Match Day News

What We Learned: Manchester United 1-0 Shakhtar Donetsk

A classic United performance killed the game

Sure, it wasn’t wonderful to watch, and just as they did in the first half against Everton, United left too many gaps for Shakhtar to exploit and conceded chances that a greater team would’ve punished. But by the end of the match, they were comfortably on top against a capable side in desperate need of a victory. In truth, Phil Jones’ goal was a huge blow to Shakhtar’s hopes, but they truly struggled to get back into the match in the face of United’s disciplined control. Displaying those sorts of traits, more than spurts of silky attacking play, will prove more important to United in the next month.

That second half was almost exactly what United needed; it showed disciplined, control and displayed far more competitive desire. Seems crazy that we should even praise such basic components of United’s performances, but given the way the club has returned from the last international break, commitment on this level has been missing in action, and the manager will surely be happy having seen his side refusing to wilt with only a single goal lead to their name given their record this season.

David Moyes’ half-time team talk worked

david moyesAlright, United didn’t suddenly look like world-beaters in the second half, and there is still much work to be done before a real Champions League run can be plotted, but after a rather lacklustre showing before the break, Moyes sent his charges out with arguably more purpose after it. ‘Big deal,’ you may scoff, ‘that’s exactly what he should be doing,’ and you’d be right. But after two successive 0-1 defeats at home, United visibly raised the tempo and gained a measure of control on the game. Based on a rather assured post-match interview (remember those?) and an improved performance, Moyes gave his charges a kick up the backside and they responded.

What stood out most when the Scot faced the media last Wednesday night and this past Saturday afternoon was the sight of a man who looked like he was bereft of ideas and struggling for answers. Perhaps the penny hasn’t quite dropped yet but there was a noticeable change to United’s approach after the break, which has to be attributed to a rather stern rollicking in the dressing room. Moyes needs the confidence of knowing that he can change things and influence his side when things aren’t working, and last night was a baby step in the right direction.

United’s whipping boys actually fared well

Ashley-Young-vs-West-BromKnocking Ashley Young and Tom Cleverley is currently the least challenging thing on the face of the planet. It’s almost part of the routine of watching United these days and there comes a point when it doesn’t actually help anyone, least of all the team. The sarcastic applause that greeted Young’s second-half exit belied the fact that he nearly found the target twice and put himself in far more dangerous positions than the currently untouchable teenager playing on the opposite flank. Sure, he dug his own grave with those exaggerated flops earlier on in the season, but the notion appears to be that fans are happy for him to fail and are agitating for a replacement because of what he represents, as opposed to what he’s actually doing at the time. On the face of it, Young put in a fairly useful performance, even if hindered by Alexander Buttner’s deficiencies on the left flank.

The impatience reserved for Cleverley is a little less vitriolic, with many believing that he simply isn’t good enough for United’s midfield and questioning his contribution. Last night was something of a surprise, as he looked sharp and capable of contributing with some neat interchanges and passes. His presence shifted United up a gear (or half, if you’re not feeling generous) and objectively speaking, his contribution was more positive than it’s been for a while. The point here  is that even if you believe that there are players at the club who are limited, or frustrate you, if they pull on the shirt then they deserve support on the pitch (in Young’s case, silence will do), even if you rip seven shades out of them on the way home.

Shinji Kagawa is suffering with the club lacking confidence

shinji-kagawa-champions-leagueFor a player designed to sit behind the striker, orchestrate chances and work in small pockets of space, this hasn’t been an easy period. Kagawa has finally had a decent run in his preferred position behind Wayne Rooney but, Leverkusen aside, hasn’t much to show for it. Again, the accusations of square peg/round hole (which I’ve voiced on his page before) were there last night after a quiet, ineffective display, but perhaps a greater test of his talents will be when United are playing with a stronger midfield unit to support him, or maybe even one playing with some desire.

Far be it from me to clutch at straws or make excuses for his form, but there’s clearly talent in Kagawa that United haven’t fully tapped into yet, and given the club’s struggles creatively, finding the missing link to support the Japanese playmaker could prove highly beneficial going forward.

Top spot was the least that United needed from this campaign

Sir Alex Ferguson’s assertion that David Moyes had been handed one of the most difficult groups that he’d ever come across in this year’s Champions League group stages was generous in the extreme, but, popping his European cherry as he was, Moyes still needed to navigate this group stage competently. On the whole, he fared well, with the lack of goals against Real Sociedad the only big blotch on the six games that he’s taken charge of. United do look more composed and assured of themselves in Europe, an ironic twist on their form two years previously, and even if a juggernaut is drawn in the last 16, at least Moyes has a tangible achievement to pin to his notice board at home.

Of course, qualification for next season’s competition hinges on a serious recovery in the league, but after a difficult few weeks domestically, it’s heartening to see United’s new manager holding his own on his European debut.


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3 replies on “What We Learned: Manchester United 1-0 Shakhtar Donetsk”

Having a dig at the encouragement which the fans give to Januzaj seems an odd approach, if your aim is to try and get the fans off the backs of Young and Cleverley.

Kagawa has his true position behind the striker. good! but im still concern about our midfield. if Jones plot as Defensive Midfielder,then,we have less a Centre-Back. so, imo, in our concern,we need to buy or promote a CB.
i hope, such as Januzaj-Zaha-Powell-Lingard-Hernandez have more play in this season.

United We Stand!!

United need 2-3 new players who are firing bullets and they need a sort out.Moyes is,nt really doing much different from Fergie,except last season Van Persie was the man and this season he is knakkered.The next few games will say more which way it goes.The top teams are reaping the benefit of big spending.Still think a good manager helps..

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