Manchester United defender Chris Smalling has hailed the impact of summer signings Sergio Romero and Matteo Darmian after the pair made their competitive debuts in the 1-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur.
The Red Devils needed a Kyle Walker own goal for victory at Old Trafford but notably kept a clean sheet on the opening day of the Premier League season, despite the absence of David de Gea amid continued speculation over his future at the club.
Argentina international Romero was drafted in to replace the Spaniard in the starting line-up and Smalling believes the 28 year old "looked the part" behind a defence that included Darmian at right-back.
"Last year, I think we played better [against Swansea on the opening day] but lost the game. I think our shape won us the game against Spurs. It's a step in the right direction," he told MUTV.
"I think Sergio looked the part, he came out and commanded his box, which is what you want behind you as a defender because, when you've got a goalkeeper who comes out with that presence, it mops up a lot of the danger.
"I think the new signings all slotted in effortlessly and their performances were very good. Darmian at right-back was terrific as well. It was good that they all had the majority of pre-season, apart from Sergio, to gel with our players and I think it showed."
Smalling partnered Daley Blind at centre-back in the absence of compatriot Phil Jones, who missed out with thrombosis, and the pair quickly formed an impressive partnership that blunted the Spurs attack.
Blind has shown his versatility for manager Louis van Gaal on a number of occasions in the past, and it comes as no surprise to Smalling that the Dutchman was able to slot into the position with relative ease when asked.
"Daley's an all-round footballer. He's good on the ball and his positioning is very good which is what you need as a centre-back. He slotted in there nicely," he added.
"I think there were some nerves among the team – not many of the lads have had 90 minutes in pre-season. In the last 15 minutes, there were a few tired legs but we dug in and that really brought us together.
"Last year, we didn't start well in the first three games and it was an uphill battle but I think the celebrations at the end showed how important it was for the players. It was massive."
United next face Aston Villa in the Premier League on Friday night, before the first leg of their Champions League qualifier against Club Brugge the following Tuesday.