Robin Van Persie’s brace left Manchester United supporters jubilant at Wembley this afternoon. It was a sigh of relief for Mancunian’s around the world, but most importantly David Moyes, who smiled as his players celebrated their Community Shield victory.
Moyes faces the daunting task of living up to Sir Alex Ferguson’s legacy, but the Scotsman seemed calm in his post-match conference, and was keen on giving Ferguson full credit for his side’s victory.
“I class that as another piece of silverware for Sir Alex. I was in charge, but the ones
going forward will be down to me,” Moyes said.
This was not an impressive United performance, but Van Persie’s goal in the opening seven minutes was vital, thus leading to their dominance throughout the match. It’s become evident that besides Mourinho, Moyes will be vigilantly assessed, ridiculed and praised by the media throughout the season.
Yet, unlike most Community Shield encounters in the past, today’s match was somewhat important for Ferguson’s successor. It was the start of a new era, and with that came a different approach to United’s style. Now these weren’t monumental adjustments, but merely minor tweaks that showcased Moyes’ tactical prowess.
For instance, Moyes stuck with his preferred 4-4-1-1, which saw Danny Welbeck play behind Van Persie, seeing as Rooney wasn’t match fit. It’s a partnership that was rarely used last season, but did feature in United’s second leg match against Real Madrid, and was successful, despite the loss.
Welbeck, mostly in the first half dropped into midfield to link play with the midfield, giving the Red Devils an extra passing outlet, as they looking for openings in the Wigan defence. He also occupied the left flank when Giggs drifted infield and used his brute strength to shrug off defenders on the break. The England international was surprisingly reluctant to take his chances that were presented to him, but he did force Scott Carson to make a good save, and assisted Van Persie’s second goal.
The key element in the Welbeck/Van Persie strike force was their intent to lead the press higher up the field, aiming to close down James Perch and Leon Barnett. It worked successfully, and Owen Coyle witnessed his men concede possession in their half on numerous occasions. Although the decision to press high was logical, it will be interesting to see whether United continue to implement a pressing game in the near future.
United’s right-hand side was also an interesting feat in this match, but not for the right reasons. Rafael enjoyed the opening minutes, constantly bombing forward to combine with 20-year-old Wilfried Zaha. But a James McClean tackle left the Brazilian fullback in pain, thus injuring his hamstring, which resulted in his departure. This forced Moyes to introduce Chris Smalling, pushing Phil Jones to right back for a short period, before swapping positions later in the half.
Rafael’s injury benefitted Wigan as Zaha began to show his inexperience, and despite his numerous step overs he failed to get the better of Stephen Carney. McClean also began to flourish, often being Wigan’s main threat with his direct runs on the left flank. Towards the end of the first half, and the start of the second, the Scottish winger found space behind Smalling to penetrate – but his teammates were unable to connect with his deliveries.
Van Persie’s second goal of the afternoon secured the victory, and it came at a critical moment in the match, when it looked as if Wigan could potentially level the match. United were fortunate to double their lead, but the buildup was down to Patrice Evra’s excellent outing on the left flank – frankly producing an identical performance to Leighton Baines during Moyes’ tenure.
Ryan Giggs started on the left flank, and was replaced by Anderson in the latter stages of the match. Evra was free to get forward at ease when Giggs drifted centrally, ultimately dragging Emerson Boyce out of position – while Anderson sat in midfield during his time on the pitch. Giggs gave United an additional passing option, but he also ensured that United dominated the midfield, as Wigan theoretically had a numerical advantage.
Evra’s cross led to Van Persie’s opener, and his surging run down the left flank initiated the buildup to the Dutchman’s second. The Frenchman was by far United’s most influential attacking player, and he will be eager to showcase that he’s more than capable of being United’s first-choice left back – especially with rumours circulating that Moyes is keen on bring Baines to Old Trafford.
A new era has begun at Old Trafford, and we’re already beginning to see alterations in United’s approach. Ferguson was the reason United were at Wembley today, but Moyes’ philosophy won the match – albeit against an inferior side.
Wayne Rooney’s future has yet to be decided, but Moyes reiterated post-match that the English striker is not for sale. Moyes realizes the importance of keeping Rooney and selling him to a rival will surely damage their chances of retaining their league title.
More so, Moyes will embark upon sturdier opposition in the near future, but the Scotsman has taken his first step out of Ferguson’s shadow and into Manchester United’s history.