David’s darlings

October 10, 2013 Tags: , , Reads 18 comments
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Legendary Italian player Paolo Maldini was 35-years-old when asked if he still got nervous ahead of matches. “It’s much worse now”, he replied, “when you’re young, you don’t really care about all the fuss, you just want to prove yourself.” There’s probably a lot to learn from Maldini, and even more so when last Saturday’s game against Sunderland and subsequent goals from youngster Adnan Januzaj are put in to context.

Unlike many senior Manchester United players, the young Belgian-Albanian seemed to enjoy his football, looking eager to prove himself. There was no stress as Januzaj took two beautiful goals. The first a fine pass out to Patrice Evra on the left, with Sunderland hardman Lee Cattermole snipping at the young attacker’s heels, followed by a well-timed run in to the box and nice finish with his right. Januzaj’s second was even better when a poor John O’Shea clearance was hammered into the corner with a volley even Robin van Persie would have been proud of.

There’s no denying Januzaj a run in the first team now, not after Saturday’s display, especially if David Moyes considers Ashley Young to be the youngster’s main competitor on United’s left! England international Young hasn’t performed well in the United shirt since the Reds beat Manchester City at Ethiad in December, almost a year ago. Moyes probably realises this too, which perhaps is why Young was nowhere to be seen last weekend.

The soon-to-be-out-of-contract Januzaj actually became the youngest ever to score two goals in a Premier League game Saturday evening, so if Moyes and executive vice chairman Ed Woodward know a bit about what they’re doing – and the jury is still definitely out  – they’ll make sure the youngster signs a lengthy, and profitable, contract extension. The club can ill afford another Paul Pogba situation.

Can you actually win something with kids; perhaps Moyes should look to Januzaj and other United starlets to save this so far dismal season? It’s not as if blame can be attached to any of the squad’s younger players for United’s tepid season start.

Take Rio Ferdinand, for example, who was omitted from the squad against Sunderland with a groin strain. The England international has been at fault for much that’s been going on in United’s defence this season. Both of Bayern Leverkusen’s goals in the Champions League came from Rio’s mistakes, and the same argument can be made of West Bromwich Albion’s goals at Old Trafford.

Which begs the question: where’s Johnny Evans? Thoroughly solid two seasons on the trot, the Northern Irishman seems to be another of United’s forgotten men after his comfortable display in his first game this season against Liverpool in the league cup. Maybe Moyes blames the international for United’s shock defeat against WBA?

Phil Jones should perhaps have done better when Sunderland scored the opening goal last Saturday, but United captain Nemanja Vidic won’t be pleased with the way he handed Craig Gardner the opening goal. And hasn’t Chris Smalling been pretty much outstanding when given the chance this campaign? Perhaps a little more faith in youth at the back is the way forward, while playing with some enthusiasm like Rafael Da Silva would be nice.

Januzaj might not be the sole bright young spot on offer for United this season. It was, after all, a masterclass save from ‘keeper David De Gea with the score still at 1-0 to the home side that kept United in the game.

And Tom ‘TC23’ Cleverley might deserve a few more games next to Michael Carrick in the centre of the park after two decent performances against Shaktar Donetsk and the second half against Sunderland. At least the Englishman brings a bit more energy than Marouane Fellaini, who so far seems to only be very good at passing the ball back to Carrick, or even further back towards one of United’s defenders.

Perhaps another one to claim a future place next to Carrick could be the attacking midfielder Jesse Lingard, who’s on loan to Birmingham City in the Championship until the end of October. Lingard proved during this summer’s marketing tour – formerly known as “preseason” – that he knows how to shoot, so there seems little to lose in offering the youngster time when the loan deal expires. Four goals in his first game for the Brummies prompted the experienced Birmingham assistant manager Terry McDermott to say it was the best debut he had ever seen.

Then there is Nick Powell, the first player to ever have scored a goal for Wigan Athletic in Europe – a player that was hailed by Crewe Alexandra legend Dario Gradi as one of the finest to emerge from the club’s acknowledged academy.

It is not too much to ask that talents such as Januzaj, Lingard and Powell are given a chance ahead of those that have been given many, but failed to impress. If only to make sure the senior players know that their places are under threat. After all, the aforementioned Pogba went from United’s bench to star at Juventus – it should never happen again.

It also might not be a bad idea to give Wilfried Zaha a first team debut sometime soon. The youngster could show a tad more creative spark than the ultra boring Antonio Valencia, a player that Patrice Evra once described by saying “I think he ate a motor!” Some how the Ecuadorian who has “eaten a motor” now fails to track back, pass opposition defenders or properly cross the ball. Maybe the motor is depleted?

Meanwhile, many seem to think that want-away star Wayne Rooney has been United’s finest so far, but his form is surely vastly overrated. The Scouser’s touch doesn’t look good – always a barometer – and running around like a very rich man’s Carlos Tevez isn’t going to win United enough matches, nor trophies, unless is for appreciating “effort” above all else.

Sadly, Rooney’s new-found striking partner Robin van Persie doesn’t look all that fit either, not after fluffing the chance he had to score United’s third goal against Sunderland when the Dutchman was through one on one with the home side’s ‘keeper. van Persie in good form would score in a position like that. Possibly even in his sleep.

There is even an argument – a brutal one – that a younger guard in Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernández have earned a chance during the coming run of ‘favourable fixtures.’

“Manchester United has always relied hugely on young players and my priority will always be to promote these talents”, Moyes said this summer. Now is the time to prove it, David, and play your darlings!


Lee Cooper - October 10, 2013 Reply

Agree pretty much totally “: David’s darlings – http://t.co/EqwlH7WD7e #unitedrant http://t.co/Rd6O0NaPBi

Erasmus Descartes Tyapa - October 10, 2013 Reply

Nice article, I think David Moyes must be his own man, Time to play the young Boys, DeGea, Rafael, Evans, Smalling, Fabio, Nani (left) Cleverly, Carrick, Zaha (Right), Januzaj (top), and Chicharito. Drop the old guys so that they can see that they are not untouchable. RVP was poor in Sunderland game and he played the full 90 minutes, Ferdinard, you said it already, Vidic not calm on the ball and he is playing to many long balls. Is he playing for Stoke City.

Mongoletsi - October 11, 2013 Reply

It’s a funny one with Nani: he’s obviously better on the right, but Valencia used to deserve that berth, so Nani plays on the left.

Zaha is right-footed, but played LOTS on the left for Palace.

So does Moyes deploy Nani on his preferred side, and have Zaha cutting in from the left?

Kagawa is 24 btw, so he should be on this list 🙂

The_Philosopher - October 11, 2013 Reply

Well said Mongo!

Denton Davey - October 11, 2013 Reply

Actually, I’d be quite happy to see Rafael, Smalling, Evans, and Evra across the back; MC16 and, for now, YoungTom in “defensive-midfield”; an “attacking-midfield” three of Nani, AdnanJ., and KagawaBunga behind Chicharito at the point-of-attack.

THAT would be a huge change but, really, what have Rio, Vidic, TheBigFella, TheWayneBoy, AV25, RVP, and – last, but hardly least – AshleyBloodyYoung done for us lately ?

Rio has been off-the-pace,

Vidic was sloppy for goals in two consecutive matches,

TheBigFella has been out of position with great frequency when he’s played,

AV25 has “lost his man” which resulted in crucial goals-against,

while RVP and TheWayneBoy have scored exactly how many goals from open play in the last six matches ?

Mongoletsi - October 11, 2013 Reply


I actually don’t know who you mean by this. And I suspect nobody else does.

Why are you such a sad twat mate?

Adam Vierthaler - October 11, 2013 Reply

“formerly known as the pre-season” – haha, classic

Brown - October 11, 2013 Reply

The earlier we free Anderson, the better for united and the lad as well. He might thrive in some other league, and might as well make the world cup. What is the essence of Giggs being a player manager, he might as well have retired and become a full time coach because i haven’t seen any meaningful contribution from him yet. Moyes should take more “risk” and field Kagawa in the middle. I totally agree with utd playing a diamond formation for now, with Kagawa as the head of the diamond.Moyes said he watched ancelloti train during his time at AC Milan, he could as well replicate what he saw there, kagawa playing as kaka. What plans does Moyes have for the loanees who have been performing excellently, he should as well take them into consideration before making any signing. He should consider signing will hughes.

Mongoletsi - October 11, 2013 Reply

Ando needs to go. He might average 30 games per season, but how many are as sub with 10 minutes left?

He’s only 25, but he should be playing the best football of his career between now and 30.

Unless he IS playing the best football of his career!

MK - October 11, 2013 Reply

I don’t think David Moyes has to prove that he will take a chance with kids. How many of you think Januzaj would have had so much game time if Fergie was still in charge.
It seems not matter what David Moyes does you are not going to be happy.

You were worried about him playing 4-3-3 and he is clearly playing 4-4-2. You were worried about him being negative…Cleverly, Nani, Januzaj, Rooney & Van Persie away from home at Sunderland. Is that not attacking enough for you???

I believe he has shown that he will trus the kids…just because Lingaard scores some goals in the Championship doen’t mean he’s a Utd player!

The_Philosopher - October 14, 2013 Reply

Moyes is only playing Januzaj because the kid has got him by the balls with the contract stand off.

twat - October 11, 2013 Reply

Yes, would quite like to see something like this youthful / understudy XI particularly well-suited to playing against two opposition attackers:

Smalling Jones Evans
Rafa Fabio
Cleverly Fellaini
Hernandez Welbeck

twat - October 11, 2013 Reply

Shape didn’t come out as expected… The twins as wing-backs, obviously. Jones given the chance to see if he’s the ball-playing centre-half many have said he is.

Ashish - October 12, 2013 Reply


This is another good piece.

Moyes has the chance to play youngsters like Cleverley, Januzaj and some others on a more regular basis.

It will send the message that no ones place in the team is secure.

Also what must be highlighted is just how dreadul out back have been this season. Rio and Vidic have certainly looked their age this season haven’t they ?

So the likes of Smalling, Jones, Evans will have a more prominent role to play.

Also, a final note: A player who has 5 goals in 8 matches can hardly be called “out of sorts” or “vastly overrated”.

If it were not for Rooney’s efforts so far this season, United would still be in the bottom half of the table.


Tone - October 13, 2013 Reply

Still not at all convinced by Jones. He runs around like a headless chicken trying to atone for his mistakes with the ball at his feet. Much prefer Smalling.

Digga - October 14, 2013 Reply

I agree with Ashish, without Rooney we would have an embarrassing points total so far this season, goals from open play or not.

That said, I agree with most of this article – Rio has been a liability, and its breeding doubt in our defensive line, the confidence isn’t what it once was and its leading to others making mistakes. Jones or Smalling should be brought into the starting 11 on a more regular basis.

Januzaj needs to be given the left wing whilst hes playing with such confidence.

RVP needs a break – plus Welbeck and little pea need games.

I really like Twat’s formation with the twins as wing backs, could work really well – numbers at the back, still got players getting up the flanks, and gives the opportunity for a more creative ‘number 10’ in the middle. would always be Rooney and RVP up top for me though!

twat - October 14, 2013 Reply

Oh yes, I’d still have Robin & Roo up front, too – I was just trying to show a more junior XI. What I like about the system is that it actually fits our players so you can directly replace the front five, for example: Carrick & Anderson in the centre with Kagawa in front of them, then RVP & Rooney up top. Valencia should be well-suited to the right WB role as an alternative to Rafa and obviously Evra (even Buttner, I suppose) on the left would have an added centre-back behind for security. Nani might struggle to find a spot, though..

Nick Ahmed - October 14, 2013 Reply

I agree with everything written in this article except the suggestion that Cleverley should be given more chances to play. You say that Fellaini has been guilty of playing the ball backwards..this is Cleverley’s biggest flaw. Fellaini has only had a handful of games in in a UTD shirt. Cleverley has played 37 times for us and the majority of his games consist of him passing backwards or sideways, throwing his arms around and moaning about nobody being free for him to pass to and being out muscled by opposing central midfielders . People often speak about Cleverly’s energy, however the only way he displays this is by running around like a headless chicken. Cheers

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