1. Poor substitutions cost United
The main talking point after the game has been the substitutions, baffling to say the least when they were made and even more so after the game had ended.
The first sub to be made was Giggs for Nani left me confused, it made no sense unless Nani was carrying an injury. Nani had been doing well defensively and was a threat throughout going forward despite getting more and more frustrated at the lack of action taken against opposition players who were constantly fouling him. Giggs’ experience is incredible but that alone cannot help us win games. If we wanted to bring Giggs on, it would have made more sense to take Januzaj, who was looking very tired in the 2nd half and he’s an inexperienced player who still has a lot to learn defensively. Giggs is also a left sided player so that sub would have been better for the balance of the team.
The 2nd sub to be made was Welbeck for Fellaini and while Fellaini didn’t have a good game I don’t think there was really an alternative option to him and as was the case against Shahktar Donetsk, we looked worse without him, holes appeared in midfield and we began to invite more pressure.
The 3rd sub saw Smalling enter for Rooney which was quite a negative substitution to make with the game still in the balance and seemed to be a case of Moyes trying to make up for the failings of the first 2 subs with Jones moving into midfield to shore things up. While negative the sub did make the most sense out of the 3, Rooney had been poor and with large holes appearing in midfield moving Jones in to midfield made sense, however it did break up the centre back partnership that had looked solid all day but I don’t think it really affected us.
The shape and balance of the team worsened with each sub, inviting more and more pressure from Southampton, culminating in Southampton equalising. Hopefully Moyes will learn from these mistakes and others he has so far made at the start of his career at this club.
2. Frustrating performance from Rooney
After a summer of doubt over his future, it has been nice to see Rooney in good form so far this season but he was far from his best against Southampton. It was the type of performance we often saw last season. His touch was frequently poor, failed to beat the offside trap on a few occasions including during the build up for our goal which he got away with and his passing was inconsistent, something that isn’t that surprising against a team that press the ball well. Rooney has tended to struggle with his passing in the past when pressed and it was no different here, before the game I’d hoped that given van Persie’s injury knocks and Rooney’s good form that Kagawa would come in to play in his favoured role behind Rooney as I thought the game would suit him. Despite Rooney not being at the races, I thought it was probably one of our better attacking performances under Moyes and we had some good passages of play, one of which resulted in Rooney hitting the bar.
Rooney is a player who’s talent cannot be denied but these performances have become all too frequent and it’s not good enough especially at a time when we need him the most.
3. Fellaini fails to impress again
I had a few worries about signing Fellaini, one of which was that I had not seen him play as a central midfielder much for Everton as he was mostly deployed as a second striker where his strengths were utilised best, when I had seen him there, I saw nothing that made me think that he would one day end up playing there for us. When he did sign I was underwhelmed but given our lack of numbers in midfield I was also glad that we had managed to bring someone in, a rather desperate state of affairs.
He started pretty promisingly with a good cameo display against Crystal Palace and a good performance from the start in the next game against Bayer Leverkusen but since then he has looked out of his depth.
He was below par again against Southampton but we didn’t have an alternative on the bench and looked worse without him, it was a similar story against Shahktar Donetsk where he was also below par but we ended up drawing the game after he was taken off while we were winning.
It’s still early days for Fellaini but it’s not been a great start from him, hopefully he can improve. Right now I think Cleverley, when fit, should be starting with Carrick, it provides a better balance and is a tried and tested partnership that won us the league.
4. Evans superb for majority of the game
Making only his 3rd start of the season, I thought Jonny Evans was our best player on Saturday, really stepping up as one of the more experienced members of the back 5, his leadership qualities were on full display as he marshalled his defensive colleagues about, he didn’t seem at all fazed when on the ball despite Southampton’s high pressing game, his passing game was excellent as was his defensive game, making a number of key interceptions and clearances. He also brought the ball out of defence well too and drove us forward, creating a few chances. He and Jones both deserved a clean sheet given their performances but because we drew some will perhaps point to us missing Vidic but for the majority of the game I thought we looked comfortable in defence and I thought the game really suited Evans and Jones as younger, more mobile centre backs. Smalling also did well when he came on. I’d like to see 2 of the 3 given a run of games at the heart of defence now as we look to the future and Evans would be my first choice after this performance.
5. Januzaj – The future and present
This season has so far been a painful to watch as a Manchester United fan but if there has been one reason in particular to not get to down in the dumps about our current state it has been the emergence of Adnan Januzaj. The young Belgian’s talents were well known by fans of the club’s U18 and U21 teams but he became a household name after his match winning exploits at Sunderland before the international break. Before the game on Saturday, speculation on whether he’d sign a new contract at the club ended as a 5 year deal was announced.
While he didn’t get his name on the score sheet here, he was equally as impressive, playing some fantastic passes including one that led to our first goal which really deserved to have been an assist, a pass that even the best players in the world would have been proud of. Given his age it wouldn’t be a surprise for him to have big weaknesses in certain parts of his game but I can’t really pick anything out, decision making is something that is often picked out as an area in which a young player can improve and while Januzaj can still improve in this area, it’s not something that is really weak, defensively he has done alright too. The only negative so far is that he does get tired which is understandable at this stage of his career, it was quite surprising that he played the full 90 on Saturday given he was clearly tired.
In Januzaj we have found a star not only for the future but for the present too, we may be struggling as a team at the moment and it’s not pleasant viewing but it’s also an exciting time as we watch an exciting young talent develop.
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