Manchester United moved to third place in the Barclays Premier League thanks to a brace from Ander Herrera and a spectacular volley from Wayne Rooney. The home side dominated the game from the outset and were probing the Villa defense throughout the first half. But their ineffective crossing hindered their pursuit in search of the opening goal.
But some good work down the left flank between Daley Blind and Ashley Young resulted in the former providing Herrera with the perfect opportunity to open the scoring just before half-time. The Red Devils looked like a different side in the second half, but not in a good way as they meandered through, without troubling Brad Guzan in the Villa goal. But Rooney continued his impressive goal scoring record as he instantly controlled the cross from Angel Di Maria with his left foot, before swiveling and finishing with a fantastic right-footed volley. Although Christian Benteke equalized immediately after the re-start, Herrera’s stoppage time goal secured all three points and a fifth-straight league win for Louis Van Gaal’s men.
Here are the major talking points from the game.
Villa in trouble
Coming into the game against Manchester United, the spirits were high in the Aston Villa camp. Although they had won just once in the last three decades on their travel to Old Trafford, two wins from their last three games had lifted them up and put some light between them and the relegation zone. Tim Sherwood came with a side that looked destined to be a threat going forward.
But all of their best laid-out plans will now be thrown out of the window after the events of Saturday. While defeat for the visitors isn’t the end of the world, wins for QPR and Leicester means that the gap between themselves, in 16th and Burnley in 19th is just three points. The game at Villa Park on Tuesday night against QPR now takes on added significance as a win for Chris Ramsey’s side will move them level on points with Sherwood’s side. And from a position of comfort, the Clarets might yet be dragged back into the relegation dogfight if they are not careful.
United need to keep their performance up for longer
Earlier in the season, Manchester United looked particularly lackluster in the first half. Now it looks as though the tables have turned and the Red Devils look worse in the second half of games. Whether it is them taking their foot off the pedal knowing that the game is won, or complacency creeping into their game, one thing is for sure, Louis Van Gaal’s side will certainly need to keep up their performance levels for the whole game.
They can’t always count on their first half performance to give them enough buffer for them to sleepwalk through most of the second half. Although their possession stats and ability to retain the ball is impressive, their tendency to tail off in the second half will need to be curbed as they enter into the final home stretch. United simply cannot afford to let slip an advantage in the race for second place, especially against the big sides.
United hoping for a final flourish
A lot was spoken in the media about how unimpressive Manchester United have been this season. Although they have won, not too many were forthcoming with their praise, in terms of where United were in the table. For all the crisis talk, the fact that the Red Devils haven’t been outside the top four since November and are currently in with an outside chance of winning the league, just shows that it hasn’t been a bad season for United after all.
Although their run in includes games against Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal, the fact that United have the best record in the games against the top five sides this season should come as comfort to fans who would’ve been fearing the worst. Their recent run of results, coupled with the fact that the Dutch manager finally seems to have stuck up on a style and formation that suits them, means that the Red Devils are certainly on track for a good season. Even if it is one that ends with them, without a piece of silverware for the first time in a decade.