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Fellaini eases into shirt as Januzaj steals the show

September 15, 2013 Tags: , Opinion 11 comments
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So there it was at last. No, not David Moyes first win at Old Trafford. Nor, indeed, Marouane Fellaini’s first appearance in a Manchester United jersey, although the Belgian was deployed to good effect as a second half substitute on Saturday. The real talking point in United’s return to competitive action after the international break is reserved for Adnan Januzaj’s competitive debut. Composed, assured in possession, and prodigiously talented, Januzaj made ample claim for a major role in the season ahead as United beat  Crystal Palace on Saturday.

The United manager will take much satisfaction from the weekend’s events, although less from the Reds’ actual performance against a limited, but willing Palace side. Indeed, not until referee Jonathan Moss’s borderline decision to award the Reds a penalty, and dismiss the visitors defender Kagisho Dikgacoi for denying a goalscoring opportunity, did Moyes’ side final stamp its authority on the game. After defeat to Liverpool a fortnight ago victory was the minimum demanded by a passive Old Trafford crowd.

Meanwhile, Fellaini, on as a 62nd minute substitute for the largely ineffectual Anderson, enjoyed an unexacting debut. The £27.5 million Belgian midfielder rotated possession well, remained tactically disciplined when required, and even got off one fine long-range effort.

There will be far sterner opponents than Palace’s Mile Jedinak, of course, but at least the new United man remained on the pitch; those famous Fellaini elbows kept close to the midfielder’s chest in an understated display.

More allure lay elsewhere though. It was 50 years to the day since George Best, the waif like winger from Ulster, made his United bow. Best became the finest to grace Old Trafford before or since. And while the future holds no guarantees for the nebulous Belgian Januzaj, the 18-year-old served to remind just how much the current United side is crying out for a little of Best’s sparkle.

After all, Ashley Young’s outrageous dive, for which the 28-year-old was righly cautioned, was only marginally more irritating than the former Aston Villa player’s consistent mediocrity. Upgrade urgently required.

The Belgian kid drew the foul from which Wayne Rooney cracked home United’s second in a performance of real verve, but not before reminding home fans of the vast potential already demonstrated on this summer’s tour. That Januzaj is yet to sign a new contract will also remind Reds of other supremely talented teenagers to have escaped United’s clutches in recent seasons.

Januzaj is impressively keen to receive the ball, possesses good balance and intelligence beyond his years. The goal threat is muted, but as the teenager fills out he should become more potent in multiple forward positions. It is little wonder that many observers believe the kid is the most natural talent to emerge from the Academy in years.

The  teenager’s promise lay in stark contrast to United’s laboured performance for much of the piece; possession turned into chances, but so few of them clear cut, while the Reds’ finishing remained sub-optimal bar Rooney’s outstanding set-piece.

These are still early days in the new regime, of course, but as in fixtures against Chelsea and Liverpool a sense of ennui pervades. Moyes’ tactical focus on function over form in central midfield and a traditional ‘width and crosses’ approach to creating chances will surely come undone against more astute opponents.

Moyes was happy enough to declare himself pleased with the performance, although United must certainly level up against Bayer Leverkusen in midweek.

“I’m very happy. I thought there was a lot of good play, in the early part of the first half we were very good,” said Moyes.

“We created a lot of crossing positions and goal-scoring opportunities which we didn’t take. We made it a little bit nervy, so I was delighted when we got the penalty kick before half time.

“We didn’t concede any goals, which is a great thing. At the moment, we’re looking strong defensively and that will be really important in the coming games.”

Meanwhile, compatriot Fellaini slotted alongside Michael Carrick for a half-hour cameo. It was an understated display, perhaps limited by the player’s debut nerves. Yet, the Belgian displayed none of the carelessness in possession that sometimes blighted his displays at Everton. The chest control and half volley just a few moments into his entrance a hint at the player’s genuine goal threat.

“It was a fantastic debut and we won. I was both nervous and excited. I thought I had to play my game and with my quality,” said Fellaini in the aftermath.

“The supporters helped me, it was important for me. We won today so it was good for our confidence ahead of the next game – because the next game is a big game, it is a Champions League game.”

Fellaini will surely start against Leverkusen on Wednesday – a game that Rooney should also make after surprising many by returning to action so soon after suffering a serious facial cut in training. The Scouser was less than his effervescent best, but the quality of pace and dip on the 81st minute free-kick will live long in the memory. That Robin van Persie also scored keeps up the pair’s better than goal-a-game ratio.

But the post match chatter focused on Januzaj, who will challenge both Antonio Valencia and Young for a place in Moyes’ starting side in the months to come. Januzaj’s development is a major bonus for the former Everton manager, whose likely strategy this season is to build a strong defensive base  and trust United’s creativity to width.

“I think I did some good things, but it is only my debut so I have to keep doing well on the pitch,” Januzaj told MUTV.

“I appreciate the very good fans, they gave me a bit of power when I came on the pitch. I hoped to get a goal but I tried to do my best for the team and tried to give goals and score goals.  Of course, I want more games to play and I hope I will have another chance to play for the first team.”

In that there is a warning of course. Last summer Paul Pogba departed, contract expired, complaining of limited opportunities in the first team.

“The boy’s going to be a good player, he’s 18 years old and he’s a good talent,” assured Moyes post-match. “I would have introduced him earlier if the games had suited. I considered playing him from the start.”

It is a promise fans hope the manager keeps.

11 comments

ian harris - September 15, 2013 Reply

Where’s the ‘warning’ ?

Ed - September 15, 2013 Reply

It’s figurative

twat - September 15, 2013 Reply

We need to offer the kid a good contract and get him signing it ASAP. The fact that City, amongst others I’m sure, are sniffing around doesn’t bode well.

Dayus D red - September 15, 2013 Reply

If you are good enough, you are old enough. Moyes should be bold enough to play these players. He should have played zaha yesterday. There was no need to send Lingard on loan to a championship club. If he must go, a premiership club would have been better. People say AV’s form has dropped but i disagree. The problem is defenders have now perfected a way of stopping his one dimensional runs. We need players who bring more to the table than crossing balls into the area.

Jean Paul Sosa Cifuentes - September 15, 2013 Reply

I hope Moyes won’t make the same mistake SAF did with Pogba, and I personally think Zaha should’ve played yesterday’s game, it was his ex-team so he knew what to do, plus he was an expensive asset, 12 million pounds are too much money for a young player.

Darren Nightingale - September 15, 2013 Reply

cracking piece

jimmymac62 - September 15, 2013 Reply

Sign him up

Denton Davey - September 16, 2013 Reply

AdnanJ – like KagawaBunga and Nani – provide real creativity (as opposed to the touchline-hugging charlatans who have been just awful so far this season). Two of those three (probably not AdnanJ) should join TheWayneBoy in the “3” behind RVP. They should also have licence to roam and interchange – that’s what Rooney, Ronaldo and Tevez did in 2008/9 which was just about the last time that UTD played consistently exciting footie. (SAF’s commitment to a fairly rigid 4-4-2 was producing results but there was NO entertainment-value.)

TheBigFella’s partnership with MC16 is going to be key for UTD’s success (or not) this season. Having to play the minder for an aged GingerNinja and then YoungTom or FatBoyAndo has meant that Carrick has been under-utilized. Let’s hope that the new partnership can “FreeMC16”.

My only other observation about that training match was that Rio was bloody lucky that Gayle shot wide – RioFerdy5 looked like a total amateur and, given the fact that UTD couldn’t score from open play, it could have been a costly and embarrassing moment-of-madness.

Tourettes @ the KOB - September 16, 2013 Reply

Absolutely agree about the forwards, the total lack of invention against the “might of Crystal palace” was embarrasing. Ashley Young must never play again, and get Adnanj and Zaha getting their playing time up alternating along side RVP and Rooney.
The other worrying aspect from the weekend was listening to Moyes saying that we played some good football and that we controlled the match !!! if this is what we are going to be watching and expecting, then mid table beckons. SAF should word him sooner rather than later , that “Average” performances from what he was used to at Everton, will not be tolerated at Old trafford .

hezron - September 16, 2013 Reply

The kid should be playing on the left in front of Evra, and in that case there is no reason why Ashley 9.0 Young should start ahead of him

therealdeal - September 16, 2013 Reply

Januzaj is`quality. Zaha would be excellent playing behind the striker with all his dribbling skill. Can alternate between Kagawa and Zaha in that position and alternate the right wing with Valencia and Nani. The left wing alternate with Januzaj and Young. Anderson needs to go out on loan or be sold.

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