Tuesday 12 December 2017

Moyes breathing easier thanks to 'Wayne' Januzaj

Manchester Utd 2 Swansea City 0

Adnan Januzaj
Adnan Januzaj

Jim White

The chant rolling from the Stretford End midway through the second half on Saturday was unequivocal: "Every single one of us stands by David Moyes."

If not quite the love that was offered in the same tune to his predecessor, it was not the sound that might have been expected from listening to the football phone-ins or following social media since the turn of the year.

As the United manager has presided over a horrible Hogmanay hangover of three successive defeats, the whining has been unceasing from supposed fans demonstrating all the spinal consistency of an amoeba. But the hard core of his club's supporters, those with a clearer understanding of the issues he faced on taking office, retain faith in the man the banner hanging from the Stretford End dubs "The Chosen One".

And as Moyes' team collected their first double of the season, there was just a hint, the merest whiff, of optimism in the air. True, the figures still do not make entirely appetising reading. As they began the second half of the league campaign, this United have only beaten one of the division's current top nine.

Here, at home against the 11th-placed side, they enjoyed a mere 39pc of possession, the lowest they have recorded since Opta started tracking such data back in 2006.

Still, there are statistics and statistics. And the stat that counts insisted that, despite the recent slump, this victory, achieved through goals by Antonio Valencia and Danny Welbeck, was the fifth in the past six league outings.

"There you go," Moyes said with a smile when that number was pointed out to him. "It is amazing how you can turn things around. Five in six: if you had said that, maybe six weeks ago, you would win five out of six, I think most people in the public and the media would say that is not bad. Better six out of six. But five is not bad."

What was perhaps more significant about this fifth win was that it was achieved largely through the efforts of the one inarguable improvement Moyes has made to the team he inherited. Adnan Januzaj, the teenager he promoted from the youth ranks, was the orchestrator of this victory. His certainty and enterprise provided the kind of attacking threat that is a prerequisite for United sides.

It was his crosses that conjured up both goals. Plus, he was responsible for three defence-splitting passes so sumptuous Eric Cantona and Paul Scholes would have been pleased to execute them.

"I knew a little bit about him because his name had been mentioned to me," Moyes said of the prodigy who was waiting when he took over the club.

"But the minute we got him away with us in pre-season we knew right away there was something there. He has shown no fear, he is a great talent and he will only get better."


He certainly got better in this game. In the first half, Moyes had started him behind Welbeck in the No 10 position, with Shinji Kagawa on the left.

Though Januzaj forged United's best effort of the half, when he struck the crossbar with an arcing free-kick, neither was able to wrest much possession from the characteristically smooth, industrious Swansea midfield.

The groans that met Chris Smalling's aimless punt upfield midway through the half suggested this was not a formation likely to thrill.

At half-time, Moyes swapped his creative duo around and, perhaps more importantly, instructed Darren Fletcher to push further forward.

Immediately United appeared to have more balance, more purpose, more panache.

After less than a minute of the restart, Januzaj had taken control of proceedings. With Swansea's right-back, Angel Rangel, already yellow-carded and thus obliged to be cautious, he vigorously exploited the available space down the left to send in a whipped cross.

Kagawa's header was palmed out by Gerhard Tremmel straight to Valencia who drilled his first league goal at Old Trafford since St Stephen's Day 2011.

From there Januzaj was rampant. Welbeck stabbed home after another cross from him had fizzed around the Swansea box, while both Smalling and Kagawa missed sumptuous openings created by his intelligence and skill. It left his manager swooning about his ability.

"He is in the Wayne (Rooney) category," Moyes said of the player's youthful potential. "He is a real calm boy. He practises every day and he has that little bit of arrogance that all the top players have in their own way.

"They want to do something special. They want to take a player on. They want to try something."

Mind, Moyes is not the only one to have noted the youngster's burgeoning influence. In fact, so sizeable is it, that Jose Mourinho, ready to welcome him next Sunday to Stamford Bridge, will be more than aware right now that if you can stop Januzaj, you stop United. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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