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Old Trafford (ATT 75,301) 28th January 2014 - Kick off 19:45

Man Utd Manchester United vs Cardiff City Cardiff

Man Utd 2

R van Persie (6)
A Young (59)

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Premier League: Juan Mata debuts as Manchester United see off Cardiff

Last Updated: 29/01/14 9:45am

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Juan Mata made his Manchester United debut on Tuesday, but it was Robin van Persie and Ashley Young who earned a 2-0 win over Cardiff City.

Positivity has been in short supply at Old Trafford this season, but David Moyes was boosted by a big-money signing and returning frontmen in midweek.

Best of the match

  • Man of the match: Ashley Young. Has come in for criticism at times but helped make one and scored the other on a productive evening.
  • Goal of the match: There was no stopping Young's spectacular 25-yard drive which flashed past David Marshall before he had time to react.
  • Moment of the match: An emotional night at Old Trafford saw Juan Mata and returning hero Ole Gunnar Solskjaer given warm receptions, but only one was celebrating at the final whistle.
  • Talking point: Can United now fire themselves back into the top four? Have Cardiff got enough to claw their way out of the drop zone?

It took just six minutes for the spark to be rekindled, with Mata starting a move which resulted in Young delivering onto the head of Antonio Valencia.

His header crashed back off the crossbar, but Van Persie - who has been missing since mid-December - was on hand to nod home after seeing a first attempt beaten back out by David Marshall.

The hosts doubled their lead just before the hour mark, with Young allowed to drift inside off the left flank and unleash an unstoppable 25-yard drive which swerved and dipped into the bottom corner.

A good night for United also saw Wayne Rooney make his return to competitive action as a second half substitute, but a former Red Devils favourite - Ole Gunnar Solskjaer - must head back to the drawing board after seeing his Cardiff side remain rooted to the foot of the division.

Sub-plots

There were so many sub-plots prior to kick-off that Van Persie's potential return was shunted down the list.

The Dutchman had missed 11 games since tweaking a thigh muscle taking a corner in the UEFA Champions League win over Shakhtar Donetsk on 10th December. It was a further five since his last goal.

Van Persie's value to the Red Devils cause is underlined by the fact that in his absence United had lost six times, seen their title hopes evaporate and been knocked out of both domestic cup competitions.

How different results might have been had last season's Golden Boot winner been available to Moyes.

Moyes pleased by comfortable win

His impact tonight took just six minutes. Mata was involved, delivering an excellent cross-field pass to Patrice Evra as United switched their point of attack. Young then swung over the cross, which Valencia crashed against the bar with a flying header.

Van Persie was onto the rebound in an instant. And though Marshall kept it out, the Dutchman pounced on the loose ball to put United ahead quicker than in any other game on home soil this season.

For a period it looked as though Moyes would see his team capitalise.

Young almost reached another Mata cross, Jonny Evans sent a back header just over and Van Persie fired wide from an acute angle.

In addition, Craig Bellamy was booked for kicking the ball away at a disputed free-kick and Solskjaer sat slumped in his seat, growing weary, no doubt, of responding to repeated songs of affection from the home support.

No triumphant return for Solskjaer

Forceful

Slowly, though, Cardiff began to get a foothold in the game.

Craig Noone ended a forceful run in disappointing fashion when he belted his shot over.

Mark Hudson forced a decent save out of David de Gea, who also got himself in a tangle with Evans that was fortunate to end with nothing worse than the concession of a corner.

Cardiff maintained their momentum after the break.

Had Declan John's cut-back been accurate, Campbell would have had the easiest of finishes. As it was, the ball rolled behind the forward, as it did at the other end when Rafael tried to find Van Persie in similar circumstances.

Mata - An amazing debut

United needed a spark and Young provided it with a fantastic goal, cutting in from the left wing before firing into the bottom corner.

Mata had a shot saved by Marshall and a speculative curling effort from Evans floated wide not long after Rooney had replaced Van Persie.

Despite their side's woes the home fans had not lost their sense of humour as a chant of "we are staying up" proved, as United secured a win that took them onto 40 points.

Valencia was denied a third when Marshall pushed his shot onto a post, which would have represented United's biggest home win of their largely troubled campaign.

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Matches

Table

Barclays Premier League

Barclays Premier League
Pos Team P Pts
1 Liverpool 34 77
2 Chelsea 34 75
3 Manchester City 33 71
4 Arsenal 34 67
5 Everton 34 66
6 Tottenham Hotspur 34 60
7 Manchester United 33 57
8 Southampton 34 48
9 Newcastle United 34 46
10 Stoke City 34 43
11 Crystal Palace 34 40
12 West Ham United 34 37
13 Hull City 33 36
14 Aston Villa 33 34
15 Swansea City 34 33
16 West Bromwich Albion 33 33
17 Norwich City 34 32
18 Fulham 34 30
19 Cardiff City 34 29
20 Sunderland 33 26

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