A good mix of familiar, returning and new players made our first engagement in the Capital One Cup quite interesting viewing.
From the big names (Rooney) to the fan favorites returning from injury (Fletcher), from the fringe players (Anderson) to those trying to make a name (Keane, Wootton), this game had a bit of everything for United fans. Thankfully, what we got was a fairly impressive performance from a sort of patch work starting eleven, with an eye cast further into the future on the bench. Overall it was experience melded with exuberance, with the boys making their bow doing the business to ensure a fourth round engagement with Chelsea.
Considering the relative strength of both sides it was nice to see United genuinely boss a game for the first time this season (thirty minutes v Fulham aside). Our boys controlled possession, created chances and played with enthusiasm and pace. Rooney returned to show his wares, performing about as well as anyone could have hoped, whilst Buttner, Fletcher, Cleverley, Welbeck and Hernandez were all given an opportunity to impress in pursuit of a first team spot.
And isn’t it always exciting to see the young guys get a game; to see how their development is tracking, how they handle the occasion and whether or not they could have a future in the Red of United.
A win to keep the dream of another League Cup alive (admittedly it’s probably more a passing day dream than anything else, not something that we long for), not a bad night.
De Gea – 5/10
The most experienced of a backline boasting more youth than a blue light disco, De Gea looked ok when the young ones ahead had the game in hand, but a bit nervy when the pressure was applied late on. Showed good anticipation a few times to guard his posts and watch shots wide, as well as come for crosses. As it tightened and tensed up, however, he showed a reticence to command his area and leave his line. I’ve confidence this is down to the personnel ahead of him than anything else. Because, lets be honest, if Ferdinand, Vidic or Evans were standing there instead of the guys that were your heart wouldn’t be beating quite as fast.
Wasn’t all that involved to be fair and his lack of conviction and nerves late in the game were an unnecessary blemish on what could/should have been a relatively straightforward outing. Funnily enough he would have made a lovely save had Vuckic’s shot after he turned Keane been on target, as his outstretched grasp would’ve been enough to paw it wide.
Vermijl – 4/10
I’m not going to be too critical of the young man, because his errors were borne of trying to make something happen. That he was involved as often as he was should be taken as a sign of encouragement more than anything. He struggled early with his positional sense, with the youngster often exploited in behind or caught up field when there was no support to be hand down his side. To be fair it would’ve been hard with no traditional winger to help him out.
He was certainly a willing competitor, prepared to stride up the field and get himself into dangerous positions, which is promising. As to be expected his touch, positioning and performance improved as the game wore on, showing that when he settled down he could exhibit glimpses of a player. A good experience for him to build on.
M. Keane – 6/10
Had two moments that stand out: their goal, when he was unfortunately caught under the cross that Cisse turned home and when he was a bit awkward and immobile and turned Vuckic. It’s a shame that they’re the two that immediately spring to mind, as he was otherwise fairly good. Whilst the stage was bigger than that he’s used to, with an audience to match, he and his fellow defenders showed good temperament and application, only faltering slightly when put under enormous pressure from frankly enormous players. When they were bested it was by experience, not talent.
Additionally, he played the ball well and took up diligent positions when at his station. It was a good old fashioned competent, no frills performance.
I would have liked to have seen his brother make an appearance, too. Wraps on him seem even bigger.
Wootton – 7/10
Unassuming and largely unsighted. A defensive post is won with play like that. Was poised and comfortable in tackling the big Newcastle front men (first Ameobi and then Cisse) and showed class in holding that oh so inexperience rearguard together.
In hindsight it’s great to think that a debutant central defender failed to leave an impression. That all I can recall of his performance is positive touches, unflustered clearances and a cool disposition is sensational. We’ll see in the next few months where those in the United organization see his football going, with a loan spell a possibility to fast-track or afford greater experience.
Certainly looked the part, did the young man.
Buttner – 6/10
We got another glimpse of the cavalier and swashbuckling Dutch left back, with the sleeved man deputizing for a rested Patrice Evra. He wasn’t as eye catching as he was in his debut against Wigan, in fact he was slightly more restrained, which was good to see. It showed an awareness that his fellow defenders were a little inexperienced and, whilst inexperienced himself, he would be required to play a more staid and controlling hand at the back.
One thing I love about what we’ve seen thus far is his balance and touch on the ball, especially at pace. He seems to have quite good and quick feet when moving the ball between players, advancing on a run or shifting to pass with either foot. I look forward to seeing more of Buttner, especially when there are the personnel to cover for his raids into opposition territory.
Fletcher – 7/10
Fletch was given the captain’s armband to mark his first start in near on a year, a fitting reward for a guy who deserves his opportunity in the side. Charged with shielding the before and oft mentioned back four from potential harm he and his other midfielders did a decent job of keeping their task as simple as possible. Hard working and humble is what immediately comes to mind when assessing Fletcher’s efforts (and the man himself, actually). He ran all night, hassled and held up Newcastle attackers and relieved as much pressure as he could on his raw teammates. He made an art of playing flawless and quite commendably bland 10 yard passes (I think Carrick had a tear in his eye, choking back the emotion saying ‘he’s my boy’). But that was his job.
Had one hairy moment when he was caught ball watching early in the first half, an act that exposed Wootton and Keane’s interesting positional sense, with the ball volleyed harmlessly over the bar from just inside the box. Must have been a wake up call because it didn’t happen again.
Overall he showed he’s getting back to the Fletcher we know and love. Not only was his performance quite good, but his fitness seemed to be better than passable. Hopefully he’s not too far away from regular involvements in first team affairs.
Cleverley – 7.5/10
His first half miss, in which it was more difficult to not hit the target than place the ball in the net, reminded me of a similar gaff committed in an international a few weeks ago. I thought ‘jeez, c’mon Tom’. Simply he had to do better. Good news is after that he did. His goal was taken superbly, curling a beautifully weighted pass into the bottom right corner from a more or less standing start, but his all round play was a heartening sight.
His energy, movement and awareness when on the ball is continental, the English press and too many United fan’s patience is not. He is still a young man; he needs time and games to develop, if only to get him back into the groove he was denied for too long last season.
His exploits in midfield were somewhat dwarfed by the returning Rooney, but Cleverley was no less busy than his countryman in advancing our cause. He was less destructive than Anderson, but more subtle and controlled. He and fletcher did well to helm the base of midfield, the latter more deep-lying, dictating the tempo and holding possession, something we failed conclusively to do for near on an hour versus Liverpool.
He linked magnificently with good friend Danny Welbeck and Brady late on to retain possession, executing a passing triangle that’d make Craig Foster cross his legs if sitting on an open bench.
Anderson – 8/10
This is why he polarizes fans so much. Admittedly he was pitted against an under strength Newcastle midfield, but with Tiote there they had plenty of bite to curb players who were cutting them up. And cut them up he did. Ando was dynamic, playing box-to-box and putting in a good shift on both offence and defence. He showed his cards very early on when he broke clear following a corner and some neat footwork that saw him step inside and around an opponent. Provided penetration and drive in midfield, working brilliantly with our other midfielders to chop and change, causing Newcastle all sorts.
It’s great to watch Anderson when he’s on top of his game, because he combines hard running with clever touches and passes. He competes and then creates; or creates and then competes, one or the other. One such example was a ball played on the outside of his right boot that found an advanced Vermijl on our right hand side, which happened just moments before he took on and held off his man and rifled a shot into the net off the post. When he’s switched on and playing well he is precisely the sort of midfielder we need.
When a streaker invaded the pitch late on I swear I saw Anderson run to the bench to get his phone, screaming ‘I need to post this to Instagram! I need to post this to Instagram!’
Still, great game by Ando.
Rooney – 8.5/10 (Man of the Match)
A berth in the starting lining up for a League Cup third round tie. Unusual for Wayne, but good to see nonetheless. His absence hasn’t been as keenly felt as it otherwise might have been, but we cannot deny how important he is for our chances on all fronts.
Struggled to get in on the act early on, with his first meaningful contribution just before the quarter hour. Thereafter, however, he was utterly dominant. He was involved in and at the heart of everything that caused Newcastle concerns. He beautifully controlled a ball in midfield before releasing Anderson, whose one-two with Buttner created the first chance of the match. He moved well up and down midfield thereafter, tracking back to apply pressure on defence and turn the screws on offence. Once he picked up the tempo he was pulling all the strings. Another sensational piece of link up play in midfield was followed by a wonderful lofted through ball to Welbeck. He had started to move and play confidently.
He picked up where he left off in the second half, playing in Hernandez a handful of times and launching his own attempt on goal which curled just wide. He was compelling his teammates to go on runs and take up dangerous positions; such was his command of the match. Understandably he tired and made way with about twenty minutes to go, but his performance after a four week layoff was better than encouraging.
The arguments about where Rooney is best value are as tedious as they are irrelevant. What we have is a player who is versatile enough to play up top on his own and dynamic enough to drop deeper and become a playmaker. The latter role is accomplished to best effect when an out and out striker is advanced, whilst the former has been bestowed upon new boy Shinji Kagawa. How Rooney fits in, to my mind, is as a roaming forward/advanced midfielder. Hard to track, difficult to contain and able to create or finish.
Welbeck – 6.5/10
Got another chance with van Persie rested for the visit of Spurs and Rooney asked to play in behind. Offered an outlet and drifted wide to cover our lack of genuine wingers, selflessly positioning himself as a decoy away from goal as attacking plays developed. That’s Danny’s strength, really, his willingness to sacrifice or meld his own game for the benefit of a plan or the disruption of an opponent. He’s usually pretty good at carrying it out, too.
I liked his preparedness to run at and attempt to cut inside defenders, especially when approaching the edge of the box. On several occasions he did just this, meaning he could either square the ball for a raiding midfielder, take the shot himself if space permitted or play the ball in behind should a run from a full back eventuate. In that regard he seems to be a quite intelligent player, using his skill and size to not only control but distribute the ball smartly. Both those attributes afford him a fraction more time than others, and its something he’s more than happy to use to his advantage.
He didn’t have the ‘almost’ moments that some others had, but he certainly gave his all to help create them.
Hernandez – 7/10
Javier was livelier in the first half than he was in the second, but I’ll not let that sway my impressions of his game. Showed some flourishes and touches we could have only imagined him doing twelve months ago. His development and ability to effect the contest in more ways has done and will continue to make him a more complete and damaging player. He buzzed about (I love that term to describe players such as Javier) and worked well in unison with Welbeck.
His effort to knock the ball around Coloccini, run onto it and deliver a sensational ball down the line to Welbeck, continue to run and gather the next phase and play in Cleverley with a first time pass was one of the highlights of the match. That Cleverley could only direct his shot wide marred what would have and should have been the moment of the match.
Was unlucky not to score himself when played in by Rooney. He kept his nerve in riding a tackle, evading the keeper and firing off a shot, only to see it crash into the bar. He’s had a few moments like that so far this season, where he’s been thwarted by either a last ditch block, a desperate keeper or a coat of paint. Positive is he’s finding these spaces and having these chances.
Brady – 3/5
Was very impressed by his cameo late on. Injected himself into the fray and typified a spirit of confidence that our best young players have always had. It was something first seen all those years ago under Sir Matt, then harnessed to remarkable effect under Sir Alex, a trait recently embodied by fellow academy grads Welbeck and Cleverley. He was involved with those two in a heartening exchange of passes and movement towards the end of the game on the broadcast side of the pitch. You want these players to express themselves and the philosophies of Manchester United, in his short bow he did just this. On the back of his international exploits recently, and with this game in mind, I’m hopeful we’ll see more of the young man in the months to come.
Powell – 2.5/5
Cries of ‘SHOOT’ echoed around Old Trafford every time he was on the ball, such was the want for him to repeat the efforts of a few weeks ago. In his limited time on the pitch he got himself involved and did a few nice things. A sidestep in midfield that took him past a would be tackler was the highlight, as he just dropped his shoulder and navigated around him, as well as some quick feet on the edge of the box that ultimately came to nothing as he was closed down. Fitness permitting I’d start him at the Bridge in late October.
Saw more of his old man in the stand than we did of him on the ball, but it was the experience that counts for the youngster. What a thrill it would have been to run out and represent Manchester United. Games and substitutions like these are perfect for opportunity and reward to be given to those who work hard, a sign or promise of what more hard work and development will bring.
3 – Rooney
2 – Anderson
1 – Cleverley
6 – Kagawa, Scholes
5 – Valencia
3 – Nani, van Persie, Ferdinand, Rooney, Anderson
2 – Welbeck, Rafael, De Gea
1 – Carrick, Buttner Evans, Cleverley