A Phil Jones goal secured a welcome win for under fire manager David Moyes as they secured top spot in Champions League Group A with a 1-0 victory over Shakhtar Donetsk at Old Trafford. The result means that the Ukrainian champions have to settle for a Europa League place after Bayer Leverkusen moved above them into second place with their win against Real Sociedad.
Again, though, it was far from a convincing performance from a United side that came into the match having lost back-to-back Premier League matches at Old Trafford for the first time in 2002. Shakhtar controlled the match for long periods, with their array of Brazilian talent out-passing a United midfield that again struggled.
United did have their chances to break the deadlock inside the opening half. Adnan Jauzaj tested Andriy Pyatov with a clever turn and powerful shot that was just too close to the Shakhtar goalkeeper. But it was Ashley Young who was the biggest culprit.
In his first start since October, the winger failed to make the most of his chance to impress. First Young managed to get in front of a dozing Shakhtar defender to get clear through on goal and he lofted the ball over the goalkeeper, but watched as it dropped wide of the post. Minutes later, right before half-time, another opportunity went begging as he sliced a chance on his weaker left-foot wide of the near post after being set up by Wayne Rooney.
In the second half, United went close again when Shinji Kagawa saw his header saved by Pyatov. But the arrival of Robin van Persie just past the hour mark helped United to get the game’s only goal. The Dutch striker’s in-swinging corner was dealt with poorly by Mircea Lucescu’s side and the ball fell to Jones 12 yards out who slammed the ball low into the net.
It meant United finished with an impressive tally of 14 points, but Moyes will be fully aware that a drastic improvement is needed if Manchester United are to be a factor at the business end of this season’s Champions League.