An injury-time equaliser from Kim Bo-Kyung earned a dramatic 2-2 draw for Cardiff and denied Manchester United all three points in the Welsh capital. Adam Bate picks the bones out of another unconvincing performance from the Premier League champions...
By Adam Bate - Follow @GhostGoal. Last Updated: 25/11/13 8:56am
Kim Bo-Kyung headed a stoppage-time equaliser for Cardiff as they salvaged a dramatic point in a 2-2 draw at home to Manchester United on Sunday. First-half goals from Wayne Rooney and Patrice Evra had looked to be enough to win it for the visitors, despite a Fraizer Campbell equaliser but Cardiff had the final say to the delight of their vocal fans.
Rooney was fortunate to be on the pitch after kicking out at his marker in the early stages and could have picked up an astonishing winner with seconds remaining, only to attempt a pass to Danny Welbeck when clean through on goal. Here we look at the Opta stats to assess a disjointed effort from United and how Cardiff troubled the Premier League champions...
Cardiff City v Manchester United starting formations
Malky Mackay went with the English duo of Steven Caulker and Ben Turner at the back with robust Chile international midfielder Gary Medel in front of them offering protection. Jordon Mutch was preferred to Aron Gunnarsson in midfield, while Peter Odemwingie provided the support to striker Fraizer Campbell.
Rio Ferdinand came in for the injured Nemanja Vidic at the heart of the defence for United. With Phil Jones and Michael Carrick also unavailable, Marouane Fellaini paired Tom Cleverley in midfield, while Antonio Valencia and Adnan Januzaj offered the width. In the absence of Robin van Persie, Javier Hernandez started alongside Wayne Rooney in attack.
Story of the game
It's 10 games unbeaten for Manchester United in all competitions but it's hard to recall a less convincing sequence of performance to achieve such a feat. This was a game in which the champions relied upon errors from their opponents and set-piece delivery in order to get their goals. In between, the football was anything but impressive.
Of course, United have made a habit out of winning such games when they are not at their best. But perhaps more alarmingly for supporters of David Moyes and his team, they were not even able to do that - succumbing to a set-piece goal from the hosts that gave Cardiff the point they thoroughly deserved.
What Cardiff boss Mackay could not account for were errors - whether they were by the referee or his players. Neil Swarbrick failed to punish Rooney for lashing out at Jordon Mutch and when Ben Turner gave the ball away in his own half, it was the England striker who punished the mistake as he beat David Marshall after a deflection off Medel.
Kevin Theophile-Catherine got forward well on the right and it was a key zone for Cardiff
Despite that, the Bluebirds troubled the visitors from the outset with a high tempo approach that saw United surrender possession on a regular basis. Energetic right-back Kevin Theophile-Catherine did a great job in pinning back Januzaj down the United left - an area Mackay seemed to have targeted - and it ensured the youngster was forced to do much of his work in his own half.
It was a difficult one for the highly-rated Januzaj. "Wayne Rooney has moved out to the left to help," said Gary Neville midway through the first half. "He's got a real job on his hands to take care of the right-back pushing forwards there. United are really struggling to cope." Januzaj lost the ball 13 times in his 68 minute outing and his carelessness was typical of his team's performance.
Fraizer Campbell's goal came from two pinpoint passes that cut through United's defence
If that was supposed to take the sting out of the game, the quality of the Manchester United passing prevented that from happening and as Cardiff enjoyed more of the ball it became easier for the crowd to get involved. An equaliser of the highest quality certainly helped the mood as first Peter Whittingham and then Mutch threaded excellent forward passes through to allow Campbell to beat David de Gea with an expert first-time finish against his former club.
The goal reflected the fact that Mutch was drifting into pockets of space in behind Fellaini and Cleverley and United seemed to miss the intercepting ability of Carrick in those areas. There is something worryingly static about the Moyes midfield at times; it is as if clever midfield triangles are no longer something the team concern themselves with.
Manchester United crossed the ball well with the green circles representing balls won
Set-pieces on the other hand, are becoming an ever more potent weapon. Seven of their 20 Premier League goals so far this season have come from dead-ball situations and Evra's first of the season that put the Red Devils ahead was a fine header after he was afforded far too much space by Medel.
Fellaini almost added a third from another fine Rooney delivery just after the break, only for Marshall to pull off a great save. The Cardiff keeper then repeated the trick, saving with his feet from Chris Smalling from the subsequent corner. The regularity with which United caused problems from wide areas goes some way to explaining the persistence with the tactic.
|Cardiff v Man Utd - Most Passes|
But it was the overall quality of the play that will give cause for concern. "I don't think the quality of the football has been anywhere near good enough in wide areas or in midfield," said Neville. "There's no rhythm in their game whatsoever. They keep giving the ball way."
While Medel and Whittingham, in particular, looked to use the ball tidily but purposefully in central areas, the work from the United midfield was invariably sloppy. Meanwhile, Smalling, so often the outlet at full-back, had the worst pass completion rate of any outfield starter at just 65.1 per cent.
Whittingham played twice as many passes as Cleverley in the final third and the England man even struggled to retain the ball in deep areas - with one misjudged pass to his centre-back only succeeding in finding Campbell, whose deft chip over De Gea was unfortunate to bounce back off the post.
Peter Whittingham outperformed Tom Cleverley, who struggled tp pick out forward pass
Moyes did attempt to wrestle control of the game by firstly introducing Welbeck for Januzaj on the left and then bringing on hometown boy Ryan Giggs for Hernandez to bolster the midfield. It almost paid off when Giggs found Welbeck with a delightful lofted pass only for Marshall to seize on a loose touch from the forward. Instead it was another substitute who had the final say.
Kim had replaced Mutch with a quarter of an hour remaining and headed in the equaliser in injury time from exactly the sort of set-piece delivery Moyes must have warned his team against - Evra switching off to allow the South Korea international to nod home under minimal pressure.
Although the United boss will inevitably point to the chances missed - including the baffling decision of Rooney to pass when in on goal with seconds remaining - as well as the misfortune of conceding late, that's hardly the full story. Manchester United are simply not showing the fluency required to defend their title.
"Overall I'm happy that both teams deserved to have 11 men on the pitch. They didn't deserve to have any men off and neither did we. I think we played really well today. In terms of chances I thought we created a lot, we passed the ball really well. It's probably the most complete first-half performance we've had this season. We were playing the champions so I'm delighted."
"I'm disappointed we didn't take all three points but Cardiff made a game of it and put us under pressure. We gave away a stupid free-kick which led to the goal. But we had one or two chances ourselves that maybe could have put the game to bed earlier. Their first goal saw them play two really good passes. If you gave them the chance to make those passes again could they do it? I'm not so sure."
"Patrice Evra just switches off. They haven't played well. There can be no complaints about the result from Manchester United. They haven't played well enough to win the game. They were always hanging on, showing grit and determination and defending well. But when a team scores against you if you're playing like that then you can have no complaints."
Campbell was a real threat working in the space between Ferdinand and Evans. Not only did the once-capped England international net a first-half equaliser for his side, but his performance caused Glenn Hoddle in the Sky Sports studio to push his claims for a World Cup place next summer.
Barclays Premier League
|4||West Ham United||17||31|
|15||West Bromwich Albion||17||17|
|16||Queens Park Rangers||17||17|