Huddersfield Town recorded one of the most famous victories in their history as they beat Manchester United on Saturday. They had failed to win a Premier League match since August and came into the weekend’s fixture as huge underdogs against Jose Mourinho’s unbeaten side. However, they played with passion and endeavour to earn the three points. It was their first victory over the most famous club in the country for 65 years. Although they haven’t met very often, this is a notable statistic and represents the latest chapter of the Terriers’ rise to the top.
There have been a number of key individuals in their recent success. Dean Hoyle has done an excellent job from the boardroom, while David Wagner has built a squad good enough to compete at the top of the English football pyramid. On the pitch, the team is greater than the sum of its parts, but the most important component is Australian midfielder Aaron Mooy.
The 27-year-old is a complete midfielder that is key both in and out of possession. He scored the first goal, which was well taken and displayed the threat he poses when he drives forward to support the striker. His movement is clever and he is composed when an opportunity presents itself. The Terriers’ number ten made one key pass and touched the ball on 48 occasions. This more than all but one of his team-mates, underlining how central he is to the team.
Mooy is a multi-functional midfielder and Huddersfield’s style of play relies on him playing well. Out of possession, he is a tireless worker who regularly presses the opposition team. Against Manchester United, he made four ball recoveries and made two clearances to aid the defensive effort. If there was only one word to describe his style, it would be tenacious and the same word is often used to describe the team as a whole. The 27-year-old often sets the tone for that.
His interesting path to the top
Aaron Mooy since moving to England in 2016, but it wasn’t his first experience of football in the UK. He was once on the books of Bolton Wanderers as a young player. Although he didn’t make an appearance for them, he wasn’t released and opted to leave the club, despite the offer of a contract renewal. The Australian wanted to play first-team football and that was the first example of his impressive mentality.
That came at St Mirren, as he made over 20 appearances for the Scottish club during a two-year spell above the border. He didn’t make a huge impact, but it would have been good experience for him and prepared him for British football ahead of his return years later. At the end of the 2011-12 season, he moved to his homeland to join Western Sydney Wanderers, before a spell with Melbourne City. It was there that he emerged as one of the best players in the A-League and was brought to the attention of Manchester City.
The City Football Group have a number of clubs under their charge and Mooy made a name for himself at Melboune City, which is the sister-club of Manchester City. During his final season in the A-League, he contributed 11 goals and 21 assists. It was clear that he was destined for greater things and although he didn’t play for City, the move did help his career. Brian Marwood, the club’s managing director of football services, raved about the midfielder at the time of his transfer to England.
“Aaron is an extremely talented player who possesses the attributes we hope to foster and encourage within the City Football Group,”
“Aaron’s move to Manchester allows us to further expose him to a high standard of opportunities to ensure his professional growth.”
It wasn’t a regular transfer designed to strengthen the buying club, as he was never likely to feature for Pep Guardiola’s side, but Marwood’s comments did turn out to be true. Mooy’s move to Manchester did lead to greater opportunities to grow, while the club benefitted in the long run when they made a significant profit 12-months later. Everybody was a winner.
He was then loaned out to Huddersfield Town and it was a move that went under the radar in the Championship. The focus was on the spending of Newcastle United and Aston Villa, but looking back now, Mooy was one of the signings of the summer. His impact was immediate and he emerged as one of the best players in the division over the course of the season.
During the 2016/17 season, his contribution of four goals and seven assists underplays his overall importance to Huddersfield’s promotion. The Australian averaged 2.21 chances created and 2.48 ball recoveries per ninety minutes. It is rare for a player to thrive both in and out of possession, but Mooy has done that during his time at the John Smith’s Stadium. Regular watchers of the Terriers will attest to his importance and that is why they had to sign him on a permanent basis during the summer.
The lack of interest from other teams surprised some, but there was only ever likely to be one destination for the midfielder and that was Huddersfield. David Wagner was quick to pay the £10 million required to sign Mooy. He had few doubts that he would adjust to the top-flight, as shown by the following quotes reported by the Examiner:
“Just like we showed we were good players and a good club in the Championship, now we have to do it at the higher level – and Aaron has everything, so I am totally sure he will do this.
”My expectation is that Aaron will be able to give our game the same stamp as he did last season. He has everything to do that.”
Wagner and the club had all the confidence in Mooy to make the step up. He has now repaid that with consistency in the top-flight. It will be a long season for Huddersfield and they will be fighting to survive first and foremost. Their start gives them a great chance of succeeding in that aim. Saturday was a warning to the rest of the league to take them seriously or suffer defeat as a result. The Australian international was the man-of-the-match and his career continues on an upward trajectory.