5 Things We Learned: Manchester United 2-0 Swansea City

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By Matthew Jones

1. The next big thing

Adnan Januzaj is a star in the making.

Manchester United fans have probably been excited about him since the start of the season. If you’re as much of a United fanatic as me, you’ve probably seen plenty of him from last season’s reserve and U18 games and been purring over him a little longer.

Neutrals and fans of other teams have probably only managed to see him properly over the last month or so…but they’re probably excited too, even though they perhaps won’t admit it.

But Januzaj’s emergence is much more than a youth product stepping up to the first team and showing the world what he can do. He looks like he’s been there for years.

One of the most sacred elements of Manchester United’s history is the iconic Number 7 shirt. George Best, Bryan Robson, Eric Cantona, David Beckham and Ronaldo have worn it in the past and I noted with interest after yesterday’s win, that one United publication posed the question ‘Should Adnan be made United’s next No7?’. I said no, largely because I don’t want to place too much burden on his young shoulders, but out of over 400 comments, I think mine was the only negative one. I doubt that the world burden even exists in Januzaj’s vocabulary.

At a difficult time for the club, it’s been our youngest player who’s stepped up the most. It’s clear he’s certainly no flash in the pan. He’s influencing and contributing in every single game that he’s played in this season. The phrase ‘if you’re good enough, you’re old enough’ springs to my mind and Januzaj is one of those kids that just doesn’t play like a kid. Nothing fazes him and unlike Antonio Valencia, you get the impression that he would thrive in the No7 shirt, not wilt under the pressure of it.

2. Midfield shines…no really!

Hallelujah! At last we dominate a game in midfield.

Swansea are an attractive team to watch, they pass intricately and keep possession well, and even though this was evidenced on Saturday, most notably in the first half, in the second half, the hosts out powered and outplayed them.

I think the Darren Fletcher & Michael Carrick combination in the middle of the park is the partnership Moyes needs to persist with now throughout the second half of the season, depending on whether we add reinforcements in this transfer window.

In the first half, a few fans of other teams I was watching the game with commented on Swansea’s control of possession and boasted that teams never used to do that to United at home. The Sky commentators did the same. But as the old adage goes, what’s the point in dominating possession of you don’t do anything with the ball. Additionally, Swansea were largely keeping hold of the ball in their own half and made precious little of their dominance of the ball. In the second half, David de Gea had hold of the ball and the camera zoomed in on him. His face puzzled me for a minute and I didn’t immediately recognise him, he had so little to do during the game.

In the second period, we stormed out of the blocks. Switching Januzaj to the left and moving Shinji Kagawa inside proved a masterstroke, and we should have won by a more comfortable scoreline. Carrick and Fletcher stomped their authority on proceedings too and Swansea were swallowed up and drifted harmlessly out of the game.

3. Welbeck comes of age

Danny Welbeck is turning into the complete striker.

He’s a prodigious talent and the one thing that critics have always said is missing from his game is goals, that he lacks composure in front of goal.

He’s always had the tricks, the pace, the link up play, the footballing brain, but regular goals are the one thing that’s been missing from his game. After scoring two against Aston Villa on December 15, his manager David Moyes challenged him to score 20 by the end of the season. He’s scored four more since then and with 12 goals in all competitions this season, he’s well on his way to his target.

He’s obviously benefitting from Rooney and Van Persie’s absences, so the trick will be fitting him in once they’re back, but when you consider he bagged just one goal in the entire 2012/13 campaign, he is definitely making progress.

4. Shinji Kagawa

Despite having a decent debut campaign in a red shirt, Shinji Kagawa attracted quite a lot of criticism. That, coupled with the change in manager and difficulties that has brought, seems to have affected him for the most part of this season. Many have questioned whether Kagawa has much of a future at Old Trafford. When players like Anderson and Nani have been given six seasons to have a breakout season and have failed to really do so, it would be harsh in the extreme to get rid of Kagawa and in Saturday evening’s game, the playmaker showed glimpses of just what a talent he is.

Kagawa’s predicament is similar to that of Welbeck and Javier Hernandez too. His opportunities are going to be limited when Rooney and Van Persie are fit and healthy, especially to play in his favoured central position.

It’s clear that he is more comfortable and more effective when he plays in the middle, behind a striker. It strikes me as odd that he looks out of place on the left wing, when he plays almost exclusively there for his country, but that has to be down to tactics.

Unlike Welbeck, who has often been shunted out wide in his fledgling United career, Kagawa possesses no real pace and tends to drift out of games out wide. To get the best out of him, he needs to be deployed centrally.

Obviously, it’s a catch 22 situation, but his performance against the Swans at least showed that he is definitely an asset, one who is more than worth keeping around. Like Welbeck, he needs to be more clinical in front of goal and he is often guilty of overplaying. I loved his little dummy to sit Ben Davies down when Rafael played him in on goal on Saturday, but his effort was weak, he just needed to bury it, but he definitely took a few steps forward in his United development.

5. Stick by Moyes

“Your job now is to stand by your new manager.”

These were Sir Alex Ferguson’s parting words to the Old Trafford crowd against Swansea – the same opposition on Saturday as at his final home game in charge of the Reds last May.

I’m happy and proud that United fans have largely remembered Ferguson’s words and are standing by Moyes.

It’s been a baptism of fire for Moyes in his first six months after replacing arguably the greatest manager of all time.

United have been poor and, being United, that’s attracted criticism.

There have of course been moans and groans over Moyes from United fans too, even some boos heard at Old Trafford, but overall we’re sticking by him, and more importantly, it seems the team is too.

I went to Sunderland for the Capital One Cup semi-final first leg last week, where the chant ‘Oh every single one of us will stand by Davey Moyes’ was heard for the first time. The fact that this chant has morphed from a song about how much we love Fergie speaks volumes for me.

Many United fans did not rejoice when Moyes was appointed, he wasn’t there first choice, but the fact that the majority of us, and certainly the away fans, are vociferously backing him, is testament to our belief that either Moyes will succeed given time, or that as long as he’s the manager at least, he will be given our full backing.

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3 Comments

  1. Great article. Fletch looked like he never left, and I felt comfortable when Fletch had the ball like he wouldn’t make a mistake. I thought we gave Swansea too much space and time in the first half.

    In my honest opinion I think Valencia should not be starting, he is no longer the player that he was even with goal scored. He is not a threat, he is too predictable.

  2. So sad to see Fabio leave to Cardiff and he will be out of contract. I believe he would have been a great squad player. He was never given a few games here and there. Who knows in a few years we might be saying “Moyes sign Fabio”.

    Mats Daehli has rejected United’s approach to sign for Cardiff. He was one hell of a player in the academy, I don’t understand why he was sold to Molde when he had so much potential, everyone who followed the youngsters know how talented the guy is. I thought it was just a stint to get first team football and come back to us. We have lost a lot of talented players from our academy in the last few years.

  3. The boys shows no fear and willingness to take responsibility on field. He got Ronaldo’s quality written all over him. I think he should be given that #7 shirt.

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