1. Having lost three games in a row, with the papers telling us we have to go back to 1961 to find the last time United lost four consecutive games, the pressure was on yesterday. The players and manager keep talking about how the results are unacceptable, but very little seemed to be changing. It was so important for us to win today and it’s funny how a dreadful season can make victories at home against midtable opposition feel like bloody fantastic achievements. If there’s any silver lining to our current position, it’s that every goal we score feels brilliant. A 2-0 win at home against Swansea last season would have been met with total indifference. This isn’t a feeling I want to get too comfortable with but I’ll grasp at any positives I can for now.
2. Super Danny Welbeck. There’s no one in the squad I enjoy seeing score more than him and now, with 6 goals in the past 6 games, there have been a few things to smile about over the past few weeks’ doom and gloom. He’s started 11 games in the league this season (played in a total of 15) and has 8 goals and 1 assist to his name. In all competitions, he’s 3 goals away from equalling his best ever season at United, but has played 20 fewer games so far. His goal came after Adnan Januzaj won the ball back for United after Swansea tried to get us on the break. He swung in a cross which Patrice Evra directed towards Welbeck, only for him to use the deftest of touches to beat the keeper. Welbz should have had two goals though but fluffed a great chance in the first half at 0-0. Lovely work between Januzaj, Valencia and Rafael meant it was on a plate for Welbeck, but he dragged his shot just wide of the post. It feels like everything that Welbeck does instinctively, he does brilliantly, but when he is given chance to think about it, he cocks it up. Still, in the absence of Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney, we are so fortunate to have a player like him who is banging them in.
3. Whilst Welbeck’s effort was faultless, resulting in a standing ovation from all four stands and his name sung when he was subbed off with a couple of minutes to go, Januzaj really stole the show. Having started behind Welbeck, he was pushed out wide in the second half, a role he has grown more familiar with in his first team appearances, and was brilliant to watch. His contribution to the second goal has already been noted, but it was his cross which lead to our first goal too. When he runs at players they don’t really how to handle him and it’s great to see. Having watching Adnan last season, it was clear he was head and shoulders above most other players at their level, but it’s hard to judge where he would fit in at Premier League level. As it stands, he’s the best player we have available by some way. Thank goodness we tied him up on that five-year-deal so he isn’t leaving for free this summer!
4. It may be hard to believe, but during this awful run of results, I don’t think United have played that badly. Or maybe I should say that badly in comparison to how we’ve been playing over the past couple of years. The difference is, with Ferguson at the helm, we’ve had that late push in the last 10 minutes and more often than not get the result we wanted. We haven’t looked good, we haven’t played with anywhere near the urgency you would expect, but I think three defeats in a row paints us in a worse light than the reality. Being entirely honest, that first 45 minutes, at times, was some of the worst football I can remember United playing. There was absolutely nothing going on, with us unable to keep the ball for longer than a pass or two and look entirely void of any passion or determination to get the game won. We still created more chances during this time though, with Januzaj hitting the woodwork with a freekick and Vidic getting nudged in the back to deny him a free header from a few yards out. The turnaround in the second half was huge though, largely thanks to Shinji Kagawa and Januzaj swapping positions, but all of the players seemed to raise their game and that was such a relief to see.
5. Kagawa showed some familiar glimpses of what it is that keeps some fans raving about him and urging others to stay patient with him. In the first half he was fairly awful, like everyone else, but he started pulling the strings more in the second half and playing some lovely balls in. He should have had a goal and assist to his name too, but two fluffs cost him. The first came from Chris Smalling (“he’ll wear what he wants” sung the Stretford End) after Kagawa played in a perfect ball. Smalling has already successfully scored a chance like this in the past, when starting our comeback against City in the Community Shield a couple of years ago, when he beautifully cushioned the ball in to the goal. Yesterday he just skied it over. Kagawa should have scored himself after doing everything right. He got in to great space, he beat the keeper, but then lost his nerve at the last minute and saw what should have been a buried shot come back off a defender on the line.
6. Antonio Valencia will be pleased to have got on the scoresheet again, although it probably would have been harder to miss. Smalling proved that players can miss from positions you would think are impossible though, so thankfully Tony buried it. Kagawa’s header forced a good save and Valencia slotted it away. In front of goal, he’s been far more effective since ditching the number 7, but he isn’t finding our players with his crosses.
7. The support Moyes is getting from match going fans in fantastic. Even at 0-0, when the players were struggling, “now every single one of us, will stand by David Moyes” was sung on repeat. It might not be to the liking of United fans on football blogs and internet forums, but the fans inside the ground, going to the game every week, are getting behind Moyes, just as Sir Alex Ferguson instructed.
8. Awful first half but an impressive second half. It was a relief to see the players with a bit of fire in their bellies second half. Robin van Persie watched from the stands and whilst we’re without him, and Wayne Rooney, we can be pleased with any victories we pick up. Now we have a nice easy trip to Stamford Bridge to look forward to…
To mark the anniversary of United winning the Treble with a team that had academy products at the core, Made in Manchester is available for just £3 for today only. Some of the best football writers take a player each, from Sir Bobby Charlton to Ryan Giggs, George Best to David Beckham, Duncan Edwards to Paul Scholes, and many more, with 30 articles in total. All profit goes to Trafford Macmillan so please support this fantastic cause.