David Moyes can do it in Europe. Tonight was Manchester United’s first game in Europe without Sir Alex Ferguson at the helm and Moyes played it to perfection.
He put out a very strong starting XI and United dominated the early exchanges better than they have in the last few campaigns under Ferguson. Fellaini and Carrick’s solid partnership gave United the midfield presence they have lacked for so long.
Brilliant individual performances from the likes of Wayne Rooney, Chris Smalling and Antonio Valencia spearheaded United’s 4-2 victory and on a night that could have been nervous after Leverkusen’s equaliser, it was a brilliant result.
Wayne again. Rooney was substituted in the 80th minute to a deserved standing ovation. His brace took his United total to 200 goals and he becomes only the fourth player in United’s history (Charlton, Law and Rowley were before him) to complete the feat. He is also now the highest scoring English player in Champions League history.
But it wasn’t just the goals that made it such a great performance from Wayne, it was his attitude. He dribbled, ran, shot and contributed more than he has done in a long time. He looked like the Rooney of old.
Moyes did a fantastic job keeping him at the club during the summer because we all knew that once Rooney found that spark again, he’d be playing like a superstar. It seems Moyes may have found that spark earlier than we all thought he could.
Counter attacking delight. I’m not sure there is any goal that is as satisfying to see United score as a counter attack. Van Persie’s delicate flick set Ashley Young off down the wing and his measured pass to Rooney was matched by Valencia’s barnstorming run and finish off of Rooney’s delicately weighted pass.
It was brilliant. It was the sort of goal that typified United when they played at their devastating best under Ferguson and for Moyes, it was the perfect example that although the great Scot has left, some things won’t change at Old Trafford.
Strong XI. Tonight was the first time that Ferdinand has played five matches in a row for 16 months and the first time Vidic has played five matches in a row in 12 months.
As well as his first choice defensive pairing, Moyes played arguably his strongest side all over the pitch and decided not to rest anyone. On the night, his decision was vindicated with a fantastic victory but with seven games in 21 days, Moyes will soon have to rotate his squad in order to meet the busy match schedule.
This Sunday, United visit the Etihad for Moyes’ first derby as United manager and it is going to be an extremely tough game so hopefully the players recover in time.
Moyes must make sure that United don’t fall into the Chelsea trap of failing to rotate because there would be a possibility of burnout from February onwards.
Chances galore. Given that United had not scored from open play until tonight, many had expected a nervous 1-0 sort of game but that proved not to be the case. United may have scored four goals on the night but they could have bagged a few more.
Rooney and van Persie were both guilty of missing open goals that luckily didn’t effect the final result, and it was fantastic to see such free flowing football against what is a strong Leverkusen side.
Moyes will have been pleased by the result but even more so by the manner of the performance to give United the perfect start to their Champions League campaign.