The first Friday night football of the season gave Manchester United the opportunity to continue their impressive record versus Aston Villa, and to record victories in their opening two games of the season for the first time since 2011.
Sergio Romero continued in the absence of David De Gea, and there was a surprise start for Adnan Januzaj in place of former Villa man Ashley Young.
With no clear cut chances for either side, the game was not the most entertaining you would hope to see, the significant moment of the game came almost on the half hour mark.
Juan Mata provided the telling pass into the path of Januzaj, who cleverly turned Micah Richards, shooting past Villa keeper Brad Guzan, as the ball crept inside the post to send the travelling Reds into raptures of delight. The goal itself which proved to be the winner, will give United’s number 11 confidence, as he prepares to fight for a starting berth.
United’s back four looked nice and solid, with Matteo Darmian and Chris Smalling impressing for the second game in succession. The same however, cannot be said for Captain Wayne Rooney, whose touch had deserted him. For all of his doubters, it’s worth remembering that it usually takes Rooney a few matches before he really gets up to full speed, which I’m sure he will get to sooner rather than later.
In midfield Morgan Schneirderlin seemed to cover every blade of grass, whilst Michael Carrick gained more valuable playing time following his injury at the end of last season. The options off the bench for United were much better than of the last couple of seasons, the forward thinking Ander Herrera came on in the second half to inject more creativity into United’s play, as he linked up well with his compatriot Mata. Bastian Schweinsteiger also came on in the second half to provide the calming influence with his experience and know how, something which United needed in the latter stages of the game.
Memphis Depay had an opportunity to put the game beyond Villa in the closing stages of the game, following a wonderful pass from Mata, but United’s new number 7 curled his shot past Guzan and just wide of the target.
All in all United will be pleased for picking up three points on their travels having struggled last season, but there is still much more work needed from Louis van Gaal’s team and the manager will know that too.
Next up for United is the first leg of the Champions League qualifier versus Club Brugge on Tuesday evening.