5 5 5 2. Memphis Depay is the most exciting talent United have had since Cristiano Ronaldo left. – He might have been quiet in the league so far, but Depay showcased in the midweek Champions League qualifier just why United were so keen to secure his signature. His first goal, in particular, illustrated his supreme talent and composure belittling his tender years hes still just 21. Patience with him will be key – remember Ronaldo was still very much a rough diamond upon his arrival at Old Trafford but the early signs suggest the Dutchman is already the most eye-catching player the Red Devils have boasted since the Portuguese demi-God left in 2009. 1. Matteo Darmian is the new Gary Neville. Maybe. – The right-back spot has proved a real headache for United since Neville sustained a career-curtailing injury in 2007. Rafael, who has now been sold to Lyon, suffered from injury setbacks while Antonio Valencia became a makeshift defender during Van Gaals debut season in charge at Old Trafford. The arrival of Darmian appears to have extinguished those problems. A full international with Italy, hes started his United career as if hes been playing in England for years. As accomplished going forward as he is in defence, two clean sheets in two games are richly deserved. Manchester United may not have set the world alight so far in the new Premier League season, but it’s two wins from two so their fans won’t be complaining.They followed the uninspiring 1-0 win over Tottenham with an even grittier triumph at Aston Villa by the same scoreline under the Friday night lights.Red Devils supporters may be smarting from their failure to land Spain forward Pedro, but the rest of their summer recruits have looked impressive.And while Louis van Gaal appears increasingly agitated off the field by the press, on the pitch his players are doing the talking as they look to mount a genuine title challenge.So, two weeks into the season, here’s five reasons for United fans to be cheery. 5 5 4. Sergio Romero has already emerged as a bit of a cult hero. – With the David de Gea fiasco refusing to go away, Romero has impressed as the Spaniards understudy while the transfer furore exists around him. Always seen as a bit of a maverick, Romero has been composed, reliable and pulled off a string of fine saves to deny Christian Eriksen towards the end of the Tottenham win. Whether he will be Uniteds number one for the season remains to be seen, but hes already become a bit of a fan favourite regardless. 3. Chris Smalling has justified his selection. – With Phil Jones out injured, Smalling has grasped his opportunity to stake a regular first-team berth at centre-back with three assured performances. Daley Blind has been earmarked as the long-term left central defender, which leaves Smalling and Jones fighting for the other spot. Judging by the first few weeks of the season, the latter will have a task on his hands to forge a way back into the side. Hes no Nicolas Otamendi and hes certainly no Sergio Ramos, but so far Smalling has quietly vindicated his managers faith. 5. Wayne Rooney can only get better, right? – The departures of Robin van Persie and Radamel Falcao this summer served to reinforce one thing Rooney was Van Gaals flag bearer in attack. After a couple of uninspiring performances his role has already been questioned, but surely it will only be a matter of time before the England captain recovers his groove. He scored 37 goals as a lone striker in all competitions in the 2011-2012 season and if he get close to that record this term, United will be in prime position to compete on all fronts.
STEVENSON RANCH – The 31-or-so flavors are still front and center at the Baskin-Robbins store here. But the gray-speckled tables and bubble gum colors now accompany wood paneling, abstract art, a contemporary soda fountain and even a new logo. The enduring ice cream chain – founded in Pasadena and Glendale in the 1940s – has embarked on a five-year, nationwide effort to remodel its 2,500 stores, officials said Thursday. It’s all part of a plan to update the brand to better compete in the increasingly competitive ice cream parlor business. Gone are the plastic booths and gray linoleum floors. Instead, patrons lounge in blue chairs found in contemporary furniture boutiques, or at the curved, wood-grained soda counter. The logo is still in familiar blue-and-pink, but the trademark “31” is now hidden within the initials “BR.” AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week “It’s innovation and enhancement of what we have,” said James Franks, director of franchising for Baskin-Robbins, which along with Dunkin’ Donuts and Togo’s sandwich shops are owned by beverage giant Allied Domecq PLC. “The 31 is not going away. It’s being made contemporary as it goes with the times. Change is always difficult, but again, we’ll all be happy with it.” The Stevenson Ranch store opened 10 years ago and is one of the top performing outlets in the nation. It was remodeled in August 2004 – the first in the state. Southern California is home to some 300 Baskin-Robbins stores. Varuzh Tiritian, who owns this and two other Baskin-Robbins in Pasadena and Burbank, said business increased between 8 to 10 percent since remodeling. “It was pretty exciting to see the change,” he said. “The brand was getting a little tired, so it was time to change.” The company recently refurbished all its Las Vegas stores, and is preparing to roll out the remodeling plan nationwide Monday, Franks said. It also intends to add 600 stores by 2009. Baskin-Robbins began in the mid-1940s when brothers-in-law Burton Baskins, who opened an ice cream shop in Pasadena, and Irvine Robbins, owner of a Glendale parlor, combined their businesses. The British food company J. Lyons and Co., which became Allied Domecq, purchased the brand in 1973. Competition is intense in the ice cream parlor business, a field crowded with such boutique brands as Arizona-based Cold Stone Creamery, Ben & Jerry’s and Maggie Moo’s. Franks believes the store remodelings, along with new products such as the frozen custard line, could help Baskin-Robbins stay ahead of the competition. “Somebody will always be there to knock you off,” he said. “Innovation is what you need to stay on top of your game. … You have to be in touch with the ice cream side. But it’s still a business, too.” Lynda Utterback, executive director of the National Ice Cream Retailers Association, cautioned against too much innovation. “The whole thing about ice cream is that people have fond childhood memories about a brand of ice cream or an ice cream store,” said Utterback of the Elk Grove Village, Ill.-based trade group. “They think about taking the mom or dad or grandparents’ hand to the ice cream store. “Doing something fresh is good. But I hope they leave enough so that people will still be able to relive that when they walk into the stores.” Still, the new look already has some fans. “It’s very bright and inviting for kids to come into,” said Kerry Vicente, 36, of Castaic, enjoying a scoop of mint chocolate chip at the remodeled Valencia Marketplace store with her 3-year-old daughter Makayla. “I can see why they made the change.” Eugene Tong, (661) 257-5253 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!