Manchester United got back to winning ways last night against Cardiff and it was good to see but the performance of the team was very much like Juan Mata’s debut – smooth, subtle, possibly understated, nothing to get carried away about, and I think at this moment in time that step back from all the highs and lows might be the best thing for David Moyes.
I thought Mata was good and did well in what he actually did, without ever setting the world alight. I’m sure he will, and in many ways it’s encouraging to see such a debut.
Even with that in mind and many supporters accepting the title race is over this season, even if the speculation dies down, the rebuilding job that David has to do will continue and I’m just pleased that things seem to be going right for him at the moment.
It was great to see Rooney and van Persie back – those two, alongside Mata, will be fighting to prove themselves in what will be the key World Cup in all of their careers. Rooney will get selected regardless but has had two poor World Cups so we can all see how desperate he is to go into Brazil with a good run of form; he might not get another chance. At Robin’s age, the same could be said for him, and getting a goal so soon into his comeback will do wonders for his confidence.
While this season we’ve seen – so far – a number of squad players under-performing, what David has done in offloading Anderson, and soon Fabio and Zaha too, is shown the others that he will not hesitate in offloading those he deems are not up to it. Ashley Young last night scored a great goal but he doesn’t do that enough – he doesn’t do enough to make himself undroppable and those occasions where he goes missing, or brings controversy upon himself, might be enough to tip the balance against his favour. Young, like Kagawa, might find himself collateral damage as David shakes up the squad – and Javier Hernandez, or Chicharito, might be another, which would be a shame as I’m a big fan. There are only so many places in the squad and good players want to play.
One thing they’ll notice if and when they leave is that they might be a star at another club but they’ll quickly learn that there’s nothing quite like being at United and I don’t care what club you say to me – once you leave United, you’re going to a lesser team.
We’ve seen that with Juan Mata, talking about the size of the club. Juan came from a club that is big but is already talking about how big United are; he’s sure to be saying that a few times over the next few months. As good as Mata is, he can’t make the difference all on his own – could he, for example, have realistically affected the loss at Chelsea? David Moyes has finally addressed the elephant in the corner and publicly admitted United need a midfielder and a left back. While Evra probably has a couple of years left in him – he’s got a very good engine and has been an excellent servant – we do need strengthening in that area, if not to replace Evra, to assist him.
In midfield we definitely need someone and in my opinion Toni Kroos fits the bill – a player who I hadn’t thought would be someone Bayern might let go but when you look at the situation, it draws comparisons with the one that Mesut Ozil had at Real Madrid. Bayern have an embarrassment of riches in midfield and Kroos, like Mata, might see this World Cup year as being one where he needs to be guaranteed to be starting.
Kroos, to me, would be an ideal player to make an instant improvement to us in the middle of the park and put us back among the contenders again. That’s not to say that David’s job will be miraculously finished – there’s work to do, but that would keep us fighting in the short term. People speak about improving the side but it’s a long game and it should be said that searching to improve Manchester United is a never ending process – and that’s what makes the club what it is.