Adnan Januzaj is congratulated on his goals by Robin Van Persie and Michael Carrick after victory in the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland and Manchester United at Stadium of Light on October 5, 2013 in Sunderland, England. (Getty Images)
Januzaj vindicates Moyes’s faith with a brace
Although Manchester United have a long tradition of promoting young players, when the starting line-up was announced, many people were surprised to see Adnan Januzaj’s name ahead of the likes of Antonio Valencia, Shinji Kagawa, Danny Welbeck and Ryan Giggs, who were all on the bench.
But Moyes, whose trust in youth gave United Wayne Rooney, put some faith on the youngster and started with the Belgian 18-year-old wonder kid. And he didn’t disappoint, as he exuded class and confidence, which was almost non-existent in his fellow United players.
Throughout the first half, Januzaj was arguably United’s most potent weapon going forward and even came close to opening the scoring with a couple of shots. When he eventually did score, in the 55th minute, it was a right-footed finish at the edge of the box, timed to perfection. The fact that it was his weaker foot only made it better.
But the Belgian went onto score a sumptuous volley, bettering his first goal, one that was reminiscent of Robin van Persie’s last year against Aston Villa. The technique and the composure to wait and pounce on a dropping ball was nothing short of amazing, and Januzaj managed to execute that, with minimal fuss.
United enjoyed plenty of possession, but no real penetration
Although United had over 62% possession and had twice as many goal attempts as the home side, they still lacked that cutting edge in the final third. Far too often, crosses came into the box and there was nobody attacking it. On occasions, United found it extremely difficult to crack open the rock-solid Sunderland defence and tried to go round the back, but with no avail.
Whilst United ended up winning the game, they did so, only because Sunderland weren’t able to maintain their high intensity pressing, right throughout. They were in dire need of a spark in midfield, something that those on the pitch, apart from Januzaj weren’t able to conjure up.
Whilst Nani was his usual bag of tricks, his crosses never really reached the target. And the final ball is something United, still have to do some work on.
Sunderland can take plenty of positives from the performance
Just like in the game against Liverpool, Sunderland played with plenty of heart against Manchester United. After opening the scoring, they threatened to inflict further damage and their start to the game was nothing short of amazing.
The Black Cats started the game, with some high quality pressing, which forced the United back line into a mistake from which they opened the scoring. On that performance, they should believe that they can get out of the bottom three in no time.
Moyes needs to stick with a settled centre half partnership
They say that football is a game of partnerships. The one between the two centre halves is usually the one which decides whether a team wins the game or not. And at the start of the game, it looked as if Moyes was going to pay the price for chopping and changing too much.
At the outset, the pair of Phil Jones and Nemanja Vidic committed some embarrassing blunders, which might have just meant that United lost three straight league games for the first time since December 2001.
The most crucial of which led to Sunderland’s first goal as a poorly cleared header landed in the path of Vidic, who mistimed his clearance and presented it to Craig Gardner who scored. But fortunately for United, they gathered momentum from then onwards and finished the game on a high, without barely any mistakes till the end.
If Moyes has to start off with a solid base of defenders, he would do better than to chop and change them every week.
Rooney and van Persie have differing games
Rooney had the sort of game, which most players will dream of. Not only did he form an integral part of the United attack, he also did his defensive duty. Whenever necessary, he came back and got stuck in the tackle whilst also providing some raking long balls and deft through balls. Even for both the goals, he was involved and formed a major part of United’s attacks.
Robin Van Persie on the other hand, had one to forget. The Dutch striker missed a couple of sitters and didn’t really make too much of an impact of the game.