MANCHESTER UNITED VS HULL CITY
Following the disappointment of defeat at the weekend against relegation threatened Sunderland Giggs decided to give youth a chance in this final home game of the season. Supplementing Adnan Januzaj he gave first team debuts to Tom Lawrence and James Wilson.
In: Valencia, Smalling, Kagawa, Lawrence, Fellaini, Januzaj and Wilson.
Out: Vidic, Ferdinand, Fletcher, Young, Nani, Mata and Hernandez.
- Having made five changes in his selection for the previous fixture Giggs made a further seven changes here from the team that lost to Sunderland. In this he is being true to his word; giving everyone a chance.
- This was an easy win. Hull City had one eye on a Cup Final of course and with a minimum of challenges the game had the atmosphere of a meaningless end of season game. That of course is virtually what is was.
- The young debutantes did well with Wilson grabbing a couple of goals. They inevitably looked nervous at first but settled down and did not look out of place. It would be interesting to see them play in a more competitive encounter.
- This wasn’t a great performance. The energy seen against Norwich City has been absent in the last couple of games. Problems are clearly more deep seated than a change of management can resolve, but Giggs has improved the team just by injecting a greater sense of belief. His time as interim manager however tells us a minimum about his long term potential for the role.
United’s shape at the start of this game was familiar; some of the faces were not and some familiar faces were deployed in unusual positions. For example Kagawa occupied one of the central midfield positions in the 4-2-3-1 with Fellaini occupying the position behind the central striker. That striker was debutante James Wilson. The other debutante was Tom Lawrence; he occupied the wide right position with the more experienced youngster Adnan Januzaj on the left. The partnership often touted as United’s future centre back pairing enjoyed a rare start together. Jones and Smalling formed the heart of the defence.
There was one other selection of note; Valencia was deployed at right back. He has played here before but on this occasion this was interesting and gives an insight into the shrewdness of Giggs. With a debutante ahead of him, perhaps Giggs preferred the more experienced Valencia instead of Rafael to provide some solidity and support to Tom Lawrence. The impetuosity of Rafael might not have provided that.
United started this game in second gear. The pace of the play was too slow and United were too deep. Hull City were content to sit deep, keep their shape and retain parity, they of course have a Cup Final to play and would not want to over exert themselves or pick up injuries. United did not press Hull who had plenty of time to play the ball around at the back.
When United had the ball their play was again fairly disjointed. Lawrence and Wilson were both involved in the game but looked a little nervous. Fellaini tried to put himself about in the manner of his play at Everton but in the early stages at least this game was a bit like a boxing match where both boxers are content to wait for the other side to make the first move. This was a little surprising given Giggs stated desire that his teams be braver and more assertive in taking the game to the opposition.
On 17 minutes Jones was removed with a shoulder injury and Vidic was brought into action for what would be his final home fixture of his United career. The only other notable feature of this opening period was Januzaj and Lawrence occasionally switching wings. Kagawa tended to stay fairly deep and had a minimal impact. United’s play was too slow and deliberate, there was little penetration. This could have been a David Moyes team rather than Ryan Giggs team, (although being realistic we can’t really know what a Giggs team will be like yet).
Then out of the blue after 31minutes Everton United scored. Boom! From a Januzaj free kick on the left Fellaini muscled his way onto a header at the far post. He nodded back and James Wilson showed his goalscoring instincts, so often seen at junior and reserve levels. He was first to react to shoot home from close range. It was ironic that under Giggs Fellaini had been deployed in the role in which Moyes had used him at Everton and that this goal was almost like an Everton set play under Moyes.
Nothing really changed after the goal. Kagawa was too deep, Fellaini a handful but ultimately United’s play was too slow and disjointed. Half-time 1-0.
At the start of the second half Giggs swapped a few things around. Januzaj switched to the right and Lawrence swapped to the left. The pair had done this sporadically in the first half but this was no more of a permanent change. Fellaini and Kagawa also frequently switched position. This wasn’t a permanent move but had the effect of generating a more fluid performance. Despite these changes there wasn’t that much difference from the first half performance, but United’s brighter moment now came from Januzaj whose direct running on the right was now causing Hull significant problems.
This running lead directly to United’s second goal. Januzaj led a quick break on the right. He had time and space to exploit and used it well beating a challenge, running on and drawing defenders before feeding Fellaini for a one on one with the keeper. Fellaini hasn’t scored yet for United and has had a poor start to his career at the club. Perhaps lacking confidence he shot poorly but the rebound fell to Wilson who tucked away his second goal. Boom! This goal came on 61 minutes.
Almost immediately out of the blue Hull scored when Fryatt struck a thunderous shot from outside the box. United now made their first substitution removing Wilson to a standing ovation and introducing van Persie. In terms of position a straight swap. United continued to pass and pass slowly and deliberately until Giggs introduced himself in the 71minute removing the other debutante Lawrence.
United continued to have plenty of possession and with Giggs positioned on the left they were now playing with a twin threat as both Giggs and Januzaj took every opportunity to run at the Hull full backs. United had a few chances and drew fouls around the Hull defensive third but the performance remained fairly staid until a third goal. Boom! This came from van Persie in the 86th minute. His first shot was blocked, but he made no mistake with the second.
An unremarkable performance enlivened by the introduction of two young players. Both did reasonably well. Neither looked out of place; Wilson didn’t do that much in the game and if he hadn’t scored the verdict would have been that he had made a steady start, which is probably what one would say of Tom Lawrence’s performance. But goals count. He has already demonstrated a goal scorer’s instinct. After a nervous start both visibly grew in confidence as the game progressed.
United’s play was generally fairly slow and unimaginative. They never really got out of third gear. Kagawa was too deep. A worthwhile experiment, but Kagawa is at his best playing between the lines on the edge of the opposition’s box. Deployed in a deeper position he cannot influence the game and pose a significant threat. This manoeuvre allowed Giggs to play Fellaini in a higher position in the areas in which he played at Everton. He was more effective but looks like a player lacking confidence.
A 3-1 home win with two debutantes in the side however is a satisfactory outcome.