ASTON VILLA vs MANCHESTER UNITED
14.08.2015

Friday night football presented United with an opportunity to take rich picking from an away ground where they historically have always done well and seize a place at the top of the table.

PERSONNEL

In: Januzaj.
Out: Young.

KEYPOINTS

  • Just four games of pre season. Is this a way for United to build up and finish stronger this season? Seasons last nine months not nine games.
  • Did Januzaj connect with Rooney? It was great that Januzaj scored but Rooney cannot play in isolation. He needs the team as much as the team needs him.
  • United’s defence played well and kept a clean sheet with Romero only taxed by the 54th minute header by Agbonlahor. This was pleasing.
  • Darmian is becoming a bit of a cult hero already and he played very well. Five interceptions and seven/eight tackles won. Topping both charts! However, getting to the top of the take-ons chart needs a lot of work!

FIRST HALF

As teams seem to be able to these days against United Villa pressed high and closed United down quickly. This was OK though as the Reds kept the ball well but again as is usual these days, United didn’t create much. A high tempo is going to be missing if the passing is slow and the double pivots of Carrick and Schneiderlin pass sideways too often. That was the problem early on.

First Half v Villa  gettyimages-484003540

United’s shape was more of a 4-3-3 at times than a 4-2-3-1; consisting of the aforementioned double pivots with Januzaj as the 10 and Memphis wide left. Compared to the game versus Spurs playing in the same role, Januzaj was deeper than Memphis so the shape through the spine was better. Unfortunately though this had a knock on effect on the performance of Rooney; but more on that later.

United showed a tendency to try and beat the Villa press by pushing the full backs on and getting the ball wide. In carrying out this task both Shaw and Darmian were excellent but their end product is an area for their development. United tended to carry more threat on the left through Shaw, with Blind who had an excellent game covering as Shaw ran forward aggressively, often beyond Memphis.

See the pressure Darmian was placed under but he managed magnificently

See the pressure Darmian was placed under but he managed magnificently

As teams seem to be able to these days against United Villa pressed high and closed United down quickly. This was OK though as the Reds kept the ball well but again as is usual these days, United didn’t create much. A high tempo is going to be missing if the passing is slow and the double pivots of Carrick and Schneiderlin pass sideways too often. That was the problem early on.

United’s shape was more of a 4-3-3at times than a 4-2-3-1; consisting of the aforementioned double pivots with Januzaj as the 10 and Memphis wide left. Compared to the game versus Spurs playing in the same role, Januzaj was deeper than Memphis so the shape through the spine was better. Unfortunately though this had a knock on effect on the performance of Rooney; but more on that later.

United passing map - close to the 18 yard box but not penetrating enough and lack of activity out wide

United passing map – close to the 18 yard box but not penetrating enough and lack of activity out wide

United showed a tendency to try and beat the Villa press by pushing the full backs on and getting the ball wide. In carrying out this task both Shaw and Darmian were excellent but their end product is an area for their development. United tended to carry more threat on the left through Shaw, with Blind who had an excellent game covering as Shaw ran forward aggressively, often beyond Memphis.

SECOND HALF

United started the half as they had finished the first and this allowed Villa the opportunity to assert themselves. But their efforts transpired to be no more than titivating approach play. There were no real chances for United either as Rooney, Januzaj and Memphis all gave the ball away too often. United’s players were getting caught in possession and were guilty of not getting the pass away quickly.

Second Half v Villa   484052816

On 58 mins Villa brought Gestede on and went for long balls to him. This substitution really had a negative effect on their play as noted by Sherwood later, “I think when Rudy came on we got a bit obsessed with lumping the ball up to him,” Sherwood conveniently omitted to mention the main reason for this ineffectiveness was that Smalling won all the high balls and Romero didn’t have much to do but always looked confident and commanded his area. Compared to the game against Spurs he wasn’t as afraid to kick long and clear his lines.

 Villa passing shows how deep they played and how well United’s defence did

Villa passing shows how deep they played and how well United’s defence did

Van Gaal choose to change personnel himself in the 59th minutes, on came Herrera for Januzaj as the Number 10 and Carrick was replaced by Schweinsteiger. This changed the game giving United a much more comfortable confident appearance. Scweinsteiger is so cool and composed, controlling the passing and tempo of the game; he never looks flustered. Herrera is busy but seemed to give away a lot of fouls on this occassion.

To chase the game Villa pushed high as expected and United found chances in behind. Memphis missed one when he was clean through. His time will come.

On 82 minutes Young came on for Memphis. United were in control but like the first half the final passes weren’t working too well, particularly around the box and loss of possession in the approach play  happened far too often.

CONCLUSION

Darmian and Shaw both played well, in fact the whole defence as a unit did and with sterner tests ahead we should enjoy the two clean sheets and the success of the goalkeeper amidst the backdrop of the De Gea situation. This bodes well.

A notable standout was Mata in the first half who came inside throughout game, even switching wings, he played really well but looks awkwardly positioned. He’s our most creative passing option in high areas and Van Gaal must try him centrally, which might help Rooney who had a really, really poor game. Mata fades after half time and had less influence. This was a bit of mystery. Why?

Overall Player Positioning

Overall Player Positioning

Despite this it was three points in an unspectacular but solid performance.

Making his first club start in more than six months, Januzaj scored the only goal and it will hopefully do his confidence some good and see him become more decisive and spontaneous in his play. He does need to be physically stronger on the ball, as does Memphis.

Take-on chart

Take-on chart

We can always rely on our manager to provide a succinct sound bite. “We had too many unnecessary ball losses, that was not only Adnan Januzaj, also Memphis Depay and also Wayne Rooney, So we have to improve that,”. So true.

See you at Old Trafford for the Brugge game. We’ve missed you Europe!