A five star performance from United even without key players
Manchester United came into this fixture knowing fully well that defeat might leave them in dire straits. Victory over a side that is flying high in the Bundesliga and have won their last eight CL home games was going to a tough ask for any side. Particularly a United side without Carrick, Vidic and Van Persie. Moyes came into the fixture knowing that United’s record against German opposition wasn’t the best and his side had to be on their A-game if they are to come away with anything from Germany.
However, as the game started, it looked as though Leverkusen were all at sea and in just the opening 30 seconds, United’s slick passing carved open the Leverkusen defense. And when, Valencia scored the first goal, it was a matter of when, and not if, United were going to score the second goal. With Giggs and Jones in Central midfield and two wingers on either side of Kagawa, operating in his favored No.10 role, Moyes got his tactics spot on.
Every time, United were on the counter attack, they looked like scoring and by the end of the game, had arguably their best European away performance since the semifinal win over Schalke in 2011. It was without a doubt, the best result and performance under David Moyes, which sealed their progress into the knock-out phase with a game to spare.
Two days shy of his 40th birthday Evergreen Giggs delivers a master class in midfield
There are few footballers in the World, who would even be playing as they approach 40. Fewer still would be playing in one of Europe’s best teams and starting a crucial away game against a team ranked second in the Bundesliga. But, Ryan Giggs is no ordinary man, like a fine wine, he only keeps getting better with age. Whilst he may not be able to rampage on the wings, like he used to, a decade or so ago, he is, arguably, second only to Michael Carrick, in terms of his ability to pick out the perfect pass.
On Wednesday night against Leverkusen, he did just that as he attempted and completed the most passes of any player on the pitch. His 92% pass completion was the best of any player who started the game and Giggs, showed just why, he is still a vital asset to David Moyes’s plans. Not only did the veteran Welshman, pass the ball really well, he also made 4 tackles and there was a point in the game, when he tracked back his man to the corner flag and ensured that nothing came of the attack. Whilst a lot of eyebrows were raised at the start, Moyes said “People mention his age but all you should mention is his football ability,” and his vision and pass for Nani‘s goal was a thing of beauty. Moyes will be hoping that the Welshman, just keeps on going.
Leverkusen masters of their own downfall
For a side that has the second-best defensive record in the League, Leverkusen were far from convincing at the back. They sat too deep on free kicks and their left back, Emre Can was far more interested in going forward than helping out in defense. In fact, both fullbacks, were caught up the pitch, far too often and defensive looked like it lacked any cohesion or shape.
For a side led by Sami Hyypia, a man known for his water-tight defending and tough tackling, Leverkusen looked overawed by the situation and were in the game at all. Emre Can, looked disinterested in the defensive aspect of his game, and although as a midfielder by trade, he can’t be blamed, much of the blame must fall on the coach, for not realizing that soon enough. Although Leverkusen are in a far from tricky position, a win in their last game will see them through, their coach would have wanted a lot more from a side who had won their last eight home games in the CL.
Injury to Van Persie might be a blessing in disguise for Moyes
Moyes came into the game without the injured Van Persie and as a result was forced to play with Nani and Valencia on either wing, with Shinji Kagawa in the No10 role he favors, behind Wayne Rooney. And Kagawa had one of his finest displays in a United shirt yet and his understanding with Rooney and Ryan Giggs in particular, was one that bodes well, for the foreseeable.
Freed from the shackles of having to play out wide, Shinji Kagawa, was a given a free role and in the words of his manager, “he was excellent”. The Japanese Playmaker was instrumental in attack and although he didn’t score a goal or have an assist to his name, some of his link-up play was reminiscent of his Dortumund days. His partner in crime, Rooney, on the other hand, seemed to enjoy playing with Kagawa, and ended up playing a big part in four of United’s five goals. Although Moyes also went onto say that Kagawa “has been excellent when he’s played off the left as well”, Moyes knows that injury to Van Persie might just be the best thing to have happened, as far as Kagawa is concerned.
Valencia starts brightly, but it is Nani who finished with a flourish
Starting in his fourth away game in 10 days, Valencia got the ball rolling with the first goal and was a constant menace to the Leverkusen defense. After having played in Argentina, Honduras and Cardiff in the last 10 days prior to kick off in Germany, you would have been forgiven for thinking that he might just be a little tired. But the Ecuadorian winger was a bundle of energy throughout the game and like a Duracell bunny, just kept on going.
Aside from the 2010/11 season, Nani hasn’t really set the world on fire, on a consistent basis. Whilst he is no doubt, immensely talented, consistency of performance has always eluded him. Against Leverkusen, he showed just why he is so well-thought of at United, with a sublime finish, to seal a 5-0 victory. Up until then, he showed glimpses of his true self and was playing in only his first start of the current CL campaign. If he keeps playing like this, Moyes is sure to have a selection dilemma on his hands.Published 28 Nov 2013, 15:29 IST