Manchester United’s reliance on wide personnel has vastly increased since David Moyes’ arrival at Old Trafford. The utilization of width was a key element in United’s recent success, but it’s currently a feeble component in the United attack that lacks adequate wingers.
Moyes’ philosophy encourages the two midfielders in the double-pivot to sit in deep positions, and facilitate the ball to their wide players. This season, Shinji Kagawa and Danny Welbeck – a playmaker and a striker – have been fielded on the left flank, as they drift centrally to create space for Patrice Evra to push forward. On the opposite flank, Antonio Valencia has been a regular selection – he stretches the pitch by positioning himself near the touchline, delivering balls into the box, and creating overloads with the right fullback.
Despite possessing an abundance of wide attacking options, inconsistent performances have hindered United’s approach. But, Moyes’ decision to include 18-year-old Adnan Januzaj in the first-team has reaped rewards. With Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie unavailable, United has desperately required a spark in the attacking third.
Similar to their midweek defeat to Sunderland, Januzaj was United’s best player – the 18-year-old began the game behind Danny Welbeck, and was the catalyst in the home side’s best chances in the first half. His 10th minute free kick rattled the cross-bar, and he played a great ball towards Valencia, which led to an opportunity for Welbeck in the latter stages of the half.
Swansea dominated possession for large portions of the first half with Wayne Routledge and Alejandro Pozuelo drifting between the lines, and completing quick, intricate passes – but the away side lacked conviction in United’s half, and failed to test David De Gea. United’s recurring issues in the attacking third was evident, but Moyes’ decision to push Januzaj to the left flank shifted the match.
Equally, the move was logical – Januzaj’s presence pegged Rangel Angel into his own half and he was encouraged to attack the Swansea right back. The Belgian posed a lethal threat down the flanks and was involved in both goals – Ashley Williams was unable to clear Januzaj’s cross and the ball flew towards Kagawa, who nodded it towards Valencia, and the Ecuadorian opened the scoring. Subsequently, Januzaj pressed Routledge, and intercepted Tremmel’s long throw, which ultimately led to Welbeck’s fortuitous goal.
At the tender age of 18, Januzaj’s exceeded his personal expectations this season. He took the onus upon himself to provide the guile and creativity United supporters demand on a weekly-basis. Januzaj has excelled in Moyes’ system, and although United are enduring a dark period, the Belgian is shining bright under Old Trafford’s floodlights.