Nov 27

High five, United!

Tag: Match Reports @ 10:21 pm

Antonio_Valencia_2748270bAt times, very rarely, football offers moments when form goes out of the window, predictions are disregarded and expectations are forgotten in the blink of an eye, giving way to an unpredictable, yet exhilarating, 90 minutes.

That, in a nutshell, sums up United’s trip to Leverkusen, for not even the most optimistic of Reds – a species growing increasingly rare in recent times – would have envisaged the superb performance David Moyes’ men offered tonight as they put Bayer Leverkusen to the sword in swashbuckling fashion.

It’d be easy to say that the signs were there for all to see ahead of tonight and that this sort of performance could have been expected.

The truth is, though, that United arrived in Germany on the back of one of their worst performances of the season and with a decimated squad, which meant Moyes had to rely on a man two days short of his 40th birthday and a half-fit centre-back-cum-midfield-enforcer to neutralise Leverkusen and ensure United had enough in their tank to become the first team to win in the Champions League at the BayArena in eight games.

In fairness, considering the injuries that had limited his already limited options even further, David Moyes’ picked his best and boldest XI and was handsomely rewarded, on a bitterly cold night in Leverkusen.

Ryan Giggs might not longer have the consistency he did a few years ago but, when on song, the soon to be 40-year-old remains a pleasure to watch and a player still capable of making United tick, while it’s hard to accuse Moyes of employing defensive tactics, given he opted for Antonio Valencia, Shinji Kagawa, Nani and Wayne Rooney tonight.

The start could have hardly been more positive, with Shinji Kagawa – finally deployed in his favourite number 10 from the start, as Robin Van Persie’s injury meant Wayne Rooney was pushed further up the pitch – picked up the ball in his own half before feeding Ryan Giggs, whose pass found Rooney, allowing the England striker to delivered a perfect floated ball to the back post.

Nine times out of 10 this season, that ball would have dribbled into the keeper’s arms but tonight it found the out-stretched foot of Antonio Valencia, who decided that, occasionally, a right winger can even provide an attacking threat and put United 1-0 up after 22 minutes.

Eight minutes later United doubled their lead as Emir Spahic generously turned Rooney’s free-kick into his own net in an attempt to deny Chris Smalling a free header, sending the away end into a raucous cauldron of thoroughly unexpected joy.

Those who expected United to fold like a deck chair after halftime were left disappointed, as the Reds continued in the same ruthless, and pleasingly surprised, fashion, with Kagawa and Giggs orchestrating the midfield to perfection, while Valencia looked like a man who’s spent the flight to Germany memorising videos of Andrei Kanchelskis, such was the Ecuadorian’s intent and purpose to get past his marker.

Rooney and Nani combined but the Portuguese dragged his shot just wide of the post, before Leverkusen were to be denied by the post in one of their rare excursions in the United’s half – the Germans are second in the Bundesliga and we can only assume they were exceptionally bad tonight, or else Bayern Munich can already pop the champagne open – before Rooney’s curling shot fizzled past the post, just after the hour mark.

The United striker was again in superb form, combining superbly with Kagawa, Nani and Valencia and showing the sort of intent and desire he seemed to have forgotten last season.

With 66 minutes played, Giggs corner found Patrice Evra - now officially United’s biggest threat off corners – unmarked in the box. The Frenchman’s header was turned goalwards by Rooney, and while Bernd Leno saved the initial effort, Jonny Evans turned the rebound into the net, all but securing the three points and United’s place in the knockout stage of the competition.

The Reds, however, were not done yet and roared on by the goading chants of “Can we play you every week?” emanating from the away end, scored again soon after, as Kagawa’s superb dink pass found Rooney, who chipped the ball over Leno, allowing Smalling to tap it into the empty net, thus automatically ensuring his place in a football-based pub quiz – which two United defenders scored on a famous away win in the Champions League?

As if to add insult to injury, Ashley Young and Anderson replaced Rooney and Valencia, before Giggs’ superb pass found Nani, who calmly rounded Leno, before slotting the ball home to seal United’s biggest ever win away from home in the Champions League and providing David Moyes with a timely boost ahead of Sunday’s trip to White Hart Lane.

Tonight’s result won’t prove to be the cure to United’s malaise, but it’s definitely an excellent tonic ahead of the next few weeks and, hopefully, a springboard for the future.

Dan


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Tags: Match Reports

32 Responses to “High five, United!”

  • A good win, and the first game this season that United have played for a full 90 minutes.
    It’s amazing the difference when you have a number 10 playing where he should. Rooney wasn’t running his arse off all over the pitch and Kagawa was able to link midfield and attack superbly.
    I want to see a run of performances like this. In the league, home or away, we should be trying to impose ourselves on the game, regardless of the oposition. We did that quite well tonight.
    But, i won’t be trumpeting this as the sign of any momentum or anything knee jerk like that.
    This is just one game, we need to see this week in, week out.
    Finally, a game that was enjoyable to watch. Hopefully not just a flash in the pan.

    • @BigRed: I agree. When we play Kagawa in his favoured position the whole team plays better.

      Giggs was massive for us in midfield as well.

      Credit where credit is due Moyes got it right last night. All his selections were on point.

  • I lack words to describe this victory because I least expected it but I’ve discovered also that DM has a way raising the hopes of United fans in one match and dashing it to the ground in the next match; let’s see if this will be any different.
    Some might argue that we’ve gone eleven matches unbeaten but think about it if you go unbeaten in several matches and accumulate draws then you’re better off losing one or two matches and winning the rest even though this is not strictly the case with United.
    For now VIVA DM! Let’s enjoy the great feelings of this victory while it lasts.

  • I don’t want to start things but I think I did get some bit of vindication tonight. We have been banging on and on about Shinji Kagawa playing in the hole and him being a better option for that role than Rooney. I believe tonight’s performance goes a long way to prove this.We have seen it. Every time he plays in that role,not only does he play well,but the whole team plays well. Now I’m not implying he was MotM because he wasn’t, but it was pretty clear that we looked ten times more dangerous and more confident in attack. That’s what we miss when we play Rooney behind the striker. It’s not Rooney that’s the problem,it’s the manager who puts him there. But get Rooney upfront,Shinji behind him and a mobile playmaker in midfield in this case Giggs,then it’s a completely different team. I sincerely hope Moyes learned something crucial today. Sophistication is key to a shift in the team’s fortunes. Rooney and Kagawa could prove to be a most devastating combo if patiently and correctly applied. I’m not holding my breathe because I fully expect Kagawa to be dropped for Welbeck against Spurs because Moyes seems to favor physical attributes particularly in attack. Off to bed now

    • @Jay Wire: Vindication indeed Jay.

      I wouldn’t be so quick to give too much credit to Moyes for playing Kagawa at number though.

      It was the injury to PVR that forced his hand.

      Moyes as far as I’m concerned is still mentally slow.

      If David Moyes learns something from the brilliant combination of Giggs and Kagawa in midfield I will be impressed.

      I will have to change my tone if he trys to find a way to incorporate Kagawa’s obvious positive influence into our starting 11.

      Why don’t we play Adnan Januzaj in central midfield (in lieu of Ryan Gigg’s awesome performance) like I have been saying since pre-season. Adnan Januzaj is our solution for central midfield.

      Januzaj, Jones and Kagawa are the perfect midfield trio. With Rvp, Rooney and Nani/Valencia as three attacking players in front of them.

      But it takes an injury to Carrick and RVP before we start even thinking that such combinations are possible.

      However, I fully expect David Moyes to play RVP and Rooney upfront when RVP returns like the unthinking average manager he has so far shown himself to be.

    • There is another attacking option that Moyes could try: van Persie-Chicharito.

      There’s a time it was played last season and while it did not trip the lights quite like Kagawa-Rooney did at Norwich; that combination seemed to work to each other’s strengths.

      The Rooney-RVP thing may be one star ego too heavy to work. It’s probably the no.3 option if we are strictly looking at flow and potency of attack.

      As has been pointed out however, Bayer gave Utd too much time. You don’t get that in the EPL, so there may be an argument for playing Wellbeck in some games on the left, not at no.10.

      Another point to note was from a blogger on the Guardian website who said that all of United’s best games this season came with Jones in mid. Could he be the answer at least for 2013/14?

      Some good combinations, or combination pieces, are starting to cement themselves all over the pitch. Assuming all players are fit, perhaps our most fluid 11 could look something like this:

      De Gea
      Raphael – Evans – Vidic – Evra
      Valencia – Jones – Carrick – Nani
      Kagawa – Rooney

      Subs: Lindergaard, van Persie, Smalling, Januzaj, Wellbeck, Cleverly, Chicharito

      With the possibility of Januzaj or Wellbeck replacing Nani when he makes a mind fart.

  • I’m glad we qualified. We did have a ridiculously easy group but the real challenge will be getting a result against Shakhtar to win the group because I really do not fancy playing Real Madrid, PSG, Bayern or Barcelona next round.

    Still if we’d messed up this group and ended up in the Europa League it would have just increased the sneaking suspicion we are turning into Everton. So we should count our small blessings.

    Yes the opposition was sub-standard but we’ve dropped points against a number of weak sides this season and the main reason is because we try to protect leads rather than knock up cricket scores.

    Good performances from Nani and Valencia and that is good because if they both get back to their best we will have two world class wingers with Januzaj knocking on the door to keep them on their toes.

    Kagawa should NEVER play on the left again. While I think he does look a lot more comfortable in Europe than he does in the Premiership I like the Kagawa Rooney partnership much more than the Rooney Van Persie partnership.

    Rooney is clearly happier leading the line and Kagawa is clearly happiest in the hole. So why not make them both happy? Van Persie is hard to drop but he is in the twilight of his career and should no longer be considered a sure fire starter. While I feel bad for Hernandez he really does not look like ever being anything more than a super sup. While Welbeck’s best chance of playing is on the left until he becomes a regular goal scorer.

    Phil Jones is showing signs of growing into a midfield spot. He is far from a perfect solution but I rate him above Fellaini as a defensive midfielder and with Cleverley failing to impress there is a lot to be said for playing Phil Jones as a defensive midfielder and Carrick as a central midfielder until we finally land a world class midfielder.

    Better that than waste another £20-£30M on an average central midfielder

    The real priority must be to buy a central defender. Rio is past it, Vidic can’t stay fit and Smalling seems to be cover for Rafael on the right.

  • Big Red don’t tell me to shut up who the f##k do you think you are,ill say what I want when I want.Been supporting Utd since the 60′s yes I know what abu means you and your plastic buddy needs to look up the word fan,because slagging off our manager is the opposite,plastic or abu,not fan

    • @wayne: Waah, Waaah, Waaah.
      That’s what you sound like.
      IF you know what ABU means, why would you refer to a United fan as an “Anyone But United” fan?
      Criticising Moyes does not make someone an ABU. You’re so eager to criticise people that you sound stupid. Like you’re just trying to insult someone without really understanding what you’re saying.
      If you really do know what ABU means, can i suggest that you use it in it’s correct manner. If you can.

      I support Manchester United, not David Moyes. Moyes is being criticised for good reason. Accept it.

  • Superb result last a real tribute to the late Bill Foulkes. Giggs showed why yet another contract has been talked about, Kagawa was the glue which stuck things together and Rooney again was immense.
    This now has to be the norm. Progress looked like it was being made against Arsenal then everything came crashing down against Cardiff with an inept display or negativity and incompetence. Last night was positive, bright breezy attacking football as good as we have played in Europe.
    With Spurs this weekend this has to continue, Kagawa has to play on the hole. We look so creative with him playing there. Jones is starting to look like a midfield enforcer, twice the player Fellaini is.
    David Moyes well done, but please learn and don’t have a relapse like Sunday. Eleven games unbeaten, although that flatters, we need to kick on now as December is make or break month. One swallow and all that.

    • @Stephen: I have only BEEN saying this about Kagawa for the whole season. He needs to play in the hole.

      And I also have BEEN saying that Jones needs to be our full time defensive mid.

      And Jaunzaj needs to play in central midfield. I have BEEN saying that since pre-season.

      Another thing I will add to the list of BEEN saying it: Rooney or RVP need to play on the left (or the right) to accommodate Kagawa. End of.

      • @The_Philosopher: You did mate, but you also said we should loan Rooney to Arsenal :wink:
        I am not convinced Januzaj is ready to play midfield in the Premiership. He hasn’t the experience of Giggs. He would get bullied and fouled. He needs to continue on the left and will end up as a number 10. The other option is to try Kagawa in the centre of midfield, he may be the new Scholes.

      • @The_Philosopher: Agree with most of that, but no way should Januzaj play in CM.
        He’s not had any experience of playig there. His natural position is the number 10, but plays very effectively off either wing. To shove him into MF would be a mistake, in my opinion. He needs to learn to play to his stenghts and his strength is creating just off the striker. Just as it would be mad to put Kagawa in CM. Just wouldn’t work.
        We have other more suitable central midfielders to accomodate, like Powell when he comes back from Wigan. CM is made for him and he’ll do well there. I think even Lingard is a good option for MF.

        • @BigRed: Then we will just have to agree to disagree BigRed.

          I think Januzaj can pass and move and influence the game going forward.

          Defensively he would be a liability for sure but thats where Phil Jones comes in.

          Januzaj has sooooo much talent that he would make it work.

          The partnership between Kagawa and Giggs was superb against Leverkusen.

          Only problem with that is that Giggs can’t play in every game.

          Adnan Januzaj can.

          ——————DeGea

          Rafael——Vidic——Evans——Evra

          ——————–Jones

          Zaha—Kagawa—-Januzaj—-Rooney

          ——————–RVP

          This would be my ideal team for the rest of the season.

  • I don’t think we should get carried away. Leverkusen were really very poor just about all over the pitch. United, with a few key players missing, were at no stage under any sort of real pressure and Giggs and co were given acres of space and time to dictate proceedings. Giggs played as if this was a practice match or a pre-season friendly. The contrast between this match and the Cardiff one couldn’t have been more stark. Perhaps ECL football suits Moyes. Indeed if the team performance was that good he should pick the same side for Spurs on Sunday. My feeling is that it will be a different story back in the hustle and bustle of the PL and United might have far more to contend with against a Spurs side looking for some redemption after their catastrophic experience against City. The result last night is probably in keeping with a season which is likely to have more than its fair share of ups and downs.

  • For all the, at times justified, at times not justified, criticism that Moyes has received so far,I think yesterday highlighted that he can be braver than many would like to admit. With Carrick and Fellaini out, the obvious choice would have been to play Cleverley as he’s one of the only two fit CM we have. Yet Moyes decided to with Giggs and Jones, a move that could have backfired but a bold one at that, given he obviously thought a 40-year-old man and converted CB offered better options than Cleverley.

    I’m not getting carried away by any means, but it’d be stupid not to realise that if we’re to compete for the league, we need to squeeze every ounce of quality from this group of players, and playing last night’s formation was a step in the right direction.

    • @Dan: I will give it to Moyes, he did well last night.

      He really did.

      But I have to go back to my previous point. This only happened as a result of injuries to key people.

      Left to his own dubious devices Moyes would not have come to such a selection.

      Had Moyes been given a full squad to choose from I doubt we would have played as fluidly as we did.

  • I must say that I really enjoyed watching the game last night but I was not shocked that we won so well. For the first time in his United career Moyes finally played a COMBINATION that worked. I have only BEEN saying it this whole season so I’m not surprised it worked so well.

    Rooney up front. Kagawa at number 10. And Giggs in midfield. And finally Jones in a defensive midfield role.

    This was the key to our success.

    I honestly think the way forward needs to be RVP upfront with Rooney on the left (although I don’t like this guy he really is superb and guarantees goals) Kagawa in the hole (no.10) with Valencia/Nani/Zaha/Young on the right and Jones and Januzaj in the middle.

    This is the selection template I would be using for the majority of our games this season.

    When I said that the RVP Rooney partnership isn’t working there were some who brushed me aside. Rooney Kagawa or RVP Kagawa is what we should be working to establish.

    Ryan Giggs did really well in central midfield last night. Adnan Januzaj should be the one we call upon to continue his fine work.

    Phil Jones’s energy is vital in breaking up our opposition’s plays. Can we forget the fact that he should be (or would prefer to be) a center back or that we spent 27m on Fellaini and just go with what’s working.

    Phil Jones is the best defensive mid we have.

    I wrote Valencia off as a winger but last night he proved me wrong. Go for him. And go for us.

    Zaha is the player I would be focusing on to succeed him on the right.

    Rooney is irresistible and so cannot be left out at the moment. I really believe we need to deploy him wide left when RVP is back and allow him to float when he needs to and give us an option on the left flank when it is called for.

    Rooney also contributes well in midfield and is a vital attacking and defensive asset.

    NANI SHOULD BE PLAYED AS A STRIKER.

    Rooney can do a very good job for us on the left of midfield.

    Jonny Evans did well to block a shot just before we scored the opener. Ferdinand who is looking more and more like a liability was out done again and Evans came to the rescue.

    I also thought Nani’s goal was so well taken. The flick with the outside of his boot from a tight angle after rounding the keeper with defenders bearing down onthe situation. Very good. Nani should be played as a striker on occasion. He might suck at other things but the guy can finish.

    Great game. Now for Tottenham.

    PS: This is the kind of line up I would like to see against Tottenham.

    ———————De Gea————

    Rafael—–Smalling—–Evans—-Evra

    ———————-Jones

    Valencia—Januzaj—Kagawa—Nani

    ———————Rooney

    • @The_Philosopher:

      Nani can finish!!!

      If he could finish he would be competing with Ron for WPOTYs and ballon d’ors! Finishing is about the only weakness he has in his game – more often than not he shoots in row Z.

      • @jos: Point taken.

        I won’t get into an argument about it.

        But I was impressed with his goal last night. And there are a few other goals that have impressed me by Nani. I would prefer an opportunity fell to him in and around than box than to Valencia.

        I don’t think Nani’s finishing is bad. I would play him as a striker if the occasion presented itself.

  • Big Red erm you’re missing the point,thought I’d explained it but I’ll talk slower.If you consistently slag off our manager you’re not a fan at best a plastic at worse a troll so why don’t you print the definition of fan and let everyone decide.Dont call yourself a Man Utd fan or supporter and then slag off our manager,it’s contradictory.Slow enough for you Hoss

    • @wayne: Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
      I’ll keep my eyes open in case you have anything worthwhile to say, but as of yet, nothing new. Or of interest.

      I think Jay’s got it covered.

  • That is an incredibly silly thing to say. “if you consistently slag of the manager you are not a fan”.

    What nonsense and exceeding great rubbish. If the manager is consistently messing up then we have the right to consistently slag him. After all that would be in line with consistency. David Moyes,Alex Ferguson,Matt Busby are or were all HUMAN employees of Manchester United. The biggest sign that they all have limitations is the simple fact that none of them can be here forever. They all came to Old Trafford and found it already in existence. Some of these managers are already dead and resting in the illustrious passages of history. The point is they are no different to the fan who buys a season ticket every year,or one that commits hundreds of hours on the internet and in pubs for a chance to be associated with Manchester United. In fact I have more respect for a fan than I have for a manager because the fan pays the manager with their hard earned money. No one pays the fans. Managers get large sums of money and can easily move elsewhere and start a war of words against their old employers ala Pep,Mourinho,Phelan. So I have no sympathy for a manager. He has to earn respect not just have it handed to him because his predecessor said so.No thanks. He has to do the right thing. I don’t have the patience to watch him learn on the job unless he shows some form of potential and unique managerial talent. Even then he cannot be immune to criticism.

    I also want to put this very important thought to everyone. I think we can all agree that no manager, Ferguson included,would manage for free or even for subsistence level wages. They all want to be paid millions. I have no problem with that at all. That’s not to mean they want to see the club suffer. Their greatest desire is for the club to prosper because the success of the club is directly related to their own personal success, financial and otherwise. But can we not say the same thing about the eternally hated and criticised Glazer family. It’s simple logic. They want United to prosper and succeed and will do everything they can to make that happen because if the club succeeds and prospers,they succeed and prosper. Simple. But they are constantly criticised and attacked. Without leadership the club will simply perish so whether you like it or not,they are absolutely critical to the survival of the club. If somehow the club becomes leaderless,then chaos will reign and Manchester United will cease to exist. But most of you hate them and criticise them. No one calls you a plastic fan,but they are just as important as the manager and coaches. You don’t agree with their leadership style and you make it known daily with some incredible hate language. But if someone does that they are considered true fans.There is no difference between the Glazers and David Moyes. They are all part of the club’s leadership together with Woodward. Only difference is they perform different tasks. If you don’t like the way the Glazers lead you have a right to criticise. If I don’t like the way Moyes leads, I have a right to criticise however often I feel I should.Ferguson said we should all get behind the manager and people blindly follow and agree,but he also said the same about the Glazers and has publicly backed them so many times. So why not blindly follow that instruction too? In fact if you also show support for the Glazers you are regarded as a traitor. But was this not Ferguson’s wish? The simple point here is we need to use common sense and logic. I don’t like Moyes’ leadership and I will criticise him

  • It seems pretty clear some on here use the term fan very loosely.Moyes comes in and takes over from the greatest manager ever has to find out exactly what he has in terms of players and what each player is capable of,the players have to get used to Moyes and his style yet ‘fans’ expected for the team to come out flying.Funny really apart from two late defensive errors Utd would be second in the league and have already qualified for The knockout stages of the CL and still undefeated,please tell me how this is consistently screwing up.A lot of fans were crying for Maureen rent boys for most part have been dogshit he’s done no better than Moyes yet some see him as the second coming,hypocrisy plain and simple
    Seems like some fans have a short memory,yes Utd won the league last year but RVP came out of the gate flying and how many games did Utd have to fight back from losing positions lots,it could’ve been very different
    Every ABU and opposing fan in the country is shitting on Moyes and Utd, all the cunts want him to fail.Moyes was recommend by Sir Alex and backed by Sir Bobby and the board as fans we should show a Utd front and back our manager,not shit on him just like all that hate Utd are doing

  • @Jay Wire, nice composition. Thanks for letting that out. TELL THEM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Bigred……criticizing moyes openly this early in the season DOES make you no different than any abu cunt out thr……you’re fan making long statements when the team does well and 1st to criticize when we have a bad result….go support chelsea,better suit

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