Adnan Januzaj's two goals against Sunderland reminded his team mates and manager David Moyes of the inherited expectations that come with playing for United. Now the manager and the rest of the team has to get their act together.
Januzaj was fearless and supremely confident in his ability, gliding past players with an effortlessness that contrasted the rest of his teams workmanlike, unspectacular performance. His finish for the second was audacious, it could have failed spectacularly but he pulled it off. His team mates will have to show more of that verve and courage if they are to force their way up the table.
In playing the youngster Moyes continued one of the clubs great traditions in giving youth the chance to impress. But as many predicted, it has not been an easy start to the Moyes tenure. What began with promise against Swansea on the opening day of the season has quickly slid from the frustrating 1-0 loss to Liverpool, to the concerning 4-1 humbling at the Etihad and perhaps worse still the 2-1 loss to West Brom at home a week later. If Januzaj hadn't stepped up to the plate, the result would have quite possibly been very different at the Stadium of Light too.
The crux of the problem is that Moyes' squad issues were also Ferguson's but without the old masters' status and sufficient backing in the transfer market, these weaknesses are laid bare for all the scrutinize.
Moyes might have made changes on the training ground but it is hard to see what effect this has had on the pitch. Being bold can often create a sense of excitement and relish at what is yet to come but can also get you the chop if a far flung tactical vision fails to rub off on the team. The manager's cautiousness (bar starting Januzaj of course) has otherwise reverberated through the team.
Defensively United have been poorer than the nine goals conceded in the first seven matches implies. Solidarity at the back would enable the team moving forward through the gears to do so confidently. However veterans Nemanja Vidic, 31 and Rio Ferdinand, 34, have not provided the platform their partnership has guaranteed before, the last problem Moyes would have thought he need be concerned with initially when looking at the squad he inherited. At times both have played within themselves and have yet to impose their significant stature and influence, neither individually nor as a partnership.
For players of such seniority to convey an air of vulnerability may reiterate the impact of their former manager. One of Sir Alex Ferguson's strengths was instilling a communal expectation of standards 'what it means to play for Manchester United' usually propagated through those with sufficient experience, but he was always the commander, the rest flag bearers. Some may argue Ferguson was simply excellent at convincing his most recent United incarnations and others that they were more than the sum of their parts.
Further forward Moyes hasn't yet created an environment where his players are competing to impress their new manager for a starting place in midfield. Although it is fair to say there are more problems in there than any true potential for developing cohesion and solidarity. Before stepping down Ferguson failed to establish an effective midfield unit with potholes appearing as far back as Roy Keane's departure in 2005.
Peripheral squad members Anderson and Ashley Young have both been given opportunities but have failed to stake a claim as perhaps being unfairly overlooked by Ferguson as reliable first team starters. Where Januzaj's youthful exuberance saw him take on his man repeatedly, Young appears stifled by the pressure, usually opting to return the ball to sender rather than drive at the full-back. While Anderson has yet to deliver on any consistent basis and will perhaps go down as the most notable non-contributor to a team that since his arrival has gone on to win four Premier League titles, two League Cups and a Champions League.
Wingers Antonio Valencia and Nani have yet to present a convincing argument that both can form a devastating partnership on the flanks. Valencia was rampant against Bayer Leverkusen only to put an abysmal shift in against City, his usual defensive awareness lacking allowing that ponderous defence to be totally exposed. Nani offers flair, but against Sunderland he squandered the chance to put United level with a finish that required composure, his Achilles heel. It seemed that he had reached a new level of maturity between 2010 - 12 but is struggling to rediscover form that at 26, given his talent, should really be on show more often. The reasons why Wilfred Zaha is to be duly shipped out on loan, given the impression he made alongside Januzaj in pre-season, are a mystery but many would have liked to see him feature given the drought of excitement currently on show in midfield.
Centrally the Carrick/Cleverley partnership provides industry and assuredness with Cleverley even notching up an impressive 90% pass success rate, better than summer target Cesc Fabregas. But neither offer that spark of ingenuity that can unlock United's attacking talents in the final third of the pitch. The transfer window was shambolic for United, while most United fans would have been satisfied with the purchase of Marouanne Fellaini, the amateurish additional expense further compounded that air of indecision and leaves Fellaini hardly entering the fold on the best of terms. The Belgium midfielder will certainly add physicality in the centre of the park but it is debatable whether another deep lying midfielder was needed. And he will not be able to provide a consistent attacking threat if he is restricted to a similar role as Cleverley plays alongside Carrick. He is an option in midfield rather than a solution.
The potential for that creative element is available in Shinji Kagawa, supposedly best played centrally behind the striker, and with Wayne Rooney confirming that he is not interested in the role it may have offered scope for the Japan international to impress. But the difficulty there is that Rooney, having failed to secure his move elsewhere in the summer, is lean and keen to make an impression, perhaps to encourage future bids, prove a point or even push for a new contract, whatever the motivation, he's not going anywhere for the time being. But that means both he and Robin van Persie will expect to start the majority of matches together. The partnership is one of the most potent in the league, combine this with the diplomatic sensitivities surrounding the England talisman, and a player of Kagawa's talents are somewhat marginalised. Add the other striking talents in the squad with Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez and there are too many expectant forwards with an eye on next summer's World Cup to start with just the one.
These selection headaches would usually be a welcome problem to have as a manager, but consoling egos can be a difficult task without the clout of a Ferguson and may detract from the attacking football Moyes would like to play. If you were to look at how Brendan Rodgers came to Liverpool with a clear playing vision and duly shifted players on whom didn't fit the bill, that level of pragmatism earlier on would allow Moyes to be less concerned with juggling a large squad and offer more time to focus on finding the right groove.
It's taken Rodgers a whole season to set the team in the right mould and you wouldn't be surprised if it took Moyes a similar amount of time too. But if he can't rely on an 18 year old, keen to repay his managers faith and make a good impression, he must hope for more senior members to exert themselves individually and reiterate why they are champions, if this season isn't to be written off as simply transitional.