Under the spotlights at Moss Lane on a cold rainy night, United’s young hopefuls made light work of a determined Torquay United side that set up, at times, with 7 men at the back.
Goals from van Velzen, Barmby and a magnificent opener from Lawrence eased United into the 4th round.
An additional own-goal (with possibly the second best finish of the night!) swelled the scoreline to 4-0, but in truth this game stagnated in spells as United experimented and strolled through the game with consummate ease.
The return of Lawrence gave us a chance to view himself and Januzaj in the same team for the very first time. It injected a new balance between midfield and attack. Both like-minded, similar players, they alternated position minute-by-minute creating havoc on the edge of Torquays box.
To give you an idea of Torquays tactics tonight, they attempted to play a 7-2-1 with a deep line along the 6yd box……AND play offside!
In the first half, with arguably McGuiness’ strongest available eleven, United dominated possession and rarely looked in any danger of conceding unless they made a mistake.
On 18 minutes Lawrence had been the victim of some harsh decisions inside and outside the box, you could see he was visibly a bit miffed, but, á là Wayne Rooney v Newcastle a few years back, he picked the ball up at the edge of the box, moved nicely into the space ahead of him, then drilled an unstoppable effort into the bottom left hand corner. Simple, effective and born out of frustration. 1-0.
Shortly after, Lawrence fed Barmby who expertly beat the keeper one-on-one for 2-0. The game was up, Torquay were going home.
Thanks to the congested box and the space available outside it, United peppered shots from long range. Rudge, who for me is quickly becoming this teams best central midfielder alongside Joe Rothwell, was unlucky to see efforts go high and wide, especially one with the outside of his boot, his expression said it all, had that effort found the top corner it would be up there with Pogba’s opener at this stage last season.
James Weir had an effort saved and Lawrence continued to fire efforts on goal.
All this was happening while Januzaj quietly but super skilfully pulled the strings. Adnan has a gift, not many players at his age are capable of so naturally taking the ball under control without looking at it. His first touch is outstanding and it gives him the time and freedom to get his head up and play.
From 1 to 6 (Jacob to Rudge) the players held their positions, from 7 to 11 no one had a position. The interchanging was a joy to watch. It wasn ‘t orchestrated by the gaffer it was intuitively dealt with by the players. One minute Barmby was left, Daehli was right; the next minute Barmby was down the middle, Daehli was right and the increasingly frustrating GvV was on the left! Add to that Lawrence and Januzaj swapping roles through the centre and the forward play was as fluid a shape as you’ll find anywhere in the country at any level.
2-0 at the break and we were just a few short minutes away from a superb display becoming a disjointed and less effective one with the removal of United’s three best performers thus far. Lawrence, Januzaj and Rudge were replaced with Byrne, Hendrie and Love. That isn’t to say that the football on display was poor after that, it wasn’t, it was just less impressive.
Love as usual impressed down the right and Weir impressed when he moved into the middle. It was Weir who created the fourth and final goal. He showed determination and intelligence to fend off his man when under pressure before surging forward and sliding a pass through defence that found its way to Love (via Barmby) who precisely squared it across goal and into the path for an unmissable finish for GvV.
Before that there were similar chances that should’ve seen Sam Byrne add to his now up-and-running goal tally, but, as seems to be his problem week after week, he’s rarely in the right place at the right time to convert simple chances like any natural striker worth his salt would be. If he doesn’t add this to his game soon he could see his chances limited in my opinion.
There were so many positives to take from tonight. The return of Lawrence and the obvious connection between himself and Januzaj. The continuing improvement of Jack Rudge in central midfield. A cleansheet, however easily it was achieved. Tyler Blackett demonstrating maturity beyond his years to recognise when a team mate requires special cover & support (Charni was outpaced by Torquay’s very own Linford Christie) and provide it whenever necessary.
However, one issue still remains and it’s that old chestnut again, communication. It’s deathly quiet out there, not a soul making themselves heard. It’s a facet of the game that’s so easily overlooked when things are going to plan but remains fundamentally important regardless. Or is it just me who thinks that? No one else seems too worried by the lack of a leader and the overall lack of communication.
No games now until 2012 gives the boys a well earned break to train and enjoy the festivities while it gives me withdrawal symptoms!
This team is getting better and better and I honestly believe a decent cup run, maybe all the way to the final, isn’t entirely out of the question.