Manchester United manager David Moyes believes that the options he now has available in his squad will guarantee an improvement in his team’s results.
Moyes was able to give club-record signing Juan Mata a debut in the 2-0 win over Cardiff City on Tuesday and strikers Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney both returned from injuries against the Welsh club.
Van Persie had been absent since December 10 and Rooney had not featured since January 1, while the duo have started just seven of United’s 23 Premier League matches together.
Mata’s last appearance for Chelsea came in their 3-0 win at Southampton on New Year’s Day and Moyes admits that all three of his first-choice forward players may have to top up their fitness during matches.
Rooney came on for Van Persie just after the hour against Cardiff, with Mata playing behind the main striker until he was taken off with five minutes remaining at Old Trafford.
But Moyes, who refused to give an update on the progress of Rooney’s contract talks, has suggested he can use Mata off either flank in order to keep his two main strikers in the side.
“We’ll get used to Juan and he’ll get used to us,” the United manager said. “It was good to get him and Robin together and we’ll use Juan in different positions.
“I can play him in any role — off the left or the right allows me to keep Robin and Wayne as a partnership, and he’s also capable of playing 10 as well.
“I hope we’ll play better, that would be the first thing, and we hope to create more chances and play better at Old Trafford, where we haven’t been able to take our opportunities.
“Juan did really well and created some good openings for us. He’s not played much for the last month and Wayne only started football training on Monday.
“The results with them will get much better and we need to get them in the right physical condition. They’re in need of match practice and fitness and they’ll need to get that in the game situation.”
Van Persie registered his eighth league goal of the season after just six minutes before Ashley Young cut in from the left and scored United’s second just before the hour to leave them six points off the Champions League places.
Moyes admits he is in a brighter mood as he prepares for a run of Premier League matches against Stoke City, Fulham, Arsenal and Crystal Palace, but the champions are still some distance from where he wants them to be.
“I want to be more convincing, I want to win better and play much better,” he said.
“Don’t think because we have won I have got a smile and am happy. I’m happy because we have got the three points, but for where I want to go and the vision I have got for how I want my team to go, I have got a long way to go.”
Cardiff remain bottom of the Premier League table, but new manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes his side have shown that they can pull out of trouble in their next few matches.
Solskjaer has completed the signings of Kenwyne Jones from Stoke and Fabio da Silva from United and is also close to a loan deal for United winger Wilfried Zaha.
Cardiff now face consecutive league matches against Norwich City, Swansea City, Aston Villa and Hull City, and Solskjaer believes the sequence of games represents an opportunity for his side.
“Against Arsenal, (Manchester) City and United, no one expected us to take much, but now we’re in a different position,” said the former United star.
“This month, with the home games we’ve got, it will be an important month. We’ve seen the team develop, but now it’s about results and not performances.
“Hopefully Kenwyne Jones and Wilfried Zaha will give us some more oomph in the final third.”