Joy On Tyneside Ahead Of Showdown In Munich
The trip to St. James’ Park was a successful one for Manchester United as they picked up all three points ahead of Wednesday’s game in Munich. There were plenty of signs of encouragement as Moyes’ got his tactics correct for once, electing to play passing football rather than the usual long ball. As such, the swagger and arrogance of old returned to the team and they were simply too good for Newcastle United.
David Moyes made eight changes to his squad ahead of the mid week trip to Munich, with Evra and Mata notably returning to the starting line-up. Valencia slotted in at right-back as the defensive injury crisis continued to hamper Moyes’ plans and it was a perhaps ‘make or break’ ninety minutes for Hernandez, after his strange celebration during last week’s cameo. Last but not least, it was a big day for James Wilson. The United youngster started the season in the U18’s but has developed rapidly this season, regularly featuring for the reserves after proving to be a dab hand in front of goal.
A slow start was not anticipated, given the attacking prowess of Mata, Kagawa and Hernandez individually, but a drab first half hour passed with little chances. It would be a fair deduction to say that the home side had the better of the chances. An early goal from Fellaini was disallowed for striking the Belgian’s forearm before an injury to Ashley Young forced the early introduction of Januzaj.
The youngster immediately made an impact on the game, taking on any defender in his path. Despite this, the better chances fell to Newcastle as they fed off United errors. Cisse had the best opportunity of the first but he failed to capitalise on a free header, with Lindergaard rising to tip it over the bar. Pardew had obviously set his team up to exploit the makeshift right back Valencia.
As the game approached half-time, United found their break through. After a clumsy challenge on Fletcher, Januzaj and Mata hovered over the dead ball twenty yards out. The more senior Spaniard took charge of the free kick and expertly curled the ball into the near post with keeper reduced to nothing more than a spectator as the ball sailed into the net. A chance to double the lead came minutes later. Released on the counter by Kagawa, Hernandez saw his placed effort ricochet of the post. Half time blew on Tyneside with Moyes’ men deservedly on top after a late surge.
The second half started with the same tempo as the first ended. It took only four minutes for a second United goal to come. After Kagawa capitalised on a defensive error, Hernandez was fed down the right and dragged the ball along the six yard box. Juan Mata then calmly wrong-footed the keeper and stroked the ball into the net for his, and United’s, second of the game. There was no sign of letting off the foot off the gas either from United, as Mata continued to push for his first United hat-trick. Soon after Evra made way for Buttner, with mid-week clearly in mind, and United added a third. Kagawa scampered down to the byline to take one touch and then draw the ball back for Hernandez to add another trademark poaching finish. After his muted celebration last week in front of the Stretford end, it was a much happier Mexican who celebrated with joy this time out.
With the game all but secured, Nani was brought on for his first appearance since December replacing the quiet Fellani on 70 minutes. Lindegaard remained relatively quiet, but was alert and on hand to push over a curling effort from Cisse. Little can be questioned about the keepers performance, as he was always alert and ready on the few occasions he has been asked upon.
There were positive signs too in attack. Mata, Januzaj and Kagawa were again excellent in their link play. Mata in particular is a joy to watch, they way he effortlessly caresses the ball to spread passes across the field. Evidence was growing with that both he and Kagawa can play effectively together and compliment each-others play brilliantly.
Late on, Lindergaard was again called into action to stop Cisse. After a misjudgment from Smalling, the striker had time one on one to steady his shot, but the Dane was equal to it, excellently beating the ball away. Adnan Januzaj added the icing on the cake in added time with a fourth. After a neat one-two with Mata, he passed his finish into the net, ensuring United finished the game with a flourish. The away fans sung out loud and clear from up in the gods of the stadium as full time blew.
A deserved and convincing win in the end for David Moyes as momentum builds ahead of the return leg in Munich on Wednesday. Mata and Kagawa were excellent up front in attack, assisted ably by Januzaj and Hernandez in their tireless efforts. Security was also offered at the back, Jones and Smalling provided a solid base on which Lindergaard was able to ensure his goal remained protected, and a clean sheet was ensured. Momentum builds then, as all eyes turn to Munich.