Mata and Kagawa shine as Moyes acts out of necessity


View gallery

There has been plenty of unkind commentary about David Moyes' tenure thus far at Manchester United, who thrashed Newcastle United 4-0 on Saturday.


The Scot has seemingly been hell-bent on turning the Old Trafford giants into Everton, spending tens of millions of pounds on Marouane Fellaini - who has so far been a total flop - and setting up the formerly dominant Premier League champions in a dour, regressive 4-4-2.

Juan Mata was courted, bought, and played on the wing; Michael Carrick and Fellaini would be overrun in midfield; Shinji Kagawa couldn't get a game.

The upper realms of modern football do not take kindly to square, flat formations; the best teams are fluid and - whether wide or narrow in offensive play - usually set up with three mobile attacking midfielders playing across the frontline, between the channels and in support of the main striker. A high-pressing game only works if you're closing down the right space; a flat bank of four gets lost in the asymmetry and invention of a 4-2-3-1 or similar.

There was a suggestion that Moyes had got the hint in the way he lined his team up against West Ham; they looked a lot more engaging going forward, won relatively comfortably, and then reverted to type against Manchester City.

But, in his more progressive formation and team selection for the 4-0 win against Newcastle United, it appeared that Moyes has finally got the message - even if it may have been out of necessity rather than judgement.

View gallery

Mata revelled in a central, liberated role; Kawaga looked like the silky touch player who impressed so much for Borussia Dortmund; when he came off the bench, Adnan Januzaj gave an example of why he is one of the most highly-rated teenagers in Europe.

United's formation also let Javier Hernandez shine as a lone striker, a role he is not ordinarily suited to - but with Mata, Kagawa and Januzaj running the hard yards behind him, they could afford to have a poacher lead the line.

There remain questions about how such a formation would accommodate injured strike duo Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney, with the latter better suited to playing as a main centre-forward than a deeper role.

And you do get the feeling that Moyes only set United up this way because of those injuries - he has to lean from this and the West Ham game, learn that United are more effective when they get the best out of their best players.

There are still defensive issues, with a general lack of mobility in United's backline making them prone to the counter attack when they are piling bodies forward, while Fellaini has unfortunately not risen to the challenge of playing for a big club.

But, after a season of abject woe for United fans, the tactical switch bodes well for the future. Unless, of course, Moyes again reverts to type...

View comments (130)