There are a host of players who have underperformed for Manchester United this season but there are two players in particular who Manchester United are better off without – Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia.
Not because they deserve to be scapegoats or have played worse than any other players but because Manchester United are literally better without them.
When they have played this season, United have tended to get the ball wide as soon as possible to either of them, only to be left frustrated when the final ball into the box isn’t up to scratch.
It’s no coincidence that some of Manchester United’s best football has come in the past two Premier League games where neither started. It has allowed us to re-find a focus on passing football that makes us so much more unpredictable and dangerous going forward.
Take this goal against West Brom for example:
It’s the perfect example of pass-and-move in action. There’s not a chance that would have happened if Valencia or Young would have been on the pitch instead of Mata – neither would have dropped that deep and central to get involved in the play.
Having inverted wingers like Mata and Januzaj is what plays to the strength of this United team. Our players are good enough to play it into feet and that short, sharp passing was on show against West Brom rather than the eat-sleep-cross-repeat monotonous football we had played on so many occasions this season.
There has been real progress in the last two Premier League games and it would be devastating to see Moyes put out a negative formation by starting Valencia against Liverpool. Instead, he needs to show real intent by starting the likes of Januzaj, Mata or Kagawa as inverted wingers.
United need to build on our current momentum by playing fluid, attacking football because so long as we can create chances, we can win games – when our exclusive outlet was a hopeful cross, real chances were far and few between and results reflected that.
In a season of very few positives, United’s form in the past two games has been something to smile about. Hopefully that doesn’t change against Liverpool.