Manchester United vs. Cardiff City: Final score 2-0, van Persie inspires United to win upon return

Michael Regan

Forget Juan Mata -- it was the return of Robin van Persie that set Manchester United on course for three points against Cardiff City.

I saw it. With my own eyes. I was there, I saw the earth on fire. It didn't kill me, although I sometimes wish it had. The world would never be the same again. Its buildings ruined, its institutions crumbling, civilisation rendered asunder and humanity on the brink. But we lived. We survived. I survived. The Matastrophe was not the end.

Despite all the talk of Juan Mata's move to Old Trafford from Chelsea, it was Robin van Persie who stamped his mark on the match. Manchester United's top dog took just six minutes to break the deadlock, scrambling home at the second attempt after Antonio Valencia had nodded Ashley Young's incisive delivery against the crossbar.

United might have had a rough season to date but Cardiff have had a far tougher time, and in the first half they had real problems doing anything to the hosts' defence even after they'd penetrated the midfield. Craig Noone had the best chance to draw the Bluebirds level when a Mark Hudson header bounced right in front of him, but he didn't have the dexterity to flick the ball on and David de Gea was able to save.

But in the second Cardiff looked like a genuine threat. Frazier Campbell and Kim Bo-Kyung both came within inches of getting on the end of a Declan John cutback, and United looked more than a little bit worried that there'd be a repeat of the reverse fixture, which ended up all square after a late Cardiff comeback.

Fortunately, Ashley Young was on hand to secure the points. Yes, you read that right. The former Aston Villa star drifted in from the left, danced past a pair of Blues shirts, and then sent a 20-yard curler past David Marshall and in for the 2-0 lead.

After that, it was a procession. Marshall managed to tip a Valencia shot onto the far post after the winger shimmied past his man and squeezed away an effort that looked destined to make it 3-0, then Mata mis-hit a shot when it looked easier to score after being picked out by Patrice Evra. Those misses didn't matter, of course -- Cardiff weren't coming back from a two-goal deficit at Old Trafford, and eventually United would run out 2-0 winners.

PS: Juan Mata!

Manchester United starting lineup (4-4-1-1): David De Gea; Rafael, Chris Smalling, Jonny Evans, Patrice Evra; Antonio Valencia, Phil Jones, Ryan Giggs (Tom Cleverley 71'), Ashley Young; Juan Mata (Adnan Januzaj 84'); Robin van Persie (Wayne Rooney 63').

Goals: Van Persie 6', Young 59'.

Cardiff City starting lineup (4-5-1): David Marshall; Declan John, Mark Hudson (Ben Turner 69'), Steven Caulker, Kevin McNaughton; Craig Bellamy, Peter Whittingham, Jordon Mutch (Kim Bo-Kyung 52'), Gary Medel, Craig Noone (Mats Daehli 78'); Frazier Campbell.

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