- David Moyes’ moves pay off
- Steve Bruce STILL cannot beat his old club
- Phil Jones out for United during a busy spell
No, not the banning of a reporter for writing something unkind, although for purposes of channeling his inner Sir Alex, that’s certainly going in the right direction.
No, the “right moves” in question here were the in-game personnel maneuvers on Boxing Day, which may have forced by circumstance but were nonetheless audaciously aggressive and attack-minded. And in the end, spot on!
First came the early replacement of injured right back Rafael. Rather than bringing on a lesser talented defender, Moyes summoned young midfield phenom Adnan Januzaj and bumped midfielder Antonio Valencia to right-back. And it worked quite beautifully. (It did, at least, until the already-booked Valencia impetuously kicked a ball away and got himself sent off just before the 90-minue mark. Tsk-tsk.)
Later, a curious brow or two was raised when striker Javier Hernandez replaced midfielder Darren Fletcher. But that, too, turned out sweet as English spring roses for Moyes’ men.
Rooney, ever versatile, as we know, retreated into a holding midfield role alongside Tom Cleverly. Hernandez, the Mexican international who just can’t quite work up a bulk of minutes around Old Trafford, played up front, slightly ahead of Welbeck.
And it wasn’t like Moyes didn’t have other options; don’t forget that Michael Carrick was available once again and could have been preferred at that moment. (Carrick did, in fact, come on later.)
Manchester United faithful of a certain age certainly remember Steve Bruce on patrol at Old Trafford, a serious cop on the back line beat.
So it must hurt just a little to see the man struggle so these days in these ongoing encounters with his old love. Yes, it means their team typically has one hand on a “W” when Bruce’s team bus pulls up. But in their heart of hearts, wouldn’t they like to see Bruce get just one measly little three-point achievement at some point of his long managerial career?
The count is up to 19; as in, “number of matches without a win as manager against Manchester United.” That includes attempts as the boss at Birmingham, Wigan, Sunderland and now Hull City.
For the record, Bruce’s record is now 0-15-4.
Speaking of Carrick’s return, the timing could not possibly be any better. That’s because midfielder Phil Jones, such a good utility man around Old Trafford this year, will be out at least two weeks with a knee injury. The club announced Jones’ setback before Thursday’s contest.
Jones has 24 appearances for United or for England this year, used in both defense and in the midfield.
With four matches over the next 12 days (including one in the FA Cup, one in the League Cup and two in the Premier League), Moyes and Co. will need every possible fresh leg.