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Van Gaal's new model army gets Old Trafford buzzing once more

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Herrera

Herrera

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Angel di Maria of Manchester United in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Queens Park Rangers. Tom Purslow/Man Utd via Getty Images

Angel di Maria of Manchester United in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Queens Park Rangers. Tom Purslow/Man Utd via Getty Images

Man Utd via Getty Images

Ander Herrera of Manchester United scores their second goal. Photo by John Peters/Man Utd via Getty Images

Ander Herrera of Manchester United scores their second goal. Photo by John Peters/Man Utd via Getty Images

Man Utd via Getty Images

Wayne Rooney celebrates with team-mates Ander Herrera, Marcos Rojo and Angel Di Maria after scoring Manchester United's third goal. Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Wayne Rooney celebrates with team-mates Ander Herrera, Marcos Rojo and Angel Di Maria after scoring Manchester United's third goal. Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

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Rio Ferdindand looks on as Radamel Falcao is denied by Queens Park Rangers' goalkeeper Robert Green

Rio Ferdindand looks on as Radamel Falcao is denied by Queens Park Rangers' goalkeeper Robert Green

REUTERS

Queens Park Rangers' English defender Rio Ferdinand (R) receives a special plaque from Sir Bobby Charlton to mark the occasion of his 700th League appearance. AFP PHOTO/PAUL ELLIS

Queens Park Rangers' English defender Rio Ferdinand (R) receives a special plaque from Sir Bobby Charlton to mark the occasion of his 700th League appearance. AFP PHOTO/PAUL ELLIS

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Herrera

Manchester United's fans will remember Sept 14, 2014 as the best blind date of their lives. Or Daley Blind date. They showed up at Old Trafford shy, awkward, not knowing what to expect.

They left feeling things will progress swiftly from here.

The unfamiliarity of this new United side rendered this warm September Sunday unique in the post-Munich history of the club. Seldom in England's top flight has there been such a strong sense of starting all over again.

Fourteen players out, six in, at a cost of €190m. Not just that, but men have arrived from the world elite, from Holland, Argentina, Spain and even England (Luke Shaw).

United have not been retuned but rebuilt, with Glazer dollars that were previously sitting nicely in a leveraged vault.

Noodle

This is what you get when a corporation's commercial viability is threatened by poor results. United's ability to go on signing zonal endorsement deals (this game was sponsored by a noodle partner) was imperilled by the implosion of David Moyes's boys.

So €190m later, the top team of the last 20 years takes to the field with a huge talent injection that rips Queens Park Rangers apart, much as Spurs ripped them apart before themselves being dismantled at home by Liverpool.

QPR were sent by the football gods to Louis van Gaal to show the world United have done the right thing with their splurge.

And the most salient detail is that watching United was exciting again after a long period of bafflement.

Right from the start there was a frisson as Blind took up a screening position in front of the back-four (back-threes are history again); Marcos Rojo brought strength and presence to the left-back slot; Ander Herrera began an artful shift in midfield and Angel Di Maria displayed his class and ingenuity on the left and through the middle.

Spain's two behemoths have let go a pair of stars who will have a major say in this Premier League drama.

While Cesc Fabregas doubles up as Diego Costa's personal assistant at Chelsea, Di Maria looks the best of Manchester United's six new signings until and unless Radamel Falcao can prove otherwise.

Falcao came off the bench in the second-half to a melodramatic welcome. With Alice band in locks, El Tigre joined the distinguished lineage of United centre-forwards: an office previously occupied by the likes of Ruud van Nistelrooy, Denis Law and Andy Cole.

By then, the Stretford End was so enraptured that they demanded an acknowledgement from the new luxury loanee from Monaco.

While Falcao waved to the galleries, Rio Ferdinand was too professional to respond to a similar request, with QPR being 4-0 down.

Chelsea have set the standard for this Premier League campaign, and United have a long path to travel before they can match Jose Mourinho's gang.

Manchester City, the champions, remain the masters of this metropolis.

But the fact that pundits are already wondering how quickly United will be able to rise is testament to the quality of players bought in this transfer window.

Shaw, for example, may have to arm-wrestle Rojo for the left-back's shirt - unless Rojo plays centre-back.

United have managed to buy the left-hand side of an international side who lost a tight World Cup final to Germany (though Di Maria missed that game with injury). Rojo and the Angel of the North-West could be a mighty combination on United's left.

Blind, who excelled in Brazil, too, also looked instantly comfortable in the position Owen Hargreaves was supposed to make his own until injury wrecked his United career.

It was never United's intention, one suspects, to arrange a mass emergency air drop of proven talent into Carrington.

Reinforcements were always going to be bought, but the scale of the spending reflects the team's poor start after a misleading pre-season tour of America.

This is where Van Gaal comes into his own. Few managers possess the skill to integrate so many players so quickly, but LVG set about the task with relish, finding a shape to accommodate Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie and Juan Mata, while abandoning the three-defender experiment.

Mata was meant to be the one frozen out: the Moyes-era misfit who slowed the play up too much to be part of the rebuild. Instead he was given a kind of head boy's role behind Rooney and Van Persie.

Throughout the side you could see a conviction boost, a confidence surge, as each player looked around the team and saw colleagues worth believing in.

Vulnerable

With Falcao's home debut now complete, Adnan Januzaj is the one you might worry for. Van Persie, meanwhile, is the striker most vulnerable to Falcao's arrival.

In essentially stable clubs, most problems are solved by money and good first-team management. United will say they had a 16-month rough patch and cured it by spending the kind of lolly they should have spent long before.

A cautionary note is that assimilation is a lot easier against QPR than it will be against the top four clubs from last May, who will test the new chemistry of this United team.

For the first time in a year or so, though, Old Trafford no longer felt like a place you visit to see the rich suffer, to watch a major institution flail.

Where there was a plain and simple quality deficit there are now choices and starbursts.

Di Maria, who gave way to Januzaj, is not remotely bothered by moving from the European champions, Real Madrid, to a team who finished seventh in the Premier League last season.

The pay package doubtless helped, but there is an exuberance in his play that speaks of an urge to dominate his new arena.

Money did more than talk. It sang songs of reassurance to a previously frightened crowd. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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