By Imran Kardar
Friday night football kicked off the weekend’s EPL fixtures and Manchester United kicked off their away games season with a 1-0 win against Aston Villa. LVG provided a surprise in the starting lineup from the last game against Spurs with Adnan Januzaj replacing Ashley Young in the starting lineup. This allowed Memphis Depay to move over to his favored left wing with Januzaj as the No.10 and Mata wide right. I would still like to see Mata play as the No.10 and Januzaj out wide right as he has pace and trickery to play there. United looked sharper in this game then they did in the season opener. There was a higher tempo to the play and quicker passing. It was still nowhere near vintage United but for the second game of the season it was a good performance. The last time United won both their openers in the season was somewhere at the start of the 2011/12 season so I’m sure the team and the fans would take the 1-0 win.
Memphis looked lively in the first half playing as a winger with him taking on defenders and doing the odd step over. But the moment of the half came with a sublime, defense splitting pass from the little Spaniard Mata which found Januzaj’s run. He shifted the ball to his right and slotted it in off the far post to give United the 1-0 lead. Get it!
There wasn’t much more in the half post the goal except for a tug down on Micah Richards by Matteo Darmian off a Villa corner kick. All I got to say is that it was a blatant penalty and United got lucky that it wasn’t given. Super slow motion showed a hand round Richard’s neck and Darmian bringing him down but the same shot showed another Villa attacker with a handful of Smalling’s shirt stopping him from jumping to head the ball. A referee’s job is getting increasingly difficult and tugging and shirt pulling in the area are becoming an increasing trend. Had the ref seen that it would have been a clear penalty. But the ref can’t see everything on the pitch and United got the lucky break.
The second half was rather boring with one great chance being blown my Memphis from another magical through ball from Mata but he couldn’t curl the ball in the far post for a goal. He should have as a player of his quality has to convert those chances. The second half saw Bastian Schweinsteiger come in to replace Carrick with Hererra replacing Januzaj. United’s pace dropped and they started to hold the ball more. Villa weren’t bothering the United defense with their play and it was clear to see that they were missing the quality and physical presence that Benteke gave them last season.
The final whistle blew with United holding on to their 1-0 lead and bagging three points to remain unbeaten. Early days in the league but the United unit looks more set in place with the players knowing their role. I liked LVG pulling a fast one and brining in Januzaj for this game. The critics will say that this is not the United of old and they aren’t attacking and scoring goals but end of the day it’s the points that count. Their play will improve and become more exciting. However, in the meantime it’s important to keep getting the points. Last season United had to wait till the end of September to register two wins, this season they have done so in their first two games. Improvement? Yes, but still a long way to go. Next up a crucial tie in the qualification leg for the Champions League!