5 Things We Learned: Swansea City 1-4 Manchester United
1. Perfect start for Moyes
If you’d told me at the start of the day that we’d beat Swansea 4-1, I’d have been a bit surprised. Swansea were going into the game having already played 2 competitive games this season in the Europa League while United hadn’t really played a competitive game since May, unless you count the Community Shield which lacked the intensity that I thought we needed going into the season.
Swansea did have the better start of the two teams but the two quick goals towards the end of the first half seemed to stun them and United looked more comfortable from there on and continued to improve as the game went on with the defence looking less rusty and the midfield started to look a little better too (perhaps due to Britton being replaced by Bony). Given our tough games with Swansea in the past and other factors I expected a closer result but Moyes employed a high pressing game that helped Everton win at Swansea by 3 goals last season. Michael Carrick, who is usually the deepest of the front 6 players in the team, was sometimes our furthest forward player when Swansea were in possession. Welbeck yet again worked his socks off when Swansea were in possession as did the other forwards.
The win was the perfect start for Moyes but there’s still a lot to work on ahead of the Chelsea game next Monday and the rest of the season.
2. Van Persie – Best striker in the world
A year ago, people were still debating whether he was a good signing or not and that was before an anonymous sub appearance from him in our 1-0 loss at Everton. A year on, we can look back and laugh at those debates as he has been more than just a good signing and today was yet more evidence of that. During the game, even at 0-0, I recall thinking to myself that he already looks as good as he did last season if not better. He’s looking very sharp and fit and has started the season in fantastic fashion, today he was involved in everything we did going forward and worked hard off the ball trying to win the ball back, tracking back and covering other positions. The 2 goals were absolutely top drawer, the 2nd goal in particular which he picked the ball up near the halfway line before proceeding forward before shuffling the ball on to his favoured left foot and rifling the ball past Vorm who didn’t have a chance.
He continued to show after the game why we all love him, as he has done in the past in his post match interviews, speaking very well and being humble by stating that he’d share his man of the match award with Welbeck, he also spoke very highly of the young striker’s abilities. A class act on and off the pitch.
3. Welbeck beginning to prove doubters wrong
A close second to the man above when it came to the man of the match award and had he not shown his inexperience by trying to dribble his way out of trouble, we may have been looking at a clean sheet and he may have been picking up the man of the match award himself at the end of the game. It took a bit of shine off what was a fantastic performance from Welbeck but he did redeem himself after the mistake by scoring late on with a fabulous chip that had it been last season may have ended up in the top tier of the Liberty Stadium but right now is playing with confidence and executed the chip superbly. His work rate and all round play were as good as ever but it’s his goals that would have caught the eye.
Welbeck gained a lot of criticism last season, some of it was fair, some of it was a bit harsh but at least it was constructive, most of it however was over the top. His goal return was not good enough even for a player who played mostly out of position as a wide man who had been given more of a tactical defensive role than the classic #9 role he had enjoyed the season before but it goes to show how much Fergie valued the rest of his game to continue to start him in games despite the lack of goals. Today he showed everything he did last season and added 2 goals to his name too. After the game, fellow striker Robin van Persie stated that he was pleased for Welbeck and called him an unbelievable player who has it all. Van Persie is a player who’s been in Welbeck’s shoes, like many strikers they struggle to score goals in the early stages of their career, Alan Shearer also stated on Match of the Day that he struggled to score goals early on too. Welbeck has shown with England and with United in the past that he can finish very well, but lacked the composure and confidence to do it on a consistent basis, today was further evidence that he does have the ability to finish.
This week has been a great start to the season for him, with another goal for England in midweek also making it 6 in 17 games for England but there’s still work to be done and I’m sure he knows it.
4. Moyes goes with experience for first league game
Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra, Michael Carrick, Ryan Giggs, Antonio Valencia, Robin van Persie and captain Nemanja Vidic, these players have plenty of League experience and provided a good core to the side today.
Before the game, many fans were questioning why neither Zaha or Kagawa were starting ahead of Giggs and Valencia and that was understandable given Giggs is nearing 40 and Valencia’s poor form last season but the selections pointed towards Moyes favouring experience for his first game which was more than understandable. The centre back pairing of Ferdinand and Vidic is possibly one of the best centre back pairings the Premier League has seen and despite them being on the wrong side of 30 now dealt well with Michu and Bony for most of the game, there were shaky moments however; despite the mistake from Welbeck to begin with, Ferdinand was perhaps also at fault for the goal. There was also a memorable moment when Bony managed to find space between the two CB’s to get a free header at goal. But apart from that and a shaky start to the game, both looked solid, Vidic in particular, who can hopefully stay injury free this season.
Giggs had a poor game but I still think his experience helped and he did have a hand in the first goal. Carrick had a good game, but not his best, he did however make 6 interceptions during the game, worked hard and kept things ticking. Evra looked very good going forward, delivering some fantastic crosses. Valencia provided a very good assist for Welbeck’s first goal and put in a decent shift. Moyes went with the safe option and went with experience in his first league game as United manager and it paid off.
5. Midfield problems still exist
Midfield has been a problem for us for a number of years now and we’ve never really seemed to be looking to add to this area of the squad until this summer with reported bids for Thiago and bids for Fabregas but neither have come to fruition and the same problems still exist.
We still have no alternative for Carrick, if he were to get injured, we’d struggle, and it also means it’s difficult for us to compete on more than 1 front as we can’t afford to rest Carrick. The retirement of Scholes, and the unknown future of Fletcher mean we’re also struggling for depth in midfield. Cleverley and Anderson have both had their struggles with fitness and injuries in too meaning we sometimes have to deploy Phil Jones or Ryan Giggs in midfield.
It’s an area we need to strengthen in and it seems Moyes feels the same, whether we can find a solution will be seen in the next 2 weeks, if we don’t, I think the title can still be retained if we can keep our main midfielders injury free but it will be a struggle and it will be even harder to try and win other trophies at the same time as trying to defend our title.
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