Manchester United vs. Cardiff: Red Devils Under the Most Pressure in EPL Match

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistJanuary 28, 2014

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 22:  David Moyes the Manchester United manager directs his players during the Capital One Cup semi final, second leg match between Manchester United and Sunderland at Old Trafford on January 22, 2014 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images

Things continue to go poorly on the pitch for Manchester United, which puts a lot of pressure on many of the players set to compete against Cardiff on Matchday 23.

Since the start of 2014, the club has lost four of its six matches. One of the two wins was on the second leg of the Capital One Cup semifinals, which ended in a loss anyway. 

Fortunately, help is on the horizon in the form of reinforcements. According to Richard Jolly of ESPN, Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie and Marouane Fellaini will return either against Cardiff or soon after. Additionally, Juan Mata will likely make his debut after transferring from Chelsea.

Still, United remain in seventh place in the league table, six points out of a spot in next year's Champions League and 14 off the pace for a title. This puts pressure on everyone involved with the organization, but these players especially will deal with increased scrutiny on Tuesday.

Juan Mata

Jon Super/Associated Press

Heading into the season, it would not have been surprising to see Juan Mata cost a lot of money in a transfer. However, his inability to get starts for Chelsea had to be concerning.

The midfielder cost Manchester United a club-record £37.1 million, a fee that no one wants to consider wasted. This means Mata will be under a lot of pressure from the first time he steps onto the pitch.

He certainly said the right things when he first came to Old Trafford, via Sky Sports:

If another club was in this position it would be very difficult for them to come back and take first in the league. This club can do it. This club is used to fighting to the end. 

This is the real image I have of Manchester United; always trying to win every title and always coming back from difficult moments.

His pure skill has been on display over the past couple of years as he can create opportunities around the net for himself and others with ease. Still, he needs to show he can prove this ability for a new club with a new manager and new fans watching along. 

If he struggles in his debut against an inferior opponent, it will be an uphill battle to earn their trust going forward.

Jonny Evans

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 07:  Jonny Evans of Manchester United during the Barlcays Premier league match between Manchester United and Newcastle United at Old Trafford on December 7, 2013 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Ima
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Ankle ligament damage will keep Michael Carrick out for a few weeks, while Rio Ferdinand remains out with a knee injury. To make matters worse, Nemanja Vidic is suspended after getting a red card in his previous match against Chelsea.

This leaves the defense without a lot of experience, especially in the middle.

Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling will be the likely starters at centre-back, and each of them will be under a lot of pressure to keep the opponent off the scoresheet. Cardiff forward Fraizer Campbell certainly has the ability to beat a defense and find the back of the net on his own.

Evans has fared well lately, but this could be a chance to prove that he can handle the position full time when the current group of veterans retire. He will not have a safety net in this match, though, so he must remain focused at all times.

Otherwise, United will once again give up unnecessary goals that could contribute to a loss. 

Adnan Januzaj

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 22:  Adnan Januzaj of Manchester United misses with his penalty attempt during the Capital One Cup semi final, second leg match between Manchester United and Sunderland at Old Trafford on January 22, 2014 in Manchester, Engla
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

With the injured veterans returning and Mata coming into the picture, there will not be too many spots available on the attack. 

For the most part, Adnan Januzaj has been outstanding for an 18-year-old player trying to earn a regular spot on one of the biggest clubs in the world. Miguel Delaney of analysed what has made the young midfielder so good:

After just 16 Premier League games, one of the starkest aspects of the 18-year-old’s rise has been how he so brightly stands out amidst the United attack. In a David Moyes team that rather predictably tends to push every single move out to the wing for an orthodox cross in, Januzaj is currently the only player offering any variation, any spark. To put it somewhat bluntly, he thinks outside the box - or, in this case, the rigid template.

That being said, Manchester United cannot afford to drop many points going forward. This means that David Moyes could be inclined to use a more veteran lineup in bigger matches.

Considering Januzaj is prone to make mistakes (not uncommon for his age), this could end up forcing him to the bench for much of the second half of the year. 

If the midfielder struggles against Cardiff, it will only make Moyes' decision easier. 

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