Van Persie helps Moyes win first trophy at Manchester United

One game, one trophy. Suddenly manager's task does not seem so imposing as Wigan Athletic are beaten in Community Shield, reports Richard Jolly.
Robin van Persie jumps to connect with Patrice Evra's cross to score a superb header - his first of two against Wigan - as Manchester United won the Community Shield. Darren Staples / Reuters
Robin van Persie jumps to connect with Patrice Evra's cross to score a superb header - his first of two against Wigan - as Manchester United won the Community Shield. Darren Staples / Reuters

One game, one trophy. Suddenly David Moyes's task does not seem quite so imposing. Even Sir Alex Ferguson did not secure silverware at quite that rate. Except that, as the new Manchester United manager has been saying for weeks, the Community Shield almost counts as yet another honour his predecessor earned. Had Ferguson's United not lifted the English Premier League, then Moyes's teams would still have won nothing apart from plaudits since Preston North End topped England's third tier in 2000.

But after a summer of discontent, even a victory against a Championship side in what many consider a glorified friendly still amounted to a restorative occasion. After their seven pre-season fixtures only produced two wins, two goals from Robin van Persie averted embarrassment. Wigan Athletic had upset one of the Manchester giants, City, in May's FA Cup final, but a repeat was as unlikely as Moyes swapping Wayne Rooney for Luis Suarez before the transfer window closes.

Their troubles in the transfer market, more than mediocre results on the pitch, have created the impression that Moyes's reign has begun in underwhelming fashion. If Van Persie represented an early retirement present for Ferguson, however, he is also the finest individual element of the 71-year-old Scot's legacy to his successor.

Scorer of 30 goals last year, the new campaign has already brought two for Van Persie, a perfectly judged header from Patrice Evra's cross and a shot that James Perch deflected in.

He is the man for all seasons and with each strike, his importance is emphasised. With Rooney unsettled and officially injured and Javier Hernandez unfit, the only other striker in the United squad was Danny Welbeck, working industriously, usually on the left flank, and teeing up Van Persie for his second goal, but, as ever, rarely looking like scoring one himself.

When both were withdrawn, Adnan Januzaj, 18, ended the game in attack. He has excelled in United's recent friendlies, but would prefer a deeper role. It was another way of illustrating that the burden on Van Persie's shoulders is huge, and given Rooney's wanderlust, renders it surprising Moyes has not spent more time chasing a striker.

His priority is correct, though. After the failed attempts to sign Thiago Alcantara and Cesc Fabregas, it is no secret Moyes's intention is to strengthen the midfield. Ferguson bequeathed him plenty of contenders, but a solitary automatic choice, Michael Carrick, and if Tom Cleverley was the man threatened by the pursuit of the Barcelona passers, his selection at Wembley Stadium seemed a consequence of United's strange lack of allure to A-list targets.

Cleverley played like Cleverley, neat and tidy in possession, scuffing his only shot wide and proving altogether unobtrusive. It was not a performance to prompt Moyes to call off his search for a midfielder, even if, having been over-run by Sevilla in Rio Ferdinand's testimonial on Friday, at least he did not leave his defence exposed for the second time in three days.

And so the sole newcomer in the United ranks was Ferguson's parting gift. Wilfried Zaha was signed in January, loaned back to Crystal Palace and finished his career with the Londoners at Wembley, helping them win promotion in May's play-off final. On his return to the national stadium, he again demonstrated speed and skill, flicks and tricks, but sometimes squandering possession or taking the wrong option.

It is a decade since United signed another callow winger prone to over-elaborate. Cristiano Ronaldo frustrated initially but acquired the focus and ruthlessness to explain his transformation from luxury to legend. It is unrealistic in the extreme to expect Zaha to develop as dramatically, but the key for him, too, is to improve his decision-making.

Given the travails of the other United wingers – Nani and Ashley Young are injured, and in any case, did not flourish last year while Antonio Valencia regressed after an excellent 2011/12 – there is a vacancy for first choice.

As it is, the oldest winger in town remains the finest at Moyes's disposal: the 39-year-old Ryan Giggs, approaching his 950th game for United, but playing his first for a manager other than Ferguson and his first as a player-coach. The Welshman wandered around with nonchalant intelligence in the No 10 position, finding space with characteristic ease.

And this was a straightforward victory for United. With Wigan content not to be thrashed and United happy to stroke the ball around, there was a mutual non-aggression pact for large swathes of the game.

Van Persie had not signed it, however, and Moyes has achieved something Ferguson did not do in his first three-and-a-half years at Old Trafford: won a trophy.

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Published: August 11, 2013 04:00 AM


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