The 4-1 win over Aston Villa in Saturday’s early kick off was a welcome boost for David Moyes and his beleaguered side after a difficult week – but the manner of the victory suggests that this was no turning point.
In fact, with Bayern Munich due at Old Trafford on Tuesday, it’s rather more likely that the defeat of Paul Lambert’s side will just be the continuation of a season long pattern that has seen United follow such victories with crushing, demoralising defeats.
In many ways the result flattered the champions, and David Moyes had as much reason to be grateful to Villa’s Christian Benteke as he was to his own players. The big Belgian, despite a recent revival in his goalscoring fortunes, passed up three gilt edge chances at critical points in the game that could have ratcheted up the pressure on the “Chosen One.”
There were plusses for Moyes, of course. He’ll no doubt have been pleased by the response of his charges to falling behind to Westwood’s early free kick. He’ll also have been delighted in the improved performances of Mata, Fellaini and Kagawa, who figured prominently in United best moments and who lifted some of the burden off the excellent Wayne Rooney, who seemed to be playing United’s opponents on his own of late.
The four goal salvo will also have raised spirits – the first time United have scored four in the league since the opening weekend’s trip to Swansea. And Moyes will also have been pleased that the victory was achieved in front of an Old Trafford crowd that has seen far too many grim days of late – results and performances that the Scot admitted had caused him to feel ashamed.
Nevertheless, there was plenty to worry the realistic amongst the Old Trafford faithful.
The ease with which Villa created such clear cut opportunities for Benteke must be a serious cause for worry given United’s date with the European champions this week. Ferdinand and Vidic struggled to contain the misfiring Benteke – a worrying thought should they face the similarly muscular and better served Mandzukic on Tuesday evening – and United’s back four still yield too much ground to opponents. And while Patrice Evra’s deputy Alexander Buttner had a decent game going forward, he was posed quite a few problems by Marc Albrighton – who, let’s face it, is no Arjen Robben. The Dutch defender looks set to face his jet heeled compatriot in the Champion’s League – and he’ll be hoping for a little more help from whomever lines out ahead of him than he received from Shinji Kagawa on Saturday.
And so while a win is a win, the warning signs are still there. United continued to play in that ponderous disjointed way that has characterised their season thus far. More worryingly, should they offer Bayern Munich the same time and space they offered to Saturday’s more limited visitors, they are courting yet more disaster. The Germans are very unlikely to be as generous as Paul Lambert’s inconsistent side. Another Old Trafford humiliation for Moyes might just be a humiliation too far.