To say that playing Shinji Kagawa in the position he’s supposed to was the reason Manchester United walked away from Leverkusen with such a dominating win wouldn’t do justice to the rest of the team, which included another fantastic performance from Wayne Rooney and a rare effective one from the aging Ryan Giggs, but there’s no doubt David Moyes finally saw what his Japanese playmaker can do when he’s used the correct way.
The problem? Kagawa won’t have too many chances to play behind the striker, because Moyes’ first option is playing Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney together, with Rooney dropping further back to the hole position. That means that Kagawa is forced to drift left, where Adnan Januzaj is a much more effective player, or simply wait on the bench, which seems to be the solution Moyes will be forced to carry on with when he’s not doing any rotations.
Manchester United brushed Leverkusen aside with a crushing 5-0 win, that doesn’t only clinch the top spot in the group which means avoiding teams like Real Madrid and Bayern Munich in the knockout stage, but also ended many questions about David Moyes and his team, getting closer to the Christmas stage of the season. After an away draw against Cardiff, a road trip to Leverkusen which began with some nervous moments at the airport was exactly what the shaky English champions needed.
What worked so well? It was more what didn’t work for Leverkusen, exposed for a very poor defensive team at Old Trafford last time, with nothing changing this time and the BayArena, even though they were defending a very long unbeaten streak at home, not to mention having a head coach in Sami Hyypia, who you expect to install a bit more defensive fortitude with any team he’s working with.
Ryan Giggs, surprisingly, was the answer for once as Manchester United keep looking for someone to take over for the injured Michael Carrick. Phil Jones played next to him to toughen up the middle against counter attacks (which is something Moyes should do more and more with the young Englishman), while Giggs provided the calm and wise presence in the middle of the pitch. It wasn’t flawless, but it was exactly what Manchester United needed, allowing the four attacking players a lot more room to press high and keep the pressure on a fragile defense.
Is this the Manchester United battle cry? The deceleration of finally arriving? Once again, one match isn’t going to do that, even if it has 5 goals in it. To be truthful, away matches in the Premier League are tougher than what most Champions League group stage matches usually are, with a different kind of intensity and mindset. While David Moyes, especially him, is judged on both fronts and no one can take away from him such an impressive win, the more important work and decisions he has to make still await him, sometimes coming in less illustrious circumstances and less flashy opponents.