Man United save reserves for Champions Lge test

Posted by Mark Payne

Adnan Januzaj won the freekick from which Wayne Rooney scored.GettyImagesAdnan Januzaj won the free kick from which Wayne Rooney scored.

An unspectacular 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace on Saturday will go down as David Moyes' first Old Trafford win as Manchester United manager, but with results elsewhere going United's way and debuts for two new players, the Red Devils' boss can be satisfied with his day's work.

This was not Manchester United at their irresistible zenith. The team sheet included the names Anderson and Ashley Young, which dampened expectations from the off. However, there was also a start for Wayne Rooney, who had to wear a headband to protect the cut on his forehead. Rooney put in a busy shift, garnished with the goal that sealed victory in the 81st minute. He already looks a better player than the disgruntled clumper who finished last season, and it is hoped his relationship with the club can heal as well as the wound on his head.

Young's relationship with Manchester United is looking less certain. It can be difficult to play for a team when the fans don't back you. At Old Trafford, some are now actively against him. Young's blatant dive midway through the first half was an embarrassment that had all in attendance holding their heads in their hands. To his credit, Moyes admonished the player after the match. "I don't want my players diving," he said. Neither do the supporters.

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With Bayer Leverkusen in town for the Champions League this week, Moyes needed to rotate his squad. After years of toil in the Europa League, this is nothing new for him, and it was clear that the German side are being treated as the bigger challenge.

As such, new signing Marouane Fellaini was kept under wraps until after the hour mark, and United kept the game at a moderate tempo throughout. Despite an enormous amount of possession, the home side made few clear-cut chances. Anderson provided none of the thrust that his position is supposed to, and most of United's forward play went wide right to Young, who generally shimmied and then lost possession. People were beginning to grumble.

The game shifted from frustration to foregone conclusion on the stroke of halftime. Young tumbled again, and after some hesitation, the referee awarded a penalty and sent off offending Palace player Kagisho Dikgacoi. Robin van Persie's penalty was slicker than Cristiano Ronaldo's hair, and it was game over. Everybody knew it, too.

In the second half the sun came out. Despite their numerical advantage, United continued to make their newly promoted opponents look heroic until Moyes made a double substitution that proved to be the final twist of the knife. New boy Fellaini took the field and was followed five minutes later by young winger Adnan Januzaj. The men they replaced, Anderson and Young, can consider themselves replaced in the long term, too. Fellaini made more passes with more accuracy in his 28 minutes on the field than Anderson did in 62. Similarly, Januzaj made two key passes during his brief time on the pitch; Young made only one all game long.

Later in the afternoon, news arrived that Chelsea had lost 1-0 at Everton and Manchester City had drawn 0-0 at Stoke. The two teams most hotly tipped to challenge for the title had dropped points in matches that were supposed to be routine. City manager Manuel Pellegrini will be the one under pressure when they meet United in the derby next week. That will suit Moyes down to the ground.

The United manager and his team are yet to hit stride this season, but with ex-boss Sir Alex Ferguson watching from the stands, the team won with something to spare. It is something the club have been doing for years. Fellaini and Januzaj got their first taste of it here; they will both be back for more.


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