Half-time at Old Trafford. Liverpool and Manchester United storm back to their respective dressing rooms. 0-0 the score but Liverpool buoyed by the returning Luis Suarez and in control of the game left United fans questioning, not for the first time, whether David Moyes can go toe-to-toe with some of the countries biggest and best. Liverpool’s power, albeit diminished in the last few years, is still massively respected and they’re not a team which anybody looks forward to playing. This was yet another massive test for “The Chosen One”. Moyes changed it up at half-time, tweaking his tactics and motivating his lads into coming out and producing a strong second-half performance. It was Hernandez’s goal which gave Manchester United the win, but it was David Moyes which led them to victory.
Ever since his appointment, their were question marks over whether David Moyes was up to the almost impossible standard set by Sir Alex Ferguson. His record, in particular away from home, against the English elite was called into question and was scrutinised heavily by the media. A dire 0-0 home draw against Chelsea was followed by a flat and toothless 1-0 defeat to Liverpool, but this only set the scene for last weekends Manchester derby destruction. All of a sudden Moyes was back in the spotlight. There is such a thing as transition but was Moyes the man to lead this next generation United side to glory? Tonight David Moyes fired a returning shot at his critics.
The Scotsman showed his tactical nous, his ability to motivate and made himself the difference between a disappointing defeat or a valiant victory. He noticed his team were struggling to deal with Liverpool’s extra man in midfield, particularly when Luis Suarez dropped deep and began to dictate the game. Moyes’ response was effective, he ordered Phil Jones to man-mark the Uruguayan any time that he dropped off Sturridge and tried to take control of the game. It worked a treat. There was less direct running and less of a creative spark for Liverpool. Old-Trafford’s public enemy number 1 was nullified, forced to create space out-wide.
But Moyes’ tactical success didn’t stop there. The marauding Jose Enrique was causing Manchester United plenty of problems down the left hand side. Galloping up and down the flank whipping crosses in, looking for the clever pass or trying to get on the end of a chance. A regular criticism of Moyes is that he’s far too conservative and doesn’t have the confidence to stick or twist when it really matters. And with Enrique causing so many issues it appeared inevitable that he would create something note-worthy, this was a real stick or twist decision. Moyes ordered the impressive Rafael to push further up, forcing Enrique deeper. In fact, the only time the Spaniard was involved after half-time was an excellent cross which was almost headed home by Victor Moses – something which Rafael could not of defended no matter what instructions he was given. Not only did this limit the influence of Enrique it allowed Manchester United to really stretch Liverpool’s back 3. Sakho, Toure and Skrtel were pulled all over the pitch after Moyes gambled and pushed his fullbacks on.
Most obvious though is Moyes man management skills. He seems able to motivate his players, much like his predecessor was so renowned for. Wayne Rooney’s transfer situation was well documented but David Moyes has been able to put Wayne back on his pedestal as a key part of Manchester United. The Chosen One has got Rooney playing at his best, working for the team – something which many asked whether Rooney would have the desire to work as hard as he previously has. But once again it was another tireless and hard-working performance from the 27 year-old. Shinji Kagawa was another play which played with a willingness and passion to prove that he should be a regular. After being criminally under-used it would of been easy for Kagawa to pack his bags and return “home” to Borussia Dortmund. But he looks like he’s been set a challenge, he looks like he’s ready to come out and give David Moyes no option but to include him. Moyes has got the fire-burning in the Japan star and he looks set to kick on and enjoy a much improved second campaign.
So it was Manchester United which progressed tonight, it was by no means the most spectacular performance and the fans will be hoping this can act as a catalyst and allow United to really kick-start their season. But tonight it wasn’t about the performance, it was all about David Moyes. Could he deliver on the big occasion, or would he fall short once again? He definitely delivered. It’s no easy job replacing the greatest manager in the history of football, but tonight proved that Moyes has the potential to keep United in the hunt for titles both domestically and in Europe.