With the pressure mounting over David Moyes’s head, Manchester United were in desperate need of a positive result this week. Following today’s 1-0 victory against Shakhtar Donetsk, critics of United’s new manager will be hushed now… at least until the weekend.
In their final group stage match, it was Phil Jones who scored the decisive winner at Old Trafford. The goal came from a second-half corner which Jones met with a well-controlled volley. His strike would be enough to give United the win and to secure the sides position at the top of Group A.
The victory was much needed following two home defeats in which United looked unrecognizable to the resolute, giving-nothing-at-home sides of Sir Alex Ferguson. The consecutive home losses were the first to occur at Old Trafford since 2002. As unfair as it is to compare Moyes to Ferguson, the new manager of Manchester United has not been able to maintain the level of performance accustomed to by the club and its fans. However, Moyes’s Champions League form has been the one constant positive in this year’s campaign.
Today’s victory did not come easy, though. United had to fight hard to gain a foothold in the match. Ashley Young, a player who has been put under a large microscope for questionable performances this season, wasted not one, but two relatively easy scoring chances. For most of the match, United were tracking Shakhtar around the field, unable to impose their will on the opposition.
It was only a moment of quality that would put Manchester United ahead of the Ukrainian side. Robin Van Persie sent in a well-targeted cross from a 67th-minute corner. Jones perfectly timed his run onto the cross and finish with authority.
Shakhtar were obviously discouraged by the goal and were unable to recover. They failed to mount any sort of comeback or resistance against United in the closing portion of the match.
Now that Moyes has seen his side through to the knockout stages of Champions League play, he will need to refocus his efforts on the Premier League. Manchester United travel to Aston Villa this coming Sunday. United will be hoping they can start a new run of good form going into January. One positive fact about manager David Moyes is that his teams tend to raise their quality of play towards the end of the season. Manchester United will have to do just that if they are to have any title hopes come season’s end.