“We had to bounce back and I thought it was a good result tonight. It's given me a chance to see some players I haven't seen much and it's given me food for thought.” – David Moyes.
Hold everything! David Moyes may finally be arriving at the conclusion that perhaps there’s more to Manchester United’s options on the wings than Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia. Truth be told, if his much-changed side’s 1-0 win over a first choice Liverpool team in the Capital One Cup doesn’t lead him to that deduction, nothing will.
Hernandez's goal sealed the win for United
Following the 4-1 humbling away to Manchester City on Sunday, United responded by claiming the scalp of another fierce rival on Wednesday night in their quest for redemption. A Javier Hernandez goal from a set-piece was the difference between the two sides but the telling aspect of United’s performance was their play in the final third.
Shinji Kagawa was handed a rare starting berth while Nani made his first appearance this season having returned from an injury lay-off. Along with the effervescent Wayne Rooney, who donned the captain’s armband despite Ryan Giggs’ inclusion, the duo combined well in attack to maneuver openings in Liverpool’s defense.
Their presence lifted United’s passing and link-up play in and around the opposition’s box. It was a welcome display from the hosts after their laboured and unimaginative ventures forward against City over the weekend.
Kagawa wasn't at his best but still offered creativity
‘One-dimensional’ is the term frequently used to describe the efforts of Young and Valencia of late. In contrast, Kagawa and Nani exhibited the kind of dynamism that United have lacked in wide areas. Neither hugged the touchline or even maintained their positions for that matter but had the guile to ask questions of the opposition’s defense.
They rarely delivered a worthwhile cross and instead spent a lot of time cutting inside and linking up with Rooney. The three behind Hernandez regularly interchanged positions and kept Liverpool on their toes. The Mexican, for his part, played on the shoulder of the last defender and dragged the center-backs deeper, allowing Rooney and co more space to operate in.
Kagawa and Nani didn’t exactly deliver sensational performances on the night but given their lack of match practice this season, the fluidity they injected into United’s attack was palpable and impressive considering the quality of the opposition. Throw Robin van Persie into the mix and suddenly United’s attack goes from being stale and lethargic on the weekend to dynamic and quick-witted.
Nani was his dynamic self in his first game this season
However, to keep it that way, Moyes must identify Young and Valencia as hindrances to the team’s attacking play. For United wingers, their inability to beat a man is a massive concern while their clumsiness in possession is unforgivable for top flight professionals. Maybe they do have the pace to thrive on the counter-attack but when it comes to breaking down a defense, they lack the basic ingenuity to carve out opportunities.
The truth is the criticism directed towards the duo isn't a sudden occurrence this season. It's been brewing for a while but has certainly escalated with the regularity with which they've featured in the first team despite their uninspiring performances. United’s following expect to see wingers capable of lifting them off their seats in excitement and anticipation, instead they’re made to shift uncomfortably in them, riddled with anxiety and frustration.
Even the neutrals will be hopeful of Nani’s continued inclusion following his return from injury. He may be inconsistent and perhaps his decision making will never be up to the mark but he still brings so much to the table in terms of skill and creativity. Given that Moyes recently granted him a 5 year contract extension, it stands to reason that he has faith in the Portuguese’s ability and will look to use him on a regular basis.
Phil Jones and Giggs put in an inspired display in the middle of the park while 18 year-old Adnan Januzaj impressed once again in a cameo appearance. The youngster is viable option in attack for Moyes and one that should be tested more often.
Meanwhile, Wilfried Zaha still awaits his first competitive debut with the Red Devils as he spent the duration of the game on the bench. Sooner or later he will get his opportunity and with the dismal form of Young and Valencia at the moment, you’d back him to leapfrog them in the pecking order if given a fair chance.
Moyes got the response he was looking for
The most important thing for United on Wednesday night was to win. It’s mildly comforting that after receiving a mauling over the weekend, they delivered the kind of response their new manager demanded of them.
In a Sir Alex Ferguson era, a retort such as this was expected and often taken for granted but this was the first time Moyes’ side had to come back and prove a point and they did so with a depleted first team. However, their revival doesn’t end here. In true United fashion, they’ll now have to go on a run of form in the league that puts them near the top of the table by Christmas and in order to that, they’ll need to persist with their more dynamic players in attack.
|Should Kagawa and Nani start ahead of Young and Valencia? Send in your thoughts in the comments below or discuss with the writer on Twitter @BrendonNetto.|
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