6 things we learned from Man United's 2-1 win over Wolfsburg
Mata enjoying life as an inverted winger
Last year it was hard not to feel sorry for Juan Mata, the likeable little Spaniard with an abundance of talent. After initially taking the Premier League by storm with Chelsea, he was forced to find a new club despite twice being crowned the Blues' player of the year.
His start to life in Manchester wasn't exactly smooth either, as he struggled to find his rhythm. Fortunately, however, the winger has now established himself as a key fixture in Louis van Gaal's team. Mata was Manchester United's best attacking player by a distance in this game and quickly showed his intent with an early attempt to curl the ball inside the far post, only for Dante to head clear.
It was his attempted cross that was blocked by the flailing arm of Daniel Caligiuri, with the former Valencia man coolly slotting home the resulting penalty. United's second came from an extravagant flick from the Spaniard, his backheel dropping into the path of Chris Smalling, who slid the ball past Diego Benaglio. Mata has now scored or assisted 45% of United's goals this season, which underlines his transformation.
3 - Juan Mata has scored and assisted in the same CL game for the third time (one each for Valencia, Chelsea & United). Majestic.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 30, 2015
Draxler will fill De Bruyne-sized hole
It was never going to be easy for Wolfsburg to replace Kevin De Bruyne, after the Bundesliga's best player last season departed for the Etihad Stadium this summer. The Belgian's early influence at Manchester City has been clear, with two goals in as many Premier League starts for his new club.
However, the German side aren't exactly short of options in the attacking third, even though they also lost Ivan Perisic to Inter too. The excellent Caligiuri opened the scoring after a clever interchange with Max Kruse. The two forwards showed glimpses of their ability, although Bas Dost had to make do with limited service, as the supporters sung his name to the tune of KC and The Sunshine Band's Give It Up.
It was former (reported) Arsenal transfer target Julian Draxler who caused the most problems, though. Only Mata completed more passes in the attacking third than the young German, while he regularly looked to beat his opposing defenders.
Schweinsteiger wants to play more vertically
Van Gaal's team has received plenty of scrutiny from pundits and supporters, often being accused of lacking flair. The notion that they prefer to simply keep the ball has been hard to disperse, but Bastian Schweinsteiger clearly sees things differently. The World Cup-winning midfielder looked to play the ball forward at every opportunity, in attempts to release Memphis Depay and Anthony Martial in behind Wolfsburg's back four. His passing from midfield gave Manchester United a drive from centre of the pitch that has been severely lacking in recent seasons.
Of course, this meant there were a lot more stray passes, but the directness created chances on goal. Schweinsteiger's demonstration with referee Viktor Kassai over a booking was particularly entertaining, as the German dropped to his knees and made numerous hand gestures for a couple of minutes. He's clearly a popular character around Carrington already, and it's this winning mentality that could be crucial in the next stage of the Red Devils' progression.