Three days since Sir Alex Ferguson’s midweek remorse, Phil Jones opened his account for Manchester United scoring the only goal in a 1-0 victory at Villa Park, much to the delight of the boss himself.
Ater the shocking display against Palace on wednesday night and with City putting 5 past Norwich earlier in the day, United knew that a positive result was a must against the Villains.
On a ground that has seen United struggling in recent years, only 3 draws in the last 3 seasons, Fergie brought back the big guns, with Rooney and Hernandez up front, Nani and former Villa boy Young on the wings supported by Carrick and Jones in midfield. Evra and Smalling got the nod at fullbacks with Vidic and Ferdinand restored as centre backs. Interestingly Lindegaard was chosen ahead of De Gea between the posts, with the spaniard rested for Wednesday’s crucial game away at Basel in the Champions League.
Hernandez’ game lasted just seven minutes, with the Mexican striker stretchered off after falling injury of an ankle injury. The entity of the injury is still not confirmed, but it looked like a bad one and it couldn’t have a come at a possible moment for United, with Berbatov and Owen already injured.
Valencia replaced the injured striker, with Nani coming inside to support Rooney.
Villa offered very little going forward at the beginning and United soon took control, Chris Smalling forcing a smart block from Dunne after 19 minutes.
United were ahead a minute later when Jones volleyed a Nani’s cross into the back of the net after the Portuguese had been allowed way too much space on the left.
It was Jones’ first goal for United since joining from Blackburn and he would hope to get a few more before the end of the season.
While his best position might be at right back or centre back, he’s skilful enough to fill in as midfielder particularly away from home where United seem to suffer .
Suffer, however, today they did not, as Villa failed to put together a decent period of play and United went close again on the 25th minute with Nani forcing a good save from Given after Valencia had delivered a brilliant ball in the box, following a pass from Rooney.
Valencia was himself closed to score, his shot flying narrowly over the bar.
Villa’s afternoon went from bad to worse as they were forced to replace Given with Guzan.
Boos of discontent rang around Villa Park at the end of the first half, but the second half didn’t offer anything better for the home fans until Heskey scuffed a header wide from a good position following a corner.
United created good chances themselves, with Young dragging a shot wide and Welbeck, who had come on as a sub, scoring only to see his goal correctly disallowed for offside.
In the end it wasn’t, by any means, a classic but, in a moment characterised by such patchy form, United will be pleased with another clean sheet and, most of all, another away win.
It’s 6 so far this season, one more than in the whole of last season. The football might not be swashbuckling but there are some positives.