CARDIFF VS MANCHESTER UNITED
In its past life, Cardiff was reserved for United’s appearances in various showpiece occasions, yet Sunday’s game brought something different. It has been a long time since a top flight encounter between the reds and the, err, not sure what colours Cardiff should be referred to these days, but the buzz seemed that United would come up trumps against Malky Mackay’s well drilled team.
In: Ferdinand, Cleverley, Fellaini, Januzaj and Hernandez.
Out: Carrick, Vidic, Jones, van Persie and Kagawa.
- The midfield two didn’t work; clearly unadventurous enough and awkward in their combination. The pair were not able to break up play cleanly nor progress United forward with any real intent.
- The isolation of the forward. Hernandez had an unfruitful afternoon, albeit for the exceptional piece of skill to feed the ball to Rooney, as his service was scant.
- The right hand side. The Valencia and Smalling combination is solid yet unspectacular. It also has a stop start movement about it as they both move forward and are unproductive when cutting in. The graphic below shows how deep the crosses from the right were; helped with how far the Cardiff wing backs were positioned.
- The chance for Welbeck and the failure from Rooney to give United the three points at the end of the game showed the killer instinct needs working on.
United’s familiar 4-2-3-1 had a different feel to it as the absence of Carrick and his plus one, was filled by Fellaini and Cleverley. It was interesting to note that as the half wore on how United’s shape had a right sided slant to it.
Cardiff meanwhile, in a 3-5-2 formation meant United’s wingers had to be on high alert to deal with their pacy wing backs, Theophile-Catherine and Taylor.
Yet it was to United’s early advantage to exploit the space the wing backs had left behind, particularly on the United right where Smalling pushed on.
BOOM! That man Rooney put United ahead as the space was exploited purposefully and with decisiveness.
Cardiff defender Turner was pressurised by Hernandez, forcing the ball to an advanced Valencia who quickly crossed to Hernandez on the 18 yard line. The Mexican turned the ball round to Rooney, technically superb in execution but somewhat
fortuitously, who then rounded himself to hit a deflected shot. 1-0!
Cardiff to their credit didn’t take this lying down and stayed in contention in an innovative but brief 3-1-4-1-1, which saw Medel, in conjunction with Whittingham, grab the initiative, taking the ball on and allowing those in front of him the assurance to press. Supplementing former red striker Campbell was the impressive Jordon Mutch connecting passes and moves successfully.
This was most evident with the sweet pass he laid onto Campbell which eluded Evans as Campbell neatly finished for 1-1. This was impressive as Evans is no slouch but the weight of the pass was good enough to take it beyond his reach.
However, the issue was the poor positioning further up the pitch from messrs Fellaini and Cleverley. They were caught too high up the pitch and thus allowed a move/ball which was too direct and passed through the centre of the pitch too easily.
The formations didn’t change but Mutch was now much (no pun intended) further on and thus becoming more involved in the game than before. His passing range looked to work on the ill-positioning of Evra and the lacklustre display by Januzaj (see image below).
It was no surprise to see Januzaj replaced with Welbeck, returning from injury, out to the left. As a result more pace was injected into the attack and a degree of defensive solidity was prevalent. This was quickly modified by Moyes to get some add creativity and composure in the middle as Fellaini and Cleverley were not performing. Welcome ‘home’ Giggs, who came on for Hernandez, thus pushing Rooney on and Welbeck in and higher.
The game was a good spectacle but there was a sense of inevitability about the Cardiff equaliser, poorly defended this time by Cleverley. Yet it shouldn’t have been that surprising as the defending in the sixth minute was poor when you consider the amount of space Campbell enjoyed (see image below); it was fortunate that the ball didn’t end up in his path on this occasion.
The poor defending allowed Kim to head the ball in unchallenged and put the score level; number five of 11 from a set piece for Cardiff this season.
The result was made worse by the wasted opportunity that Rooney tried to lay on for Welbeck but his pass lacked pace and accuracy.
The midfield two clearly didn’t work. Fellaini has yet to show us what Moyes sees in him, yet in fairness most United fans have seen what he can do when he played for Everton and thus cling to the hope that such form will be shown vey soon. He needs a PR Manager as his clumsiness seems amplified yet he only committed one more foul than Cleverely and collectively United gave away fewer fouls than Cardiff. The pass and move style of Carrick, whilst not Xavi or Iniesta, gives United a certain rhythm which was absent from this game. Giggs always does a sublime job for United you do wonder how much longer his emergency service is going to be required, as he tried to connect the midfield to the striker, particularly in the channels where we saw Hernandez make his runs. This didn’t happen throughout the game and the isolation obvious as the heat map below shows.
The question that United fans will keep asking is, are Fellaini and Cleverely United standard?