United were unspectacular but deserved the win. Manchester United dominated the opening exchanges with 65% possession in the first 15 minutes and Robin van Persie marked his return with a goal inside the first ten minutes.
A comfortable start from United then saw us took the foot of the pedal and Cardiff got back into the game for a ten minute period, but they rarely threatened our goal despite the increase in pressure.
In the second half, Cardiff started the stronger but a moment of brilliance from Ashley Young created daylight for United as his fiercely struck drive from outside the box gave United the breathing space of a 2-0 lead.
From then on in, it was a case of United making sure they didn’t lose a grip on the game and we didn’t. Job done.
Mata needs United to play for him. The signing of Mata was a fantastic boost to the squad and his hunger for the ball was refreshing to see as he always wanted it into feet.
However, what our performance tonight showed was that although he adds a creative spark to the side, it isn’t enough to create a new footballing philosophy.
Mata needs players coming close to him for short, sharp passing. Our emphasis still remains on big spaces between players to spread the play and that doesn’t play to his strengths. If we are to get the best out of our record signing Mata, we have to play more football on the ground through the middle.
Van Persie and Rooney back in the team is such a boost. Seeing Van Persie’s name on the starting line-up and Rooney’s on the bench was fantastic tonight.
We missed the duo desperately. In their absence, we seemed to lack belief. Tonight, we had that back in abundance. Although the home crowd has actually been very good this season, they were understandably lifted by their return.
You can’t be without your top scorer from last season and expect to carry on in the same fashion and Rooney has been instrumental for us this season.
When fully fit we now have Rooney, Van Persie, Welbeck, Mata, Januzaj and Kagawa as some of our attacking options. That’s some fantastic strength in depth.
Luxury signing of Mata can’t make us ignore real issues. It’s been said before and it’ll be said again but the midfield was again lacking tonight.
As he always does, Phil Jones put in a shift and Ryan Giggs’ performance was admirable but we need players in central midfield akin to Mata in his natural position. The cream of the crop.
No matter how good their performances are, you simply can’t have a defender and a 40-year-old as your central midfield pairing if you want to compete against the best teams in the world.
Maybe Moyes was sending a message to the Glazers by playing that midfield partnership tonight…
Rafael plays better when Fabio isn’t at United. This season, Rafael hasn’t been at his barnstorming best thanks to a collection of niggling injuries that have curtailed his progress.
However, tonight against Cardiff he was one of the best players on the pitch and I’m convinced Fabio’s move played a part in that.
Last year, Fabio was at QPR and Rafael was outstanding in his absence, safe in the knowledge that his twin brother was getting plenty of football elsewhere.
Instead of Fabio’s departure being a negative for Rafael, it may actually release a burden of responsibility he had with him and it could allow him to flourish again.