5 Things We Learned: Manchester United 2-0 Wigan Athletic


By Matthew Jones

1. Van the Man back in the groove again

With all the transfer talk this summer either concerning the future of Wayne Rooney or the outlandish and unrealistic pursuits of Thiago, Cesc Fabregas, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, we seem to have forgot all about a certain Robin van Persie.

The Dutchman scored 30 goals in a dream debut campaign for Manchester United last season and he picked up right from where he left off at Wembley yesterday.

It took RVP just six minutes to open his account for the season, with a quite superb header giving United the lead in the Community Shield against Wigan.

His second may have come courtesy of a fortunate deflection, but while the future of Rooney will continue to dominate the headlines until he stays, goes or the transfer window closes, it’s nice to have a reminder that Van will still very much be the man again for the Reds this season.

2. ‘Disastrous’ pre-season

Partly because it’s been a poor showing on the results front and partly because David Moyes has become the first new United manager in nearly 27 years, there has been a storm cloud hanging over the club all summer.

Again, much of that has had to do with our failure to land any signings of significance as well as the Rooney saga, but going into yesterday’s season curtain raiser and even after we’d won the game, many newspapers tended to focus on the negative.

Belittling the opposition as a Championship club, claiming the win meant nothing and that it was still overshadowed by the Rooney issue were just some of the narratives told by journalists covering the Community Shield.

Of course, they are largely right. Wigan were relegated last season, the Community Shield is not a major achievement and Wayne Rooney’s future needs sorting out.

But even though United’s pre-season has yielded only two wins (three if you include yesterday’s triumph), it’s been far from shambolic, as most media outlets would have us believe.

Pre-season is never a firm indicator of how teams are shaping up for the new season.

Javier Hernandez, Nani, Nemanja Vidic and Ashley Young have been absent either due to exploits for their countries or injury, and overall, especially on the pre-season tour to Asia and Australia, I was very impressed with the performances of several United youngsters.

While the Community Shield is, likewise, not an indicator for the upcoming season, it’s one week closer to the start of the new campaign and a game on home soil, and United were comfortable yesterday, if not explosive.

There was a high degree of fluidity to our passing game yesterday, if a slight lack of penetration and cutting edge to our attacks.

Ideally fans would like the excitement of some new signings and we crave that ‘marquee’ midfielder, but United are far from about to internally combust as most critics have been reporting.

3. Smooth transition

If anything, I think Moyes’ transition has been seamless and understated. He’s dealt with the mountain of Rooney speculation as well as can be expected and he looks comfortable in post. So too do his staff. It was almost Déjà Vu seeing Phil Neville on the touchline yesterday, issuing instructions to Antonio Valencia as he waited on the sidelines to replace Wilfried Zaha.

Moyes will not really count his first official trophy as a proper achievement and he knows he will be judged on retaining the Premiership title and his pursuit of the other major trophies, but it was still nice to see him lifting the Community Shield yesterday.

Captain Vidic motioning for Moyes to come forward and hold aloft the trophy also showed how the players are doing their bit to make the transition from Sir Alex Ferguson to Moyes a smooth one. Senior players like Ryan Giggs, Rio Ferdinand, Vidic and Van Persie have spoken in glowing terms of the new man in charge and I noted yesterday that Van Persie shared an embrace with goalkeeping coach Chris Woods as the final whistle.

Critics said initially that Moyes bringing his own staff – assistant Steve Round, Woods and first team coach Jimmy Lumsden – was disrespectful to the old guard of Ferguson’s, with Rene Meulensteen and co being forced out.

Thankfully that’s been replaced by a little bit of football now and Moyes and his men are beginning to stamp their own brand.

4. New season, new manager, same old United?

While of course it is too early to tell, and although several pre-season performances had suggested otherwise, United looked in good nick yesterday.

Yes, we must take into account the opposition – a Championship club despite the fact they were a Premiership side last season and were in the position to play United yesterday because they beat Manchester City in May’s FA Cup final.

Wigan failed to trouble David de Gea, in fact they did not register a shot on target, and it was a relative stroll for United.

At times we lacked a cutting edge to our fluid approach but I saw more cause for optimism than pessimism.

Patrice Evra bombed forward and was a constant attacking threat, Phil Jones looked composed alongside Vidic, Zaha showed some deft touches and imagination to build on his exciting outings in pre-season, the midfield of Michael Carrick, Tom Cleverley and substitute Anderson belied the notion that we are crying out for a big name signing in the middle of the park and Van Persie did what Van Persie does.

But more seems to be made of United’s lack of signings and the trepidation over Moyes’ capability to succeed Ferguson rather than focusing on the fact United are reigning league champions and finished 11 points clear of big spending Chelsea and Manchester City last season.

5. Bigger tests lie ahead

It will go down as a win, and a first official one for Moyes, but he and we all know that there are bigger tests ahead.

Moyes yesterday achieved what no United manager had been able to do since Walter Crickmer had with a 4-1 victory over Liverpool at Old Trafford in April 1931 – starting off their reign with a win.

And while I’ve adamantly spent this article insisting there is no need to panic if you’re a Manchester United fan, the next month will be the hardest period for the new manager.

We begin our league title defence this weekend with a more than tricky looking trip to the South Wales coast to take on Swansea, now an established Premier League outfit and a club, in contrast to United, which has enjoyed a sparkling pre-season in terms of both wins and new signings.

We also welcome Chelsea to Old Trafford and travel to Liverpool and Manchester City, and with the future of Rooney still undecided, Moyes could not have a tougher opening to his reign.

A big signing needs to be made, and if Rooney is sold (doubtful), he will need to be replaced – so make that two big signings.

My feeling now is that with around three weeks of the transfer window left open, there is not enough time to sell Rooney to the club’s satisfaction and find a suitable replacement, but it’s certainly a mess.

I agree with the majority that the best resolution is to keep Rooney at the club. But we cannot afford to have a discontent Rooney brooding in the dressing room.

No signings, a want-away Wayne Rooney and a tough opening fixture list – not many managers would swap places with David Moyes right now.

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