[Premier League] Manchester United 2-0 Cardiff City
ManUtd: Robin van Persie (6), Ashley Young (59)
Robin van Persie and Ashley Young grabbed the goals as Manchester United picked up a welcome three points with a 2-0 victory against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Cardiff City.
Despite the boost of an early breakthrough, the Reds were unable to kill off the visitors in the first half. Van Persie netted at the second attempt, after David Marshall saved his initial effort superbly, when Antonio Valencia's header came back off the bar.
Debutant Juan Mata was close to finding Ashley Young with a deep cross and van Persie screwed agonisingly wide but the Welsh side had clear-cut chances of their own. Craig Noone fired over after a promising run and David De Gea had to keep out a Mark Hudson header with an outstretched boot.
Cardiff also enjoyed a decent spell of possession after the interval but Young doubled the lead with a moment of individual brilliance, drifting inside onto his right foot and burying an unerring low drive into the bottom corner of Marshall's net.
It sparked more attacking play from David Moyes' men with Mata's first shot in a red shirt saved by Marshall and Jonny Evans bending wide after galloping forward with purpose. Wayne Rooney came on for van Persie and went close with a deflected drive.
Marshall parried a Valencia drive onto the woodwork after the Ecuadorian delayed his shot and turned Declan John before Mata, his replacement Adnan Januzaj and Rooney all had decent efforts. However, the visitors were competitive until the final whistle on a night when respect was paid to their manager.
The Match They came to pay tribute to a former no. 20 but it was the man currently starring in the shirt who quickly showed what United have been missing for the past 11 matches. Robin van Persie eased any tension with an early goal on his return after already proving his return to fitness with a full-blooded tackle. Ashley Young scored at just the right time to extinguish Cardiff's hopes of a comeback and only the woodwork denied Antonio Valencia a third.
The Goals In the sixth minute, Patrice Evra brilliantly controlled a pass by debutant Juan Mata on the touchline and found van Persie, who touched the ball off to Young. The winger’s cross enabled Antonio Valencia to send a close-range header crashing against the bar and David Marshall somehow kept out van Persie’s follow-up. Thankfully, the Dutchman had a second bite of the cherry and thrashed it home. Young added a second just before the hour mark when lashing a full-blooded strike into the bottom corner of the net from the edge of the area.
Star man Young looked bright from the outset and, of course, netted the important second strike with a moment of magic which he is always capable of producing. The England international also crossed in the build-up to van Persie's opener and was a thorn in the City defence throughout.
Sub-plots Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's return to Old Trafford as an opposing manager for the first time shared top billing with Mata's debut. There was a buzz around the ground as a result but the harsh truth was victory was vital for United in terms of climbing the table with other teams certain to take points off each other. Wayne Rooney came off the bench to provide another major positive for David Moyes while Mata clearly relished the response he received when he was withdrawn late on for Adnan Januzaj.
Opposition Former Manchester City star Craig Bellamy and ex-Red Fraizer Campbell provided much of the threat going forward with the Bluebirds mainly looking to play on the counter-attack. Seemingly not lacking confidence despite a poor run of league form, they kept United busy at the back throughout without overly extending David De Gea.
Move of the Match Following a spell of possession for the Welsh side, Mata and Ryan Giggs were heavily involved in a build-up that saw Valencia receive the veteran's crossfield pass on the right. A perfectly-timed ball to the overlapping Rafael probably deserved better than a misplaced centre that was intercepted by Kevin McNaughton.
In the Stands Solskjaer's famous tune was belted out as the first song after kick-off but the loudest pre-match roar came when the Reds' new no. 8 was announced. The Bluebirds boss turned the teams around in the first half so Cardiff attacked the Stretford End in the second half. The away fans raised a chuckle with a chant of: 'Same old English, always cheating' after Jonny Evans was clearly caught by Jordon Mutch's elbow while Bellamy played the typical role of pantomime villain, much to the home fans' amusement.