MANCHESTER -- Three observations from Manchester United's 4-0 Capital One Cup win over Norwich at Old Trafford.
Zaha is learning but Januzaj is starring
Few Manchester United players have had a more chastening start to the season than Wilfried Zaha. While others have been found wanting on the pitch, he has been denied a place on it. Already the subject of a quiz question -- which player did Sir Alex Ferguson sign for 15 million pounds but never select? -- Zaha cost twice as much as Bebe and has played for United fewer times. But after being overtaken by Adnan Januzaj and overlooked for virtually everyone else, the forgotten man made a belated return, the best part of three months after his appearance in the Community Shield.
A spell on the sidelines has brought about a change. If the pre-match thought was that Zaha would challenge Cristiano Ronaldo's unofficial record for most stepovers in a game at Old Trafford, he confounded expectations. This was a different Zaha, a more David Moyes-friendly version. The United manager likes his wingers to be functional. There was less superfluous trickery and more early crosses, aimed ahead of Javier Hernandez to try and capitalise on the striker's speed. They weren't always quite accurate enough, showing there is room for improvement, but, along with his willingness to track back, it was an indication the forgotten man had been listening to his manager.
When Zaha, following one failed stepover, was substituted, Moyes seemed to praise him. Yet unless United enjoy a home draw against underdogs in the next round, the next message from the Scot may be telling him he can leave Old Trafford on loan in January. This was a reasonable performance, but no more. Once again, Januzaj looked the greater talent among the younger generation and, in a comparison of young wingers, Norwich's Nathan Redmond was brighter than Zaha.
Hernandez has illustrated his value
A week earlier, Moyes was asked if he would sell Javier Hernandez in January. The answer, unsurprisingly, was no, but it was indicative of a slow start to the season for the quicksilver Mexican. With the primacy of the partnership of Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie, his opportunities had been few and far between. He had only begun one league game, the disastrous defeat to West Bromwich Albion, and only scored one goal.
Seven days on, Hernandez had made two more starts and scored three more goals. His role in the squad is part super-sub, part scourge of the weak when the leading men are rested and the understudy steps in. In the space of a few days, he displayed his aptitude for both: after Saturday's cameo and clincher against Stoke came a brace when he was chosen to lead the line. While the first came from the penalty spot, the second followed his strike against Stoke in offering further evidence of his aerial ability. Hernandez possesses the priceless knack of finding space in the penalty box. There are few better stand-ins when the first-choice strikers are missing.
The times are changing at the back
There is a first time for everything and, after almost eight years as team-mates, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic finally began a League Cup match together. The significance may lie less in the clean sheet they helped keep, but in the connotations. Moyes could have held either back for a stiffer test at Fulham. Instead, as both played, it makes it less likely both of the veterans will begin on Saturday: perhaps neither will.
The Manchester derby showed Moyes the risks of picking the defence's senior citizens time and again. Both had been sidelined, giving Jonny Evans and Phil Jones a run of games together, but Ferdinand's absence since the defeat to West Brom 31 days earlier also owed something to managerial choice. His days as a first choice may be approaching their end and the likelihood is that Evans, rested for the rout of Norwich, will start at Craven Cottage. The question is whether he will be partnered by Jones or Vidic.