Game. After a tentative opening ten minutes, Shakhtar Donetsk had the first real chance but fired just wide and it set the tone for the first half. Manchester United found themselves pegged back for a lot of the first half under pressure from the Ukrainian side, although there were a couple of gilt edged chances for Young.
It wasn’t until the second half and a couple of substitutes later that United really got into the game. Cleverley and Van Persie changed the outlook and it was from a Van Persie corner that Jones lashed United into the lead.
From then onwards, United controlled the game and were deserved the win. Cleverley’s introduction was fantastic in midfield and Donetsk couldn’t find the equaliser they needed.
Back to winning ways.
Relief, a goal. The first hour was very tentative from United up against a Donetsk side who had clearly come to win. We were pegged back a lot of the time but after Moyes made his substitutions, we took the game to Donetsk and were rewarded with a goal.
Phil Jones showed excellent technique to lash in from Van Persie’s corner and you felt a sigh of relief around Old Trafford when it hit the back of the net. United had gone over 240 minutes without scoring and were in a bit of a rut after two back to back defeats.
It means a lot to the make-up of the season as well because the victory means we will play one of the second place finishers in the knock-out round of 16 rather than a group winner, so it has eased a lot of pressure and after the two losses, a third home game without a win would have been a real lull.
Slow build up play doesn’t play to our strengths. Against Bayer Leverkusen, United romped to a 5-0 victory because of how fast we hit the Germans on the counter-atttack – they had no answer for us.
In complete contrast, we set up with a very rigid and almost passive mindset against Shakhtar where, more often than not, we resorted to the long ball through a lack of options going forward.
We defended from deep and invited Shakhtar onto us which played into their hand as they are a very neat passing team. In the second half, we improved but the point still remains that we need to play to our strengths of quick, slick football rather than a passive style of play.
Adnan Januzaj‘s Champions League debut. Januzaj has now made his senior debut for United in every competition after his appearance against Shakhtar tonight.
The 18-year-old looked exactly as he has all season – confident and mature beyond his years. He ran at his defender and was one of United’s best performers in the first half.
One thing that Januzaj has done all season is show a real ability to get a shot off quickly like he did tonight and that’s always refreshing to see.
He wasn’t as involved in the second half but was still important for United going forward and his piece of skill in the 80th minute to control it on the chest before flicking it over the head of a Donetsk player was glorious.
Our season starts now. United’s next five Premier League games are against opposition who are currently lower than us in the table and it presents us with a real opportunity to eat away at the lead that the teams above us.
The start of the season hasn’t gone to plan but absolutely nothing is lost yet. Arsenal may be cruising at the top of the league but like they showed against Birmingham in the League Cup final a couple of years ago, they aren’t used to the pressure in recent years.
Beyond Arsenal, United are only eight points off third spot and it isn’t even January yet. There is everything still to play for but the side have to respond and put a really strong run together in December.