If you regularly play football games (FIFA, PES, Football Manager), then you always have a 'B' team in mind when your first-choice players are too tired, injured or were ridiculously bad in the previous game.
In David Moyes' case, when he saw that his team had to face Manchester City and Liverpool in the space of four days, he was looking at a squad bugged with all three of the scenarios mentioned above. His best striker is injured and his strongest defence and midfield pairing were either too jaded or run over in the previous game in embarrassing fashion.
What he needed was a response, from his 'B' team. That's not demeaning the starting XI yesterday. What it means, is that it was his second choice team (most top teams these days could field two good teams). And how brilliantly they responded.
Moyes made eight changes to the side that was punished 1-4 at The Etihad, and it wasn't against a weak Liverpool team. It was in fact, strengthened by the Luis Suarez getting back to action after his chomping habits got him banned for 10 games.
Shinji Kagawa, Nani, Javier Hernandez, Phil Jones, Alex Buttner, Rafael, Ryan Giggs and Jonny Evans came into the side and apart from Buttner, all of them made a claim for a starting place in the next match.
There's also a mention for Chris Smalling, who was owned by Samir Nasri while playing at right-back against City, and was like a wall against Liverpool while playing his preferred centre-back position. His partner Evans was also massive.
And while United fans have seen enough of what Kagawa can do, the Japanese playmaker needed to put on a show to convince Moyes to play him regularly — and he delivered.
His positioning in the first half, cutting in from the left, allowed Wayne Rooney and Hernandez to push further ahead and his infield passes to the attackers created tremendous space to exploit. He had a total of 50 touches, made three key passes and found his target 91% of times.
That United couldn't do it from open play is another problem for Moyes to solve, but there was no dearth of moments when United poured forward, only to return goalless.
After Hernandez' the goal from the corner, Moyes allowed Kagawa to move into a free role. The result was that he was everywhere — like a bouncing wall for other midfielders and put Liverpool's marking in disarray. His highlights include slick passing with Nani, incredible control in tight areas to open up defences and a stinging left-footer which grazed the top of the bar. In short, he was the creative spark United were so lacking against City.
Jones has divided fans — should he be used as a right-back, a centre-back or a defensive midfielder? Yesterday, he played just in front of the back four and with a cracking defensive performance (six interceptions — best of all 22 starters, five effective clearances and one shot blocked), has given one more headache to Moyes. His ball distribution wasn't so bad either — his passing accuracy calculated at 85%.
It was good work from Moyes, he's feeling around and judging his best formation also. Against City, two defensive minded midfielders (Michael Carrick and Marouane Fellaini) didn't really keep the goals from flowing. At Old Trafford though, Giggs played ahead of Jones in a conservative 4-2-4 and it helped shore up the defence while adding more flair in midfield through the Welshman.
Yes, there are worries — an over reliance on Rooney is creeping into the side and they look slightly clueless in the final third at times. But the intensity is back — and a win over Liverpool, in any competition should give the champions some much-needed confidence.
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Updated Date: Sep 26, 2013 15:31:23 IST