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The Month: United make tentative steps

December has left nobody knowing how good Manchester United really are: a tame draw and two defeats showed a team stumbling to one of those mythical places that doesn’t even offer the Europa League. The six consecutive wins in all competitions that followed, however, at least allows United to be relevant for a lot longer than others had hoped for.

After the 0-1 at home to Newcastle United, a second failure at Old Trafford in the space of a few days, David Moyes commented: “I think the game against Everton was very similar to the one against Newcastle. If we had come out on top in both games I don’t think anybody would have said an awful lot about it.” From then on, United were able to take their chances in games that were similarly close (Shakhtar Donetsk, Hull City and Norwich City) and find three points that either assured an easier draw in the Champions League (Olympiakos), or made sure they closed the gap when points were dropped around them. It could be looked at another way: United need to play better even in games they’re expected to win. December was like that for Manchester United and Moyes.

Not everything is so distorted, though. It is Danny Welbeck’s month: played in the middle, he has scored four goals this month, finding the opener in three different league games. And, in those, United scored no less (though no more) than three. There can be no doubting how much he enjoys the game in his favoured position (and his international record goes further in proving that). Welbeck can do more than just score, of course, but it is nice when he does that, too.

He makes it happen. It was his pass and movement that allowed him to get a second against Villa, and his quick closing down of the ball that helped him get the winner at Norwich. It wasn’t coming at Carrow Road until Moyes turned to Welbeck at half time. And for Adnan Januzaj’s at West Ham – his first of many at Old Trafford – it was Welbeck who had initially done well to win the ball, later playing a one-two with the teenager. Januzaj’s feint and finish would be one of the goals of the month had Wayne Rooney – again, with Welbeck’s help – not hit a superb volley at Hull.

Problems still exist for Manchester United but they aren’t ones that an impending transfer window cannot solve or, failing that, good form from their existing crop cannot alleviate. Tom Cleverley and Ashley Young looked a lot more like United players (the latter useful in taking United to a cup semi final), but all legitimate doubt still remains, while the return of Darren Fletcher does something for midfield depth. Januzaj and Welbeck would have to continue being the bestest, and Rooney’s presence somewhere between midfield and attack should stick. It’s been clear recently how much his increased presence in the middle has helped, even if the player apparently prefers to play further forward. Maybe we’ll hear more about that in July.

Back to Moyes. In addition to the quotes above, again, before the winning run, he also said this: “I stand firm we will be very close. I hope we are in it at the end of the season.” The reason for that, he adds, is “the players – because I am working with the champions.”


 

14 Comments

  1. Tommy says:

    Great xmas period for the reds, Great article Zac, Danny Welbecks been the main man this month, pace, power and has added calmness infront of goal lets hope it continues going into 2014. I am feeling confident for the rest of the season that we can get ourself back into this title mix, After the Newcastle defeat we fell 13 points behind Arsenal and I must admit I was feeling very down about the season then but since then we have closed the gap to 8 points, hopefully we will close the gap even more in the coming weeks and by the end of January be right back in the mix, 3 more points needed tomorrow, come on reds!!!

  2. wayne barker says:

    missing Rafa and Jones along with Rooney and RVP are big losses i’d be tempted to start Tony V at RB then bring in Januzaj ahead of him at this point Utd have nothing to lose and need the 3 pts.

  3. dannysoya LOVES USAIN BOLT says:

    HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL REDS OUT THERE!!!! It’s also the official opening of the winter window. Have we signed anyone yet? If by the time I wake up Moyes has not signed anyone, he should be sacked immediately LOL. It’s gonna be an eventful month and year to say the least.

  4. Tommy says:

    Happy transfer window i mean new year reds

  5. ThymmEde says:

    The sooner we get into the top four, the better for us. winning our next two games will increase the team’s fighting spirit and title push

  6. Hamzah says:

    Zaki Fryers says he’s proof that it’s not always down when you leave United!
    I’m glad he left us. Never rated him anyway and he’s almost third choice at Spurs!
    He’s obviously deluded and the manner that he left United speaks volumes about his personality.
    United have not been innocent in the past as was the case with Pogba and we all know how that turned out.

  7. Tannor says:

    Great article, simple yet intuitive.
    Happy new year to all reds and RoMers….. GGMU

  8. slim says:

    Happy new year lads.
    Tough game today. Unavailable players doesn’t help either.
    Smalling been great over the festive period so i think he’ll start. Hard to see Moyes not starting Januzaj. Playing just off Danny (if Rooney misses out). That means Young or Kagawa on the left, and on current showing the manager would probably go for Young.
    Center of the Park will be vital and i think i’d have Fletcher and Clevs in there. Definitely not a game for Giggs(to start anyway). Need these 3 points badly

  9. Mark Reid says:

    Happy new year one and all.Hope we can continue with good results,just to let the front runners we are on their heels.Looks as if the January window will be unproductive with Moyes saying he’s not a big fan of buying in January,and his statements today about rebuilding from within.So let’s hope we can stay injury free and a midfielder pops out of somewhere.

  10. Dan Young says:

    I feel well sorry for all these 16-19 year olds sellling out their career by going to city cause they offer the most money. They will be such a huge amount of talent wasted. Look at john guidette, great striker that would be up to about 40 apps at united, everton or arsenal yet he barely gets a look in at city. Anyone heard of any potential arrivals at united?

  11. slim says:

    Dan Young

    Most of those guys are coming from harsh backgrounds and the 21st century reality stings like a mother. For the sake of these youngsters, hopefully, it won’t all end in tears

  12. NairobiRed says:

    @dan young
    Read somewhere city want to build an english la masia and have even brought in coaches from barca to set it up. They have pumped massive amounts to improve the youth academy which was a joke. Guess we will know in a few years when the current under 16 are 19-20 if they will be given opportunities or if city will continue to buy and ignore youth.

  13. UnitedFaithful says:

    Hearing Roo might be out for this one which is a shame,I would prefer adnan in his fav position with Welbeck in front,both are hardworking players given instruction can drop deep and help out the midfield,if Spurs start with 2 in the middle that will favor us
    Happy New year Reds

  14. slim says:

    OGS is back in the premier league. Hopefully Mr Tan doesn’t get bored and start to mess things up again. Really hoping for a successful period for OGS. If that happens, he’s coming back to Old Trafford simple as. If he does a Martinez at Cardiff, he’ll be well on his way.

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