations for the second half, Ashley Young was a makeshift left-back and, rather unsurprisingly, was caught out when Swansea scored their second goal.

With time running out and deadline day fast approaching, United are in an eerily similar situation to this stage last year.

2. Tottenham produce un-Tottenham-like performance

It’s become a familiar sight over the years — all is going according to plan for Spurs until suddenly, they have a man sent off and subsequently collapse all too easily.

It happened last season against West Ham, when Younes Kaboul was given his marching orders early on, with his team consequently producing a toothless performance as they lost 2-0.

History repeated itself to a point today, as Tottenham were again reduced to 10 men early on at Upton Park, with Kyle Naughton given a very harsh red for what was deemed to be a deliberate handball in the box.

Yet on this occasion, Spurs — under the guidance of new manager Mauricio Pochettino — refused to conform to type, delivering a gritty and ultimately successful display that was capped by a fine goal from debutant Eric Dier.

It’s a performance that bodes well for the season ahead, as on this evidence at least, Tottenham appear to have finally gained some backbone to match their talent.

3. Fabulous strike something to build on for McGeady

Manager Roberto Martinez will come away from this afternoon with plenty of feelings of frustration, after Everton let a 2-1 lead slip late on against newly promoted Leicester.

Yet the Spaniard will have at least one positive to reflect on — Aiden McGeady’s beautiful curling strike, which gave the Toffees the lead in the game after 20 minutes.

The Ireland international had a difficult start to life at Everton — after signing last season in January from Spartak Moscow, he has been used by his new club sparingly, owing largely to a lack of match sharpness having been ostracised from the first team at his previous side.

Nevertheless, Martinez has suggested in pre-season interviews that we’ll see the real McGeady this year, and his words were backed up by the fact that he handed the winger a starting spot this afternoon.

The ex-Wigan boss was duly rewarded by McGeady’s sublime goal — an encouraging sign that both Martinez and Martin O’Neill will hope the star can build on in the coming months.

4. Ramsey’s fitness key to Arsenal’s season

For a considerable portion of last season, Arsenal looked like strong contenders for the Premier League title.

Much of their success was inspired by the phenomenal form of Aaron Ramsey, who scored numerous goals as they rose towards the top of the table.

Moreover, the club’s dip in form in the second half of last season, which cost them the league ultimately, unsurprisingly coincided with the loss of their Welsh star through injury.

Today, Ramsey did what all great players tend to do — rescuing his side amid a mediocre performance, as he scored late on in their 2-1 victory over Crystal Palace.

After the game, Sky analyst Jamie Redknapp mentioned Ramsey in the same breath as Frank Lampard, and while the 23-year-old has a long way to go before he can be truly worthy of comparison to the veteran midfielder, the predatory instincts and positional intelligence he demonstrated in scoring the winner this evening suggested he has the capability to eventually emulate the achievements of the former Chelsea star.

Simply put, Arsenal are a stronger side with Ramsey at their disposal, and how well their season goes could largely depend on whether they can keep him fit for its duration.

5. Is it time for Martin O’Neill to call up Jack Grealish?

Despite only coming on for the last 20 minutes, Jack Grealish caught the eye as Aston Villa secured an impressive 1-0 victory away to Stoke, who lost just three games at home last year.

The 18-year-old made one appearance for Villa last season as well, and delivered a composed performance today to steady the ship at a time when it was most needed.

Grealish has represented Ireland at underage level, though there have been suggestions that England are keen on acquiring the Birmingham-born player’s services.

Therefore, it may be a wise move for Martin O’Neill to name him in the upcoming squad to face Oman — if Roy Keane and Paul Lambert feel he is ready for Premier League football, then surely he is at the requisite standard to represent Ireland.

And think about it: would it really be that much of a risk to pick him ahead of Paul Green or another one of the lower-league players who are invariably selected for the Boys in Green.

If nothing else, playing him would solidify his links with the national set-up — a decision that could prove crucial in years to come if Grealish fulfils his potential and becomes a Premier League star.

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