Considering the rain of criticism falling down on David Moyes, an away draw in the Champions League inside a very tough stadium is nothing to be ashamed about, as Robin van Persie felt quite alone without Wayne Rooney by his side, while Marouane Fellaini might have been the most important player on the pitch in his advanced role, which is also keeping Shinji Kagawa out of the lineup.
An encouraging display is probably the best anyone can give Manchester United after their 1-1 draw in the Ukraine against Shakhtar Donetsk, with a total of 10 shots at goal and only three on target from both teams combined. A lineup with an intention to defend, clearly shown by the use of Danny Welbeck next to Robin van Persie, very suitable for away matches, and using Marouane Fellaini as the most advanced of the midfield trio, or giving Antonio Valencia a spot in the lineup back.
For about 65 minutes it worked fine. Manchester United had the game going their way for the first half and then some, even getting to score a plucky goal as Danny Welbeck stuck his feet in at the right time. It came after United caught a lucky break, as Tom Cleverley in an energetic by inaccurate performance wasn’t far from getting sent off just before Welbeck’s 18th minute goal with a rash challenge on the edge of the box, which surprisingly didn’t get any response from the referee.
Shakhtar did come to their senses in the second half and got a deserved equalizing goal from Taison in a rare link up of passes that actually managed to break through the Manchester United defense, holding very firm and organized for most of the night, with the duo of Chris Smalling and Nemanja Vidic doing very well at the centre of the defense.
So while there are those who’ll see this performance as another indication of David Moyes making too many changes (some of them forced) and overdoing it with his squad rotation and not exactly getting back on the right track, Manchester United did finally score a goal from open play and got a result many strong teams around Europe will sign off before taking that flight to Donetsk. Chelsea didn’t come back from there with too much fond memories last season.
Moyes was never going to put too much creativity in this lineup. When the back is turned and pinned against the wall, a manager goes to his basic instincts, and that’s playing conservatively for Moyes. A very physical and defensive lineup, which means there’s no room for Kagawa, as everyone waits for him to finally play in the position he has been meant to, or someone like Wilfried Zaha, currently fighting rumors that he slept with Moyes’ daughter, which seems to be like utter twitter BS.
An away draw in the Champions League is never something to complain about, and considering the group Manchester United are in (leading it along with Shakhtar), these won’t be two points they’ll be worried about dropping by the end of the group stage.