David Moyes Facing a Dilemma over How to Fit His 3 Stars in at Man United

Rob Dawson@@RobDawsonMENManchester United CorrespondentJanuary 28, 2014


David Moyes hasn't had many comfortable nights as manager of Manchester United.

But two goals, a clean sheet, a debut for Juan Mata and the return of Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie made Tuesday night an enjoyable one for the United manager.

He picked Mata, his new £37.1 million buy, from the start against Cardiff, but it was perhaps a bigger boost that he could name both Rooney and Van Persie in his squad.

Of the eight games Van Persie and Rooney have started together this season, United have won six. You suspect that if they had both stayed fit this season, United wouldn't be languishing down in seventh in the Premier League table.

Moyes started with Mata behind Van Persie. And when Rooney came off the bench in the second half, it was Van Persie who went off.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 28:  Juan Mata of Manchester United competes with Kim Bo-Kyung of Cardiff City during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Cardiff City at Old Trafford on January 28, 2014 in Manchester, England.  (
Michael Regan/Getty Images

It leaves unresolved the issue of where the Spaniard is going to play when both Rooney and Van Persie are fit.

Moyes, and Sir Alex Ferguson before him, have faced a similar problem with Shinji Kagawa.

Kagawa is more comfortable playing behind a striker. But with Moyes preferring to play with a front two, the Japanese midfielder has found most of his opportunities come on the left of midfield.

Mata, too, is more comfortable playing centrally. He looked neat and tidy in the hole behind Van Persie against Cardiff, but there is a question mark over how many times he will get to play there.

If Moyes wants to stick with his variation of 4-4-2, the obvious solution is to play Van Persie and Rooney as a pair with Mata out wide.

And when you add in Adnan Januzaj—probably United's best player so far this season—playing on the other side, it could leave Moyes' team looking very narrow.

Both Mata and Januzaj will naturally want to drift inside, putting a lot of pressure on the full-backs to supply the width.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 28:  Wayne Rooney of Manchester United replaces Robin van Persie during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Cardiff City at Old Trafford on January 28, 2014 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Micha
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Trying to fit in Van Persie, Rooney and Mata isn't a bad problem to have. Mata's arrival from Chelsea will, at the very least, make United more creative—something they've lacked this season.

But it's still a dilemma Moyes has to solve. He kept his cards close to his chest on Tuesday night, never having more than two of them on the pitch at the same time.

A trip to Stoke City and the Britannia Stadium on Saturday offers the next chance to get an insight into Moyes' long-term thinking.

Until then, at least he can sleep a little more comfortably.