Manchester United vs. West Ham United: 6 Things We Learned

Rob Blanchette@@_Rob_BFeatured ColumnistDecember 21, 2013

Manchester United vs. West Ham United: 6 Things We Learned

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    It finally feels like the real Manchester United have shown up. 

    David Moyes' men have threatened to kick-start their campaign a couple of times this season, only to fall flat and hemorrhage points.

    On Saturday afternoon, United disposed of West Ham in classic fashion, with an attacking display that befits a home appearance at Old Trafford.

    Against Newcastle, the team appeared to have failed Moyes, unable to execute his tactics, and performing in a malaise.

    This performance was the polar opposite. 

    United played without fear, and the crowd responded with confident support. The three goals that the Red Devils scored on the day could easily have been more, but this was a victory that will give Moyes heart for the season ahead.

    On a successful afternoon, here are six things we learned about United, who could be this season's surprise title contenders. 

Tom Cleverley Has a Future at Man Utd

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    If you listen to a section of the Red Devils' support, you will hear the classic catchphrase used for players who are not soaked in popularity:

    "Tom Cleverley is not United class." 

    If you want to use Paul Scholes as the "United class" benchmark, then probably not. 

    The key to success for Cleverley lies in the formation. Play him in a 4-4-2, and he is a dead man walking. Play him in something resembling a 4-3-3, as we saw on Saturday afternoon against West Ham United, and you have a totally different footballer. 

    Cleverley is a talented individual, who has been coached to become a conservative midfielder since his last loan spell at Wigan Athletic. Sir Alex Ferguson saw him as Michael Carrick's long-term partner, and this he might still become.

    However, if David Moyes sticks with 4-4-2, then this will be impossible. 

    Today we saw an evolution in Moyes' tactics. Cleverley was allowed to interchange with Wayne Rooney and Phil Jones in central midfield, and it worked fantastically. 

    If United pursue with this formation and tactics, we might see the young England international start to bloom at the heart of a much-maligned midfield. 

Danny Welbeck Has the Tools to Be a Striker

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    Danny Welbeck has everything in his arsenal.

    The boy has power and pace. He has bravery, and a Mancunian heart as big as Old Trafford itself.

    The one thing he lacks is a poacher's instinct. At least, that is what his detractors would tell you. 

    Any Danny Welbeck fan would proclaim he is a footballer on the cusp of something special. The problem for the player has been his continued use in the wider positions, and the lack of a run in the striker's role.

    It is impossible for a centre-forward like Welbeck to develop his goal-scoring touch when playing second fiddle to a world class player like Robin van Persie.

    Now Welbeck has his opportunity to address the question: "Is he is good enough to score goals for Man Utd?"

    Three goals in six days is his answer. 

    Welbeck led the line well today, until injury cut short his appearance. While RvP spends the next few weeks on the sideline, the 23-year-old England striker seems to be enjoying his enhanced responsibilities.  

Wayne Rooney Must Forsake His Forward Role for the Team

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    Wayne Rooney has nothing to prove as a centre-forward.

    Everybody knows what he brings to Manchester United in that position, but at this very moment in time, it is in midfield that the Liverpudlian is needed. 

    Rooney was sublime in his deeper role on Saturday afternoon. His natural instinct to come searching for the ball lends itself to this position.

    Moyes has discovered that the combination of Rooney, Tom Cleverley and Phil Jones can drive this team forward, but only if the player will forsake his natural desire to play as a forward, and sacrifice himself for the team.

    Ultimately, this sacrifice will lead to more victories. 

    Ferguson saw Rooney as a midfielder in the future, and the player's performance shows it is a real possibility.

    Today, Rooney was imperious. West Ham could not live with him in this deeper role. His energy and vision are tailor-made to fill the current weaknesses in United's team. 

Kagawa's Time at United Is Coming to an End?

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    It is all starting to feel a bit "Juan Sebastian Veron."

    Even though Veron was one of the very best in the world in his position, he only lasted two years at United, until the club got an offer which allowed them to sell.

    You feel that Kagawa might be treading in the Argentine legend's boots.

    The game against West Ham was perfect to give Kagawa game time. The fact remains he could not get on the pitch ahead of Chicharito, Ashley Young or Alexander Buttner. All three were given time to impress, while the Japanese international warmed the bench.

    With van Persie out injured, now would be the time to give Kagawa a regular starting place, but others are impressing ahead of him, and you cannot blame David Moyes for not using him.

    Rather than fall down the pecking order, Kagawa has failed to climb the ladder to the performance level needed to shine to be the star player United fans are craving him to be.

    You cannot help but feel that if United gets a good offer for him this January, and they have a replacement lined up, that Moyes will press the button and move the player on.

    The clock is ticking.  

Jonny Evans Has Replaced Nemanja Vidic

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    The decline of Nemanja Vidic has been a steady one since his last major knee injury.

    Equally as steady has been the rise of Jonny Evans.

    A talented defender, after the Serbian's place in the team, and showing the type of responsibility and form that could make him the next club captain.

    Evans has been exceptional now for years, yet many outside of Old Trafford will not give him the credit he deserves.

    With his partner on the day, Chris Smalling, the intelligent Northern Ireland footballer bossed the game. Evans has the positional sense of Rio Ferdinand, but also the courage of Vidic.

    As the player matures, you can see why Sir Alex Ferguson allowed Gerard Pique to move on, as he had the prodigious talent of Evans waiting in the wings. 

    Jonny Evans' time is now.

    If Moyes is to succeed as United manager, Evans will be one of the cornerstones of his success. 

Adnan Januzaj Can Lead United into a New Era.

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    Adnan Januzaj is a world class footballer waiting to happen.

    David Moyes' best business in the past few months was getting the young Belgian to sign a long-term contract.

    Januzaj's effortless style masks what a deadly player he is.

    He took his goal with the calm and confidence of a player with many more miles on his clock. Even Cristiano Ronaldo was not as developed as this, as a teenager. 

    This young man can become anything he wants to be. Next season he will be given one of the club's sacred numbered shirts: seven or 11. 

    He will be worthy as the successor to Ryan Giggs, and could even become the goal machine that Ronaldo has developed in to.

    Time is on Januzaj's side.

    Over the next few years, it will be Januzaj that leads Manchester United into a brave new era under David Moyes.

    The way he ran towards his manager after scoring his goal spoke volumes.