The most obvious feature of David Moyes's coaching philosophy is his emphasis upon width – asking his central midfielders to spread the play, and encouraging the full-backs forward to create overloads with the wide midfielders. This was an unspectacular performance from Manchester United but suggested Moyes's players are becoming familiar with their duties.
At Everton, Moyes created the best wide partnership in the Premier League with Steven Pienaar and Leighton Baines down the left, and he is building something similar with Shinji Kagawa and Patrice Evra. The Scot took time to embrace the qualities of his Japanese playmaker but this was one of Kagawa's better games this season – drifting inside dangerously for the first two-thirds of the game, then dominating when he was moved centrally midway through the second half.
But Kagawa is unlikely to be used centrally considering Wayne Rooney's fine form, so Moyes will have been particularly pleased he combined so frequently with Evra. United consistently created overloads down the left – Evra was the game's most energetic player, taking advantage of Carlos Vela's lack of interest in defending and repeatedly getting into crossing positions.
Javier Hernández and Rooney did not offer the most promising targets, however. Hernández can sprint to the near post dangerously and is useful with his head if the delivery is right, but he depends upon pinpoint, driven crosses, whereas Evra tended to loft the ball into the centre.
Still, the Kagawa-Evra partnership was the main positive from United's performance. By the time Kagawa was moved centrally, the game's two most frequent passing combinations were Evra to Kagawa (16 times) and vice-versa (12 times). The best passing move of the game came relatively early on, when Kagawa slipped the ball wide to Evra and motored into the area. Evra knocked a low pass into the box for Rooney, who touched the ball back for Kagawa, who unleashed a powerful shot. It was the only shot on target of the first half.
Evra's advanced positioning and Kagawa's narrowness did cause some defensive problems – Vela had a couple of opportunities to break into space, while right-back Carlos Martínez was Real Sociedad's most impressive performer, allowed to carry the ball forward. But when Evra was in a position to carry out his defensive tasks, he was excellent – making a couple of important clearances and tracking Vela's runs inside.
Vela's former Arsenal team-mates will give United's left flank a much tougher test this weekend, but Moyes's United are starting to take shape.