Feeling excited after what would have been a routine win until six months ago speaks volume of how far United have fallen this season, for a 2-0 win over Swansea isn’t anybody’s idea of heroics nor would the scoreline, in normal circumstances, be something to remember and behold for too long.
And yet, in this miserable season, today’s win is far from routinely and while it’d be foolish to believe United have turned a corner, they have made their life a little easier ahead of what would have been an excruciatingly difficult week before next Sunday’s trip to Stamford Bridge.
Perhaps it was because United can no longer be expected to dominate teams at home we had forgotten what it feels like to win football matches or perhaps because, in the first half, there was a serious possibility that United would extend their run of consecutive defeats to four, but today’s result and the second half performance were particularly pleasing.
That the two best players on the pitch have a combined age of 41 bodes well for the future, but Adnan Januzaj and Danny Welbeck can no longer be considered prospects with a bright future ahead of them, for they’re very much United’s present and if that symbolises the problem of the current squad, then so be it.
While the Belgian displayed a level of confidence that’s almost illegal for an 18-year-old and kept United ticking over, Welbeck confirmed yet again that he’s fully arrived as a striker this season and not only with an England shirt, given that “Dat Guy” has now netted six in his last six Premier League games.
With Darren Flecther replacing Tom Cleverley in midfield and Chris Smalling filling in for Jonny Evans, United looked to avoid a second defeat against Swansea at Old Trafford in less than a week and despite going close to be ahead within 10 minutes as Januzaj’s free-kick struck the bar, United looked at their worst – lethargic, scared in possession and sloppy when chasing the ball and even though Swansea failed to create any meaningful openings, the Welsh side were by far the better team in the first period.
Whatever David Moyes said or did at halftime it definitely worked and paid immediate dividends, as United were rampant off the block in the second half.
Januzaj’s produced the sort of cross which highlights a) how special the boy is and b) how poor United’s other wingers are, given neither Antonio Valencia nor Nani or Ashley Young could deliver a ball of the same sheer quality.
The Belgian’s cross was flicked on by Ashley Williams, with Shinji Kagawa’s header across goal parried by Tremmel into the path of Valencia, who made no mistake from close range and put United ahead, while ensuring that his name on social media was, for once, not associated with his reluctance to take the man on or his non-existent left-foot.
The goal sparked United into action and with Kagawa now playing in a central position, rather than wide on the left, the Reds attacked with a fluidity not seen around these parts for a long, long time, while Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher shut down Swansea’s midfield brilliantly.
If Kagawa is a strange case – the Japanese was a ghost figure in the first half, but shone after the restart – Fletcher is even more puzzling but, mercifully, in a positive way.
In Fletch, United have a player who’s missed almost two seasons with a debilitating illness and yet, merely a month after his return to full fitness, the Scotsman is becoming an increasingly important figure for Moyes, for he offers dynamism, tempo and composure or, in short, everything that Tom Cleverley doesn’t possess.
Obviously we may never seen the Fletch of old, but at the moment him and Carrick seem to be United’s best bet in midfield and one that Moyes should stick with.
There are no such worries up-front, where injuries to Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie mean the United manager is forced to play Welbeck, and hasn’t our Danny risen to the occasion this season. Having scuppered a great chance in the first half, Welbeck scored United’s second with 58 minutes gone, as he flicked Patrice Evra’s shot – Pat is so much better going forward than he is at defending, that it beggars belief – past Tremmel with a deft touch.
There was still time for Chris Smalling to fire over from a couple of inches, his Jaegerbomb intake depriving him of a goal and wasting Kagawa’s sumptuous cross, before Shinji himself fluffed his lines at the crucial moment, after Januzaj and Rafael had orchestrated a magnificent counter attack.
A new dawn it might not be, but three points are three points. And 2014 hadn’t given us many reasons to be picky so far.
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Tags: Match Reports