Shakhtar Donetsk 1 Manchester United 1 match report: David Moyes makes his point by going back to basics

That United should have led for nearly an hour and not walked away with a win created a sense of dejection, but it was the first point an English side has taken from Donetsk in the Champions League

the Donbass Arena

There was a smirk or two on Tuesday evening when David Moyes cited his time at Preston North End among the body of work which demonstrated how he could dig a way out of the dark tunnel he seems to be stumbling through, in these difficult early days at Manchester United. The sarcastic riposte being that the only remote relevance of Deepdale to the Old Trafford story was that the five-game proving ground it offered David Beckham before he returned to his natural domain.

But the new manager did indeed return to some of the proletarian basics. You might say that this was a quintessential Moyesian performance: full of the work ethic and spirit which we have come to expect from his teams. And lest that sound like a statement which damns the new manager with faint praise, it should also be said that this was a display far more reflective of England’s champions than the dismal performances United delivered on the continent in either Braga, Cluj or Galatasaray last season. 

That United should have led for nearly an hour and not walked away with a win created an unmistakeable sense of dejection as the players trooped from the field, but it was the first point an English side has taken from here in a Champions League visit. The huge image of a miner lifted over the supporters of this coal city before the match was a metaphor for what Moyes’ players delivered.

Nemanja Vidic was foremost among them, though Moyes too seemed to play every  pass. There have been times during these wretched last few weeks when he has retired to his dug-out seat, seemingly bereft of ideas. On the touchline, he seemed to be living and breathing the task in hand.

It never rains but it pours in football and to go with the dismal, sodden night was Sir Alex Ferguson’s decision to reopen a wound which has hardly been closed, by reiterating his claim that Wayne Rooney asked to leave this summer and calling out his agent, Paul Stretford, as a destablising influence.

Moyes must be wondering whether the notion of unleashing United’s one world-class component – the Rooney/Robin van Persie strike force – will ever be realised after the Englisman’s cracked shin sustained in Tuesday’s training session kept him out. It is his fourth injury of the season.

Amid Ferguson’s latest management manual material, delivered from the Charlie Rose interview chair recently occupied by Basher al-Assad was the suggestion that a manager must “trust in what he has” though Moyes, still uncertain, made another nine changes. The five midfielders reflected how desperately porous and open those central areas have been.

But the fortitude that Moyes wanted was delivered in abundance when United went to work. Marouane Fellaini was the kind of big impediment Moyes has promised he will be, Tom Cleverley neat and resolute and both Danny Welbeck and Antonio Valencia providing the kind of defensive reinforcements that have been missing.

There were certainly occasional sticky moments against the rapier counter-attack of the home side, who sat deep. Douglas Costa versus Chris Smalling, unexpectedly preferred to Phil Jones for Rio Ferdinand’s place, did not always look a match up made in Manchester heaven. The Englishman’s pat on the back for David de Gea telegraphed his relief when he misjudged one high ball with Luiz Adriano lurking. Tom Cleverley escaped conceding a penalty for a treacherously risky challenge on Alex Teixieira and was lucky to do so.

But United’s precision counter-attacking delivered them a good early chance, when Van Persie span onto an intelligent, levered Cleverley pass and shot narrowly wide, and then a goal to take a little of this recent angst away. Fellaini’s strength helped him hold off Tomas Hübschman down the right hand side and square for Welbeck to prod in his third goal of the season.

Yaroslav Rakitskiy contributed handsomely to Welbeck’s goal with a dreadfully hashed clearance. But the finish also attested to the possibility that the 22-year-old is finding the flow of goals which have been lacking. That was his  sixth of the season if you include his three goals for England so far, taking him one ahead of last season’s too modest tally.

The Ukrainian side were a disappointment overall. But the two United bookings inside the first quarter hour of the second half – Vidic and Fellaini – reflected renewed Ukrainian urgency after the break. Fellaini, leading with the arms which often get him into trouble, was quickly substituted for his own good.

Van Persie collected another rare chance, spinning around a low cross from Rafael to find a shot which Rakitskiy made a better hash of and blocked. But for once, on 73 minutes, United found a run through their midfield they could not stem. Rakitskiy provided it, atoning for his earlier error to drill a hard ball from the left which Vidic could only clear straight into the path of Taison, who thumped it past de Gea to equalise.

There were some desperate minutes before the end. Taison’s shot from the acute angle was touched athletically over the bar by De Gea as the cauldron that Shakhtar manager Mircea Lucescu had promised materialised.

But United held on. Four points from the double-header to follow against Real Socieded may be enough after the Spaniards’ defeat at Bayer Leverkusen. The group’s toughest match on paper has been negotiated. They are back to basics. More extravagant ideas can wait for a brighter day.

Man of the match Vidic.

Match rating 6/10.

Referee P Kralovec (Cz Rep).

Attendance 50,000.

Life and Style
Fans line up at the AVNs, straining to capture a photo of their favourite star
life Tim Walker asks how much longer it can flesh out an existence
Life and Style
Every minute of every day, Twitter is awash with anger as we seek to let these organisations know precisely what we think of them
techWhen it comes to vitriol, no one on attracts our ire more than big businesses offering bad service
News
Professor David Nutt wants to change the way gravely ill patients are treated in Britain
people Why does a former Government tsar believe that mind-altering drugs have a place on prescription?
News
Norway’s ‘The Nordland Line – Minute by Minute, Season by Season’ continues the trend of slow TV
television
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
art
Sport
Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to an FA charge for spitting at Papiss Cisse
football
Life and Style
Kate Moss will make a cameo appearance in David Walliams' The Boy in the Dress
fashion
News
The image released by the Salvation Army, using 'The Dress'
news
Sport
Liverpool defender Kolo Toure
football Defender could make history in the FA Cup, but African Cup of Nations win means he's already content
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable