We’ve been here before, haven’t we? A youngster scoring a crucial goal on his first start Manchester United, thus making it impossible to avoid the hype and hysteria and the words “star” and “born”. However, while hoping that Adnan Januzaj won’t become another Federico Macheda or, worse even, Paul Pogba Part 2, when one cuts through the fanfare that will surround the Belgian after today’s performance, it’s easy to realise that United have a wonderful, wonderful talent on their hands.
Januzaj’s performance was almost as brilliant as Wayne Rooney’s first start for the club, arguably even more impressive given that had it not been for the 18-year-old, United would have probably lost the game and sparked worldwide paranoia in the 650m-strong fan base Ed Woodward cares about so much.
If ever a team has suffered from bipolar disfunction, David Moyes’ Manchester United are that team. An hymn to ineptitude, slackness and disorganisation on Saturday, an almost perfectly oiled unit tonight, the Reds return from a complicated trip to Eastern Ukraine with a very valuable point.
Granted, it could have been even better had United not conceded 15 minutes from time, but how romantic that a man whose name rhymes with that of a disgraced boxer was the one to deliver a sucker punch to Moyes’ men?
“There’ll be more days like last Sunday” said David Moyes during the week, as he illustrated the transition Manchester United are going through at this moment in time. Well, David, thanks for the reminder but you shouldn’t have bothered to press your point home so swiftly.
Today’s defeat against West Bromwich, United’s first at Old Trafford against the Baggies since 1978, won’t hurt as much as last Sunday’s derby shellacking but is, in many ways, much, much worse than the abject performance that led to capitulate against a side that lost to Aston Villa today.
If Sunday’s capitulation against Manchester City had been United’s lowest point for quite some time, more for the manner through which the defeat arrived than for the result itself, tonight was the perfect response as far as David Moyes was concerned.
Granted, United did not exactly play entertaining football and, at times, were pegged by Liverpool and perhaps a tad lucky to escape with a clean sheet but while Moyes’ could have rightly criticised his players’ performance on Sunday, the effort his players showed tonight can’t be faulted.
When it rains, the saying goes, it pours. United didn’t so much have to negotiate some heavy rain, rather they endured a torrential downpour as they produced one of the most abject derby performances in recent years.
A day that had started badly with the news of Robin Van Persie missing out because of a thigh strain became progressively worse as United’s limits were laid bare and repeatedly exposed by an impressive City side which, painful as it is to admit, thoroughly deserved the win and could have even scored a couple of more goals.
“He was afraid,” said Roy Keane of one his teammates prior to the second leg of the semifinal in the 2001-02 season when United were knocked out on away by Leverkusen. “Played for his country, won championships, big star, fucking afraid of taking the big step up.”
There was no place for fear ahead of David Moyes’ first Champions League game in charge of Manchester United, certainly not in the man who, after signing for the club, stated his desire to emulate the belligerent Irishman’s achievements in a red shirt.
A promising debut for an 18-year-old, an exquisite freekick from a player who had looked poised to join one of United’s direct rivals throughout the summer and the first glimpse of the only significant signing to arrive in the transfer window would, normally, be enough reason to be cheerful.
Except that the 2-0 win matured against a newly-promoted side who spent the entire second half playing with 10 men after conceding a rather dubious penalty and that United barely looked to be playing with the handbrake on for large spells of the game.
I have to say it was not my intention of writing a review of today’s match but seeing as Dan is on vacation, I guess it is important that somebody does fill in and offer a take on what happened, so here goes nothing.
I have to start off by saying that things looked ominous and very suspect before the kickoff. The team selection for such an epic derby was nothing short of atrocious. Moyes is showing me nothing right now other than he is an unreasonable facsimile of Sir Alex Ferguson without the aura, intimidation factor and magic. A poor copy is still a copy and a copy is not the real thing.