Match Preview: Man United v Cardiff
A much anticipated game awaits as the Theater of Dreams welcomes back Ole Gunnar Solskjær, returning as the manager of Cardiff City. Excitement surrounds not only his return however but the debut of United’s new chosen Juan, with Mata looking to create an immediate impression following his record breaking transfer from Chelsea.
Cardiff ‘s Away Form: Cardiff lie at the bottom of the Premier League table with no wins in their last six games. The bluebirds are also in the midst of a four game away losing streak. From the 11 away games Cardiff have managed a meagre 6 points but with a new manager are sure to go on the attack.
Doing so, Cardiff like to attack mainly through the right side of the field, using the width of the pitch and attempting a high number of crosses. Their weakness lies in defending against quicker attacks so United will need good transitional efficiency to quickly counter their attacks.
Manchester United’s Home form: Old Trafford has not been the fortress we’ve grown accustomed to throughout the years. Moyes’ men have earned more points away (20) than at home (17) and have struggled to create chances in the absence of Rooney and Van Persie. Defensively, United have been sloppy at the back and will be hoping to form a compact block, as we did in open play against Chelsea, in order to get a moral boosting clean sheet.
The Mata Factor: Quite a bit has already been said about Mata - his quality on the field and positive attitude off it. Mata has a unique ability to dictate the flow of the game and provides moments of magic with eye-catching pieces of skill and trickery.
Mata has been most effective for Chelsea in the traditional number 10 role, although playing him as an inverted right winger with a license to drift inwards has previously caused havoc for many defences. Therefore, whether he’s allowed to roam free to find space between the lines– in his preferred role – will be an interesting topic to discuss in weeks to come.
Statistically, United have created very few chances from the central vertical zones this season– much lower compared to the teams above us- and so Mata’s area of speciality could well see United create an increasing amount of chances from the middle, calming the frustrations of many fans who think Moyes is somewhat of a one trick pony.
Previous meeting: Man United’s visit to Cardiff ended with a somewhat surprising 2-2 draw late November and there definitely are a few lessons to take from that game.
Shot attempts: In the last meeting between the sides, 12 out of United’s 16 attempted shots came from set piece situations. Against a team fighting relegation, United will have to create a bit more from open play; whether it be from smashing in sharp crosses or playing cutting edge through-balls from the middle.
Late goals: Although United are the team famous for late drama, Cardiff too are capable of it, as proven in our previous meeting where they were able to equalize in the dying embers of the game. Cardiff throughout the 22 games have been on the receiving end of such treatment conceding 16 between the 76th and 90th minute.
Conclusion: With 16 games left to play and 48 points on offer this midweek fixture is a must win and dropping points now only makes it harder at the end of the campaign. If there was ever a time to step up – this is it. From Moyes’ tone and confidence, hopefully United will be looking to play a more attractive brand of football with Mata, Rooney, Van Persie and the ever impressive Januzaj combining to ignite the fight back!
Written by @KingOfStretford