Man United 1 Shakhtar Donetsk 0: Three talking points
Man United 1 Shakhtar Donetsk 0: Three talking points as Phil Jones nets the winner at Old Trafford
United get morale-boosting win
It may not have been the most attractive game of football ever to grace the Old Trafford pitch, but it will certainly have served as a nice distraction from Manchester United’s recent run of disastrous domestic results – it was a timely win. Of course, the Red Devils have had much better fortunes in Europe this season, tasting success on quite a few ocassions and managing to remain unbeaten so far. Yet, it was always going to be a worry that their bad luck would follow them on their Champions League journey, so their slender 1-0 victory over Shakhtar Donetsk was definitely a welcome result. Currently sitting ninth in the Premier League table, United needed to show some resilience for the visit of Shakhtar although it took them a while to get started. In truth, the crowd were visibly happier on Tuesday evening when the final whistle blew as United eventually managed to gain control of the tie following a stuttering start. And while Moyes won’t be utterly convinced by the performance of his players, one can be sure, he’ll cling to this result as an important silver lining heading into the final few weeks of the year.
Vast improvement still needed from Moyes’ men
A failure to close down an array of Shakhtar Donetsk forward surges at home left many wondering whether the reigning Premier League champions had learned the lessons from the past few weeks. Underpinning many of United’s losses so far this season hasn’t been a lack of enthusiasm or fight, but rather a failure to get many of the basics right or indeed to take their chances when they came their way. Throughout the opening period, it was clear to see that their midfield lacked the leadership it has so often possessed, and the visitors were doing well to exploit the weakness. However, after Moyes had undoubtedly shaken things up during the interval and roused the players into action, the impact of Donetsk’s freedom in the middle of the park became lessened greatly – they cut down on the amount of missplaced passes and got tighter to their men. The introduction of Tom Cleverley midway through the second half also provided United with a more solid central hub, and from there they were able to thread through more dangerous passes and put Oleksandr Kucher and company under increased pressure. In the end, the pressure told as Phil Jones saved the day with a fine finish into the back of the net.
Teixeira shows some promise
Finding an uncharacteristically large amount of space to run through whenever he found himsef with the ball at his feet, Alex Teixeira did well to put the heat on United’s back-four. The Brazilian creative midfielder was keen to shine brightly against one of the most prestigious clubs in the world and in the early stages of the tie he certainly did that. Fashioning a number of opportunities under his own steam by charging purposely and positively forward, the 23-year-old looked ready to sustain the gloom that’s been hanging over the Manchester club. Unfortunately, he failed to deliver and was left to rue his missed chances when Jones’ strike lifted the roof at Old Trafford. Having been left out in the cold of the Brazil squad for the last number of years, he’ll be keen to continue to churn out displays like this in the run-up to the World Cup. For now, though, he can be happy with the potential he exhibited on Tuesday.