Follow Doron on Twitter
It’s strange how Europe has so far has been a welcome distraction from the attention that’s come with the side’s league form. Against Leverkusen and Shakhtar United were good and with Real Sociedad coming to Old Trafford, expectations were that United should be winning this one. Moyes made four changes from Saturday with Valencia, Giggs, Kagawa and Hernandez in for Nani, Fellaini, Januzaj and van Persie. We welcome comments from all fans.
Evans and Jones – the future?
On Saturday, amongst the gloom we singled out Evans’ performance as being one of character, quality and leadership. For the second game running he was paired with Phil Jones and there are emerging signs of some understanding and potential between them.
In many ways the pair complement one another – Jones the more physical and Evans the slightly more controlled. Both are quick, strong in the air and more than able and determined to carry the ball out of defence. Whilst Evans has the better timing and sometimes the better reading of the game, Jones has started to show that he’s capable of bullying strikers and like Vidic, he’s determined to ensure he gets to the ball first by whatever means necessary.
At full time, Rooney was quick to praise the defence, marking them out ahead of any of the attacking players. It was a well-earned clean sheet and Sociedad’s forwards were restricted to efforts from distance on the most part. With Ferdinand and Vidic both injured it’s more than likely this pairing will start again on Saturday and another good showing against a notoriously physical side could see the emergence of a new first choice partnership.
Giggs goes on and on and on and on
We (the blog) or maybe more accurately, I, have been only too quick to point out when Giggs has had poor games, usually in the middle. It’s only fair then to acknowledge a contrasting, ageless performance from the centre of the pitch.
The way the games go means that what happens in the second half performance-wise, tends to get remembered as the benchmark for describing the overall performance of a player. Giggs’ second half was at times phenomenal – he made use of the space that opened up as the game got stretched and combined that classic body swerve and style of running with telling passes and flicks that came off. As if being transported back in time, there was more than one occasion where three or four Sociedad players were left trailing in his wake.
That said, his first half had been iffy – shown by his much improved ball retention in the second half (83% passing accuracy vs. 91% passing accuracy). At times he’d played other players into pressure or much like Aaron Ramsey last night, tried to dribble his way out of trouble in a dangerous area. However the improvement as Carrick sat deeper and space opened up was noticeable and he started to control proceedings in the second half with no signs of fatigue. One of those performances that makes you appreciate the fact he’s still playing – a joy to watch even now at nearly 40.
Kagawa and Rooney show class
With just over ten minutes to go, Hernandez was replaced by Ashley Young who went out to the left hand side and then it happened… Kagawa actually played in the number 10 role behind Rooney. To that point, Kagawa had already been influencing the game positively. Whether he’d been told to drift in from the left or he’d done it naturally, it was working and he’d been linking up with team-mates well, creating chances and should have scored a couple of goals himself from being in the right position and a well-timed run.
Until Kagawa’s move centrally, Rooney had been in that role, playing with the freedom to express himself and influence those around him. His mazy run and shot created the fortuitous goal early on and he’d been at the heart of everything that was good about United. He looks lean, fit and seems to be happy which is enabling him to play some really good football of late (last Saturday seemingly a rare exception).
When Kagawa came centrally behind Rooney the excitement levels went up a notch. Rooney suddenly became a threat even further forward, bursting past Sociedad players like he was 19 again. His link-up with Kagawa in particular was excellent as Shinji started to pick up the ball in great places and find space with ease – it suddenly became so obvious to see why this is his favoured role. With van Persie rested, United oddly looked much more mobile and the movement up front was better. It allowed us to use a proper attacking midfielder, albeit briefly and it was great. The intelligence of the play between two good footballers may just provide Moyes with food for thought although it would be wrong not to acknowledge that Real Sociedad really didn’t put up a particularly testing challenge.
Conclusion – still not clinical but it was fun!
One nil scorelines don’t always suggest entertainment and excitement but that’s what United gave to the fans tonight. Moyes managed to get the side playing quick, attacking football and if he was to criticise the team for one thing in particular it would be the failure to get that second goal again. It should have finished up as a win by four goals but just the one, Martinez’s comical own goal early on was enough in the end.
Like Kagawa, it was better from Antonio Valencia too on the right hand side – crosses, pace and power were even countered by some subtle flicks which are very unlike him. More of the same against Stoke on Sunday please – the same intensity, the same pace but just some better finishing. Somewhere round the corner we’re going to beat a team by a good few goals and it’ll feel like a weight off everyone’s shoulders.