A step in the right direction, but far from vindication. Bringing in Juan Mata to spark this ailing Manchester United team into life seems to be a needed investment, but it still remains to be seen if David Moyes can find the right tactics to make his new signing, Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney work together in the same lineup.
Manchester United didn’t put on a great performance, but got just enough to avoid another visiting team at the Old Trafford breaking a long forgotten streak of win-less visits. Robin van Persie, who hasn’t played in 11 matches and hasn’t scored since November was in place and on target in the box to ease the pressure from a team that hasn’t been doing well at home. Ashley Young’s goal in the second half was there to ease worried minds.
But it was the beginning of something new, and possibly a perfect example of how low-regarded the Manchester United midfield is. Juan Mata should have been playing right next or behind Robin van Persie according to the pregame team sheets, but the Spanish playmaker, who hasn’t played for Chelsea in almost a month, had no problem going down the whole pitch to pick up possession from his own defense and start from there.
Mata and his teammates still aren’t completely in sync. They seems unused to such a passing-based and reliant player, and it’s up to Moyes to make the tactics comfortable for everyone, Mata and the rest included. But it finally gave his team a creative midfielder who knows what to do with the ball, but if in the next match he’ll find a way of making it so he doesn’t have to run the entire pitch each time to start and finish an attack, it would be helpful.
Wayne Rooney came on for Van Persie in the 63rd minute and almost added a third goal. From Mata’s arrival, the player that will be hurt the most is Shinji Kagawa. There is no indication he’ll be moved by the end of this transfer window, but seeing him playing is going to become a rare event. Adnan Januzaj is also going to be hurt by Mata’s arrival, but his versatility will give him the chance to find playing time.
But why Ashley Young in front of him? Because Young, behind all the diving, is not a bad player, especially when the pressure is off of him to create. Few players in the Premier League do that cut from the wing to the middle as well as him, and when a defense focuses on Van Persie and Mata, that opportunity for him comes up more than usual. He also tracks back better than Januzaj, with the same going for Valencia, and with Manchester United planning on using Rooney, Van Persie and Mata in the same lineup, they’ll need more support to their defense.
However, if that trio is going to be a permanent fixture in the starting lineup, something is going to change. Maybe using Rooney as a semi-winger, maybe something else, but unless Moyes wants to risk infuriating one of his top players, he needs to find a way to make all three of them work in a lineup together without neglecting his fragile midfield and defense.