There was, Old Trafford would surely agree, an essential truth on Wednesday night as Manchester United hosted Liverpool in the League Cup. There have been few occasions in recent years on which the nation’s secondary cup has taken on such importance. No, David Moyes’ priorities have not shifted at all this season. After all the Premier League, Europe and then domestic cups follow in that order of importance. But a third defeat of the season, to a major rival at that, was beyond countenance.
Liverpool’s visit to Old Trafford, so soon after United’s devastating loss to Manchester City last Sunday, could not have come at a more critical time. Or opportune, depending on the perspective. While the League Cup might ordinarily provide fodder for United’s youth manager David Moyes could hardly afford another crushing defeat.
It was understandable, if unfortunate timing, that Moyes should change eight men for Liverpool’s visit, although it was to the squad rather than kids that the Scot turned. Three of United’s old-guard in the back-four simply had to be offered a rest, while Shinji Kagawa, Nani, Jonny Evans and Rafael da Silva were all short of minutes in recent weeks. Sound logic at play then.
But it is not always the science of reason that pervades in football; a sport of wildly contrasting emotions and a tendency towards the hyperbolic that is utterly deep-seated. In that it proved a decidedly brave decision by Moyes to swap around his entrenched first choice players, if ultimately successful, even if so many conspicuously failed at the Etihad.
On the pitch United barely edged Wednesday’s 1-0 victory over Brendan Rogers’ traveling outfit – a match in which the hosts defended resiliently for periods when Liverpool hogged possession. Little wonder, with the Merseysiders’ at full-strength for the 30 mile journey east.
Yet, just as United had secured a narrow victory in the Premier League following City’s 6-1 win at Old Trafford two year’s ago, so the Reds dug in to knock Liverpool out of the League Cup. United will meet Norwich City in the fourth round as part of a decidedly winnable run of games during October.
Beyond Wednesday’s victory United’s mixed start to the new campaign has proffered a conclusion: that the Reds are a little short of previous vintages, and quite some way adrift of the continent’s very best. Indeed, Moyes chose the eve of victory against the Merseysiders to remind all that he had sought at least two further reinforcements in the summer past.
As it happens United’s over-priced acquisition of Marouanne Fellaini is all the manager has to show for a summer of not inconsiderable frustration. Quite probably incompetence. It was a period in which United’s executive let the new man down when he needed the greatest support.
Moyes remains defiant in the face of early criticism of his new regime; a finicky assessment that is, of course, far too premature. More to the point Wednesday’s narrow win suggests Moyes is accurate in his assessment that while the Scot’s first choice side is short, United’s squad is replete with decent quality. Just enough.
“Where we’ve got work to do is bring players in to go right into the team – that’s the slightly different equation,” said the 50-year-old on Tuesday.
“We needed one or two who might have just gone in, but that will happen. We always said it was going to be a tough one and it was going to take a little bit more time.
“Not for a minute did I think this job was going to be easy. There will be days like we had on Sunday and there might be more of them because we are in a period where there will be transition. If people thought this was going to be easy and smooth after Sir Alex, I don’t think that was ever going to be the case.”
Admirable honesty one might say, although not entirely a mea culpa of course. Ed Woodward’s ability to navigate the January transfer market might be tested once again. And might define a campaign more than the new manager would ever have liked.
It is the nature of transition fascinates, with the principle change in the opening months of Moyes’ regime appearing to be an odd conservative bent. One demonstrated again on Wednesday, with Moyes swapping goalscorer Javier Hernández for midfielder Michael Carrick with 15 minutes to go. It could so easily have backfired.
Yet, with United’s “toughest start for 20 years” now out of the way the real work starts. Moyes’ ability to use his squad is key. Indeed, the fatigue demonstrated by Messrs. Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidić and Patrice Evra on Sunday ensures more time for Chris Smalling and Phil Jones in the weeks to come.
Whether Moyes can integrate creative players, including Kagawa and Nani, will be tested as the Champions League bites into United’s schedule. The short-term futures of Wilfried Zaha and the prodigiously talented Adnan Januzaj will beguile many. The Belgian featured as a late substitute at Old Trafford on Wednesday. Zaha didn’t leave the bench.
The suggestion that the Scot does not always trust creative players will persist until the more inventive among his squad are used in more challenging games.
Still, there can be no doubt of the relief ringing around Old Trafford by the end – a bouyant crowd pushing the home side over the line. More excitement for a League Cup third round tie than for many a year. And much of it had little to do with the competition or even opponents at play.
It is, perhaps, a realisation that after 25 years, United’s face is human again. Moyes seemingly knows it, although the brass undercarriage demonstrated on Wednesday night augurs well for future moments of pressure at least. There are likely to be many.
11 thoughts on “Chicho relieves pressure as Moyes warns of trouble ahead”
The thing that is passing me off is Moyes constantly saying we need, we need. Dude you have a really good squad!! USE IT FFS!!
That is so well said.
I think Moyes has brought a small club mentality to Old Trafford. He was never used to having a big squad to rely on. He had his best 11 and changed it around only when there were injuries or fatigue. There would be no way that SAF would have played Rio and Vidic in all of Uniteds first 5 or 6 games. Neither of the players are young enough to handle such a workload. It is like he doesn’t trust players like Evans and Smalling to do the job. Kagawa in my view could be immense for us, but he needs time on the pitch, and Nani is certainly much better than Young or Valencia. Certainly more creative at least. I hope Moyes starts learning from these small mistakes and that people like Giggs and Neville help him in steering this huge ship to calmer waters
Agree especially about Kagawa. His class is evident. but do we play at expense of Rooney? No.
Need a three man attack then: RVP, with those two to support. Rooney will/can drop back when needed, with Carrick, Fellaini, and Cleverly/Anderson. Encouraging Rafael and Evra to get forward.
That’s what I’d do. Give Zaha and Januzaj games too, but also plenty of time for Wellbeck and Hernandez.
Young is done. Bench player until January I reckon. Valencia is frustrating. Not been the same since big injury but still glimpses to suggest he’s fast and strong (if not creative).
Oh and what’s the craic with Powell?
p.s. Is this Migs Manzano?
Powell has gone out on loan
We have creative players in Kagawa, Nani, Zaha, Januzaj and even Buttner. But why did he play Giggs for the whole 90 minutes? I was looking for Zaha to come on for Giggs and move Nani to the left wing and Zaha on the right wing. I would have taken Rooney off late in the game and put in Carrick but I would have left Hernandez, Kagawa and Nani on for the full 90 minutes. These players need more playing time.
Decent result and an ok performance but some of Moyes decisions in team selection (Young playing in the derby and Kagawa never starting) and substitutions (surely Kagawa and Hernandez needed a full game last night) are beginning to grate on me. Of course, he sees these guys everyday and we don’t know what goes on but surely he can see that Nani and Kagawa are better options in midfield than Young in particular. I would also now expect Adnan and Wilf to see some game time now the difficult start is out of the way.
Was also bummed to see Kagawa come off just as he was finding his feet.
quality article, really well written. I’m not a massive fan of Moyes tbh, but I hope he proves me wrong over time
Credit where credit is due. I can not fault David Moyes for anything in last night’s game.
He has done surprisingly well in my book.
He gets a 10 out of 10 from me for last nights performance.
His courage in selecting an overhauled team was refreshing. I was particularly pleased with the selections of Nani and Kagawa and Chicharito.
I think we played well despite a lot of the players showing some rustiness as a result of a lack of game time.
Rooney was at his romping best and he led from the front
Nani is a much better option on the right than Valencia and it was a sight for sore eyes seeing the Portuguese unleashed and buzzing around.
Kagawa had a shaky start and conceded a lot of possession just as he has done in a lot of previous games as well. But I put that down to a lack of match fitness due to excessive bench time.
Kagawa grew into the game nicely, however, and in the second half really looked to be finding his footing. So I was disappointed he was substituted and denied a full game.
The fact that he grew in confidence is a promising sign and it tells me that with regular game time Kagawa will indeed blossom into a key player for us.
I was very happy to see Januzaj get a run out. It was not his best performance but I am sure he appreciated the game time and I hope it goes some way in encouraging him to sign a new contract.
Giggs was ok in midfield although I doubt Adnan Januzaj would have been worse in the same position.
Maybe Januzaj would have been a bit of a defensive liability. But going forward I think he would have offered more than Giggs.
Phil Jones was very good for me playing infront of that back four. I think he is actually a better option than Fellaini right now as a defensive midfielder.
I really like Jones and along with Rafael he is one of the bright prospects for the future.
I think there is a lot of promise in playing three central defenders like we did last night, two in the back line with one infront of them mopping up the danger.
It provides a solid attacking platform and affords preditors like Nani, Rooney and Kagawa the freedom to attack with some abandon.
Jones, Evans and Smalling did an excellent job last night. And again I comend David Moyes for making a bold selection at the back.
Going forward perhaps we can partner Evans with Vidic or Rio and set Jones in front of them.
Alex Buttner was another pleasant surprise. I have in the past written him off but he was solid last night and didn’t have any of the timidity that previously put me off him.
Buttner had a good game and really impressed me.
I enjoyed seeing Nani and Kagawa floating around swapping flanks. It was a welcome break from the dire performances that Valencia and Young have offered.
I was happy to see Rafael back. He played well with Nani I thought. It feels good having him back in the side.
I’m also happy for Chicha who got a goal again. He doesn’t need too much time to get his name on the score sheet. He is a real goal poacher and I hope he can get more opportunities.
All in all it was a great response to Sunday’s game. We were by no means imperious but I attribute that to the fact that the majority of the players selected last night were seriously short of game time coming into the tie. And perhaps the selection of Giggs in midfield is more of a plug than a solution.
On a night where Ferguson traditionally favours youth, seeing Zaha on the bench was a bit tough to take but in the context of our faltering start to the season I can not blame Moyes for looking to Ryan Giggs to help steady the ship.
If I were to gripe about anything it would be his substitution of Kagawa for Carrick instead of Giggs for Carrick thus giving Giggs 90min on the pitch and halting Kagawa just as he was finding his stride. I really don’t see the point of handing a full 90 minutes of playing time to Ryan Giggs.
But under the circumstances I understand that Moyes was most likely counting on the experience and leadership of Giggs to help keep a lid on things as we pushed to squeeze out a slender 1-0 victory
Enjoyed the match. I’m happy to see Nani back, which i certainly wasn’t thinking about a year ago.
I think we were a bit fortunate that Liverpool couldn’t quite find the final ball, as they looked a bit more dangerous on the break than us.