Send us a message

Interested in being a part of the team? Get in touch with us today.

A Mata of Confidence

 Posted by on January 30, 2014 at 5:28 pm  Blogs/Media, England, Manchester United
Jan 302014

Manchester United 2-0 Cardiff City
Robin van Persie celebrat 011 A Mata of ConfidenceThe relentless dithering of Manchester United today very much reminded me of a bipolar beauty with a dueling scar across her cheek, progressively dosing herself with doses of cocaine and morphine until she forgets the correct order of which narcotic she’s imbibing. It was very nice to take three points at Old Trafford, but the stop-start stuttering reticence United displayed against a team which is clearly the weakest in the league surely only served to remind manager David Moyes that the looming necessity of ruthless battlefield tríage can not be postponed until May. Devoid of communication and leadership, United’s back line repeatedly argued among themselves and careened into another. Lacking any ideas in midfield beyond getting the ball to Juan Mata or, alternatively, putting in, alternatively, high crosses to Robin Van Persie ori Ashley Young, they still had enough glimmering moments of inspiration to overwhelm the poor opposition. A toothless Cardiff City don’t really own any bullets. Yet they, nevertheless, knew enough to simply press United tight every chance they got. Incapable of periods of ball retention throughout a sloppy match, United never looked like they had it in the bag, even after going up 2-0.

It was expecting a bit much if anybody thought that Juan Mata, fresh off the club helicopter from Stamford Bridge would enter the fray full of crafty ideas and show instantaneous creativity. Still, there were brief glimpses of those slick, silky skills we’re used to from seeing him perform for Chelsea and Spain, even in this game, for us to feel encouraged. I have absolutely no doubt that the £37.1m we paid for the wee Spaniard is dosh well spent. Next to the Red Devils’ record purchase was the returning Robin van Persie, who we’ve all missed since he disappeared on December 10 suffering from hamstring and thigh problems. And with Wayne Rooney a substitute after missing five matches with an abductor injury, the crowd’s sense of anticipation ran fresh and high. Indeed, the crowd was feeling benevolent enough to create a tidal-wave of welcome for United’s once brilliant old-boy striker, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, which was about as passionate a favorite-son reception from the Old Trafford crowd as I have ever witnessed, surpassing the returns of even Denis Law, Bryan Robson and Cristiano Ronald. Long after his Cardiff City team strode out, the crowd kept up their emotional applause for many generous minutes after he took his seat.

United began the game with much energy. And there was only six minutes gone when Mata found a hole to slip into inside Cardiff’s box. He passed to Evra, who found Young, whose slow curving cross found Valencia whose header flashed against the bar. Van Persie was quickest to the rebound, but a staggering David Marshall managed to block his first header. Offered a second opportunity, however, RVP nodded his second attempt beyond Marshall’s reach, his first goal since scoring the winner against Arsenal at Old Trafford in November.

If Moyes wanted to know about the state of 40-year-old Ryan Giggs’ game, it couldn’t have pleased him much as he was repeatedly dominated by a hard working Jordan Mutch. Defensively speaking, Chris Smalling, one of our only rays of light during the Sunderland League Cup Semifinal loss, was more or less quality throughout the match. His partner Jonny Evans, however, struggled terribly. Repeatedly unable to position himself in a manner that might affect the freewheeling movement of both Craig Evans and Frazier Campbell, he was repeatedly unable to counter Craig Noone’s slow-dipping corners. Unable to cope without a Vidic or Ferdinand to give him guidance, Evans was a penalty box liability. Twice colliding with his partner Smalling and stranded way out of position twice as he misjudged crosses which neither Frazier Campbell nor Kevin McNaughton had the moxy to execute. To actually see the displeased Moyes screaming at Evans was, I have to say, comforting.

Whatever Moyes offered up to his players at half-time, however, did not improve matters. There was an early opportunity United failed to take to double their lead as Valencia played a sweet pass in from the right but Van Persie tripped as he prepared to shoot and his attempt flew wide. But for the early part of the second half United remained disjointed and awkward.

The sense that Cardiff might execute a cavalry counterattack and equalize at any second seemed realistic when Kim, on for Mutch, took possession near the right side of United’s area and fired in a delivery that, again, Campbell skipped away from the static Evra and Evans to meet. Indeed, Cardiff’s dogged inability to score had little at all to do with United’s defense. And as the clock ticked Rafael had more and more problems in finding the wherewithal to deal with young Declan John, who repeatedly exposed United’s inability to cope with diagonal runs off the left flank.

Consequently, Ashley Young’s well-taken goal in the 59th minute couldn’t have been more timely. Mata, who has such a refreshing panache for picking up the ball and dribbling laterally with his back to the opposition goal, was the provider. Staring to his left, he tapped a deft short pass to Young and the winger dipped, cut to his left and and fired home a nice bit of artillery that gave Marshall no chance.

Rooney arrived as a substitute for Robin Van Persie in the 62nd minute, which allowed Young to stay out on the wing now that Mata had time to burrow in behind the striker. The Scouser’s radar was a tad off, though, as he overcooked a hard shot from around 20 yards out after collecting a perfect long pass from Phil Jones. Seconds later, Valencia’s shot was just not quite hard enough as Marshall managed to direct his effort past the post. Over the last few minutes Januzaj, splendid and energetic while everyone else simply seemed knackered, came close twice and he seemed to be the only one who looked displeased as the whistle blew.

When the game ended and the players exited the field, I couldn’t help but feel light-headed at the notion of a forward line featuring Rooney, Mata, Van Persie, Januzaj and Young. I am expecting a return to the halcyon days of last season with wins of 5-4, 3-2, 4-4 and the like. We may not make fourth place in the PL this season, but I do feel a sort of staid optimism that there’ll be much more fun to follow than there was before.

Ivor Irwin

 Leave a Reply



Refresh Image


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>