Playing against an aggressive, counter attacking side on the road, David Moyes decided he’ll go for speed and physicality by using Danny Welbeck as his striker, playing ahead of Wayne Rooney and between two true wingers in Adnan Januzaj and Antonio Valencia. It worked out quite well for Manchester United, maybe starting once again their slow climb up the Premier League table.
With Robin van Persie out for a month, everyone seemed quite convinced that it was going to be Shinji Kagawa playing behind Wayne Rooney, but the Japanese midfielder is still suffering from his stomach being pumped, not to mention Moyes simply not using him when he doesn’t have to.
The result? There was no slow passing or movement in the midfield that allowed Villa to press and go on their counter attacks. Ryan Giggs isn’t very fast, but he released the ball quickly enough and Tom Cleverley finally put all of his running around the pitch to good work, also getting a rare goal in the second half to pay off his hard effort.
The big winner from all of this was Danny Welbeck, beginning the season as a permanent fixture in the lineup but slowly disappeared as Moyes kept changing the formations, schemes and lineup selections, not really knowing what to do in order to get the team back on track, or even a start of some sort of impressive winning streak.
The weakness of the Manchester United midfield when compared to other clubs above them in the Premier League means that there isn’t one lineup suitable to play everyone. Going for quick, aggressive units like the one in the 3-0 win over Aston Villa is suitable against teams who weren’t planning on trying to hold the ball anyway. When there’s need to be the dominant, possession heavy side, a different approach or at least a different pair than Giggs and Cleverley seems to be more fitting.
And again, Moyes needs to make sure this isn’t another case of Fool’s gold. After losing two consecutive matches at home, one win over a lower-half team isn’t going to erase all of his problems and mistakes. There’s plenty of wishful thinking sewn into his new idea, of Welbeck carrying the attacking load, someone who has never proven to be a consistent finisher despite getting plenty of chances at several positions. With Van Persie out and Javier Hernandez also injured (and not really being in Moyes’ plans anyway), there aren’t that many choices anyway.
The other best player in the match was Antonio Valencia, who you never know which side of the bed he’ll step out of. Playing with Rafael on the wing, there was perfect unity and timing between the two on when to overlap and when to join in. Valencia might be one of the more frustrating players to watch at times, but he’s the only fit to put on the side next to Rafael, who continues to neglect his defensive assignments and needs someone to cover for him. It’ll be interesting to see if Moyes can stick with the same lineup, more or less, for more than 90 minutes or is he already contemplating the next change.