MANCHESTER UNITED VS ASTON VILLA
29.03.2014

After recent home League defeats against Liverpool and Manchester City United went into this match looking to get back to winning ways on home turf. United’s away form is statistically the best in the Premier League this year, but their home form has been dire. David Moyes has come in for much criticism recently from both sections of the press and sections of the club’s support. He too was looking for a result that would give him as well as the club a lift.

PERSONNEL

In: Vidic, Buttner, Fletcher, Kagawa and Young.
Out: Ferdinand, Evra, Carrick, Cleverley and Welbeck.

KEY POINTS

  • The score line in this game doesn’t tell the whole story. This performance was only marginally better than in the last two home league games, the difference was the quality of the opposition and United’s ability to take their chances. Generally it was a disjointed scrappy performance.
  • Aston Villa had several good chances, all of which seemed to fall to Benteke. He had a bad day at the office and so Villa didn’t make the most of a number of situations. If they had done so the story could have very easily been different.
  • Mata had another good game, as did Rooney and it was good to see this pair amongst the goals with Mata getting his first for the club.
  • It was good to see United come back after conceding an early goal. All too often this year the team has appeared dispirited by a setback. Character and defiance in the face of adversity has been a big part of United’s make-up for many years. If United can get that back it will be a bonus.

FIRST HALF

United started this match is fairly sloppy fashion. Passing was disjointed. Fletcher and Fellaini started in central midfield with Fellaini the higher of the pair. Yung was positioned to the right with Kagawa on the left. As is often the case he was always looking to come inside. Mata played behind Rooney but throughout the first half the formation which notionally appeared to be a 4-2-3-1 often looked like a 4-4-2.

abGETpnage United early in the game

In the early stages United seemed to be constantly giving the ball away, with Rooney trying a couple of audacious flicks when a controlled simple pass would have been the more prudent option. We talked often this season about United’s passing being too predictable slow and cautious. This was ridiculous through and resulted in Aston Villa having opportunities to break against United. After 13 minutes just such situations lead to a Villa goal. Villa earned a free kick just outside the box when Rafael leaned in to concede a soft free kick. Ashley Westwood scored direct from the free kick.

Villa now pressed United and won the ball several times in the United half. United didn’t move the ball quickly away from the press. Passing was too slow and too short. For a few minutes it looked like United might capitulate. To this point United hadn’t shown much going forward. One tactic which was clearly evident in the first twenty minutes was United’s determination to throw a long ball forward from any free kick. United won a series of free kick as a consequence of Villa’s overzealous pressing. Each time Fellaini made his way forward and United lifted the ball towards him, shades of Everton a couple of years ago at Old Trafford. Nothing came of this tactic.

So how did United get back into the game? Much of United’s passing was pedestrian and unthreatening. The exception was whenever Kagawa got on the ball. Kagawa was often fed by Mata. As is his way he always looked to come inside and find space. With Mata pushing on high Kagawa tucked in behind him. United’s first goal came from a Kagawa Mata combination. Rafael gained the ball in the United half he fed Mata who fed Kagawa in turn, (all left to right diagonally across the pitch). Kagawa ran inside across the Villa defence, who alert to this run focused on Kagawa’s movement with the ball. He looked up and saw Rooney unmarked in the box. A pinpoint chip onto his head allowed Rooney to head accurately home. This cross was effective because it was so accurate. Much of United’s crossing this season has been to a general area. This cross picked Rooney out. Boom!

Not a lot changed after the goal, United’s movement and passing was still slow and predictable. Then out of nothing, another Kagawa inspired moment just before half time. Kagawa had moved over to a deep position of the right. His pinpoint defence splitting ball right to left found Mata in a high position. He ran on and was fouled by Bacuna in the box. Boom! Rooney converted the penalty to turn the score around at half time.

SECOND HALF

For the second game in succession United made a half time substitution. Rafael, who it was later revealed had sustained an injury was replaced by Carrick. Carrick moved to centre back with Jones moving out to right back. Carrick did okay as a centre back but the change meant that United had less thrust down the right hand side in the second half with the majority of the attacking focus coming down the left where Buttner provided a number of whipped crosses.

The other change in the second half was positional. Mata was now a lot deeper. As a consequence he was more involved in directing the play and was all the more effective because of this repositioning. Not that much had changed however the general pattern of play remained the same. Villa themselves had a couple of good passes when searching diagonal crosses towards the far post picked out Benteke. Twice he escape behind the United defence, twice he missed his opportunity to score. The ease with which a simple cross beat the United defence was troubling on both occasions.

Bj5w0LXCYAEaJmn

After 58 minutes United scored again. This goal came out of the blue. United were pressing forward but didn’t seem to be getting anywhere. They managed to keep the ball alive and after a bit of pinball in the box Mata seized on a loose ball, reacting first with a close range shot, boom, to get his first goal for the club.

Then after 68 minutes Moyes removed Kagawa and introduced Januzaj. Januzaj tends to stay wider on the left than Kagawa and this lead to a number of situations where he and the advancing Buttner created overloads. On 71 minutes Rooney had a chance to seal his hat trick but took too long to get a shot away. Rooney then substituted a few minutes later, being replaced by Hernandez.

abGETpnage United late in the game

Not a lot then happened until the 90th minute when United scored again. Fellaini with perhaps his best United moment to date passed inside the full back on the left for Januzaj to run onto. He crossed hard and low across the box where Hernandez in typical fashion fired home from close range. Boom! The score line flattered at 4-1.

CONCLUSION

This was a very ordinary, disjointed performance, typical of United of late. There were some promising moment but generally United did not play well. What United did do well was take their chances. All the goals came from good moves, well executed. Even the penalty came from an excellent pass from Kagawa. The goals though were in stark contrast with the rest of the game. They seemed to come out of the blue from another world.