Danny Welbeck in action for Manchester United vs Barcelona

What We Learned: Aston Villa 0-3 Manchester United

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In almost every sense of the term, this was more like it. After a slightly dodgy start in the Midlands, United seized control with two early Danny Welbeck goals and never looked back, Tom Cleverley adding a third with the visitors already playing in relative comfort. Here’s what we thought:


How United needed a result and performance like this

Having seen proud unbeaten records at home to West Brom, Newcastle and Everton eviscerated in the early part of David Moyes’ reign, the thought of heading to Villa Park with another long record in tow initially felt like a crutch. But whilst Villa weren’t completely bereft of fight after Welbeck’s brace, their attacking play effectively dried up completely in the face of United’s composed back four and surprisingly penetrative midfield. The visitors, meanwhile, threatened frequently, from out wide and centrally. It was….odd.

Yes, Villa looked like the stuffing had been knocked out of them for the next 7 Christmases by those two Welbeck goals, but it was heartening to see United dictate a game in any circumstance, especially after having gone four league games without picking up a victory. Wherever United’s season is going, they still need to be hovering around the habit of winning, even if it isn’t second nature at present. This result showed that David Moyes’ side can control games if they give themselves a good enough platform. Not many teams will be as generous with their defending as Villa were, granted, but this was welcome encouragement across the board.


Danny Welbeck looked like a striker

It’s not Welbeck’s fault that he hasn’t played through the middle as much as he’d like this season given the players picked ahead of him, but the criticisms levelled at him for a lack of killer instinct and desire to get on the scoresheet aren’t utterly unfair, either. His chance-to-conversion rate is not…….well, it’s not great, is it? But with Robin Van Persie a month away from returning to the starting line-up and Javier Hernandez not even on the bench, Welbeck looked like a proper forward.

welbeck-shakhtar

The way in which he positioned himself for both goals was superb, even if the first did have a little bit of a luck to it with the ball cannoning of the post after Januzaj’s bullet header, but it’s rare that Welbeck’s shown the instinct to follow up on those chances. His finishing didn’t point to a player lacking for confidence, either. Of course, he benefited from Wayne Rooney dropping off and running United’s forward play, but considering how short the supply of goals can be when our number 10 isn’t on the end of things, it was incredibly encouraging to see Welbeck strike twice and press for a third, too.

It’s easy to suggest that he needs to be more selfish, and that makes the incorrect assumption Welbeck’s been passing up an incredible number of chances to score. What he needs is to sharpen his finishing and make sure he’s in those positions when he gets picked to play. He’s in the company of superb finishers who are not only able to be in the right place when the ball comes in, but can pick out an effective finish to boot. Welbeck’s halfway there; here’s hoping a prolonged run up front can boost his confidence.


Tom Cleverley can play football

Wow. Who knew?

Okay, it was an Aston Villa side who spent at least 70 minutes struggling to break United down, and they were exceptionally receptive to United’s advances, but let’s be honest; didn’t it feel good to see Cleverley show some drive and attacking instinct? He was involved in two goals, making the interception for both second and third and finding himself on the scoresheet with his first goal of the season with a wonderfully patient finish to Brad Guzan’s near post. The celebration wasn’t quite a middle finger to his detractors, but it wasn’t far off.

tom-cleverley-vs-arsenal

The flak that Cleverley has taken has only increased given his position in the most maligned section of the United squad, even if he hasn’t helped himself with a innumerably cautious passes and limited performances. Point being, if this is what Cleverley can do when playing in central midfield, then he needs to do it more. He’s had as many opportunities as anyone to stake a regular claim for a spot in central midfield, and hasn’t fully taken advantage of Michael Carrick’s enforced absence. With games against West Ham, Hull and Norwich on the horizon, this could be his best opportunity yet to prove his worth to every critical onlooker. Given that there’s a new manager in the hotseat, he shouldn’t expect to get an unending supply of them.


All hail the return of the Fletcher

There’s a chance that Darren Fletcher has already had his best moments in a United shirt. Given the incredible amount of football that he’s missed over the last two years due to a debilitating illness, the threat of his football career having passed him by was always hanging there as he set about his recovery. So whilst it was great to see the 29-year-old  named on the bench for this game, there was a sense of foreboding about it at the same time. What’s he capable of these days?

darren-fletcher-europe

Well, a 20 minute cameo at 0-3 up isn’t the best judge, but given the length of time that Fletcher has spent on the sidelines, the signs were positive. He looked fit, sharp and willing to contribute to United’s attack, which is almost exactly what you’d expect. The pessimist in me doesn’t expect a return to the buccaneering displays of old, even if that sort of presence is sorely needed in the United engine room these days, but there’s no doubt that David Moyes’ options are greater with him available. In his post-match interview, the Scot proclaimed that he was ‘back for good’; given his determination to get back into the United side after such a long spell on the treatment table, surely everyone connected to the club will be happy to be proven wrong again.

What did you think to Manchester United’s performance against Aston Villa? Comment in the section below.

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5 Responses to What We Learned: Aston Villa 0-3 Manchester United

  1. everyman says:

    What we learned?

    What a difference scoring a goal (or two, or three) makes.

    And

    United performs better away from home.

    United has the 3rd best away record in the P.L. this season (City is in 11th place). At home, City is 1st and United is in 11th spot.

    Being away from home suits United’s counter-attack style and where there is onus on the home team not to play defensively. Different story at O.T.

    The goals by Welbeck and Cleverley will help their confidence. I’m not convinced that Cleverley is any more than an average English Premier League player but it’s in United’s interest for him to be as successful as possible. Welbeck’s sharpness in taking his two goals (could have had four) was great to see and hopefully that’s a sign of more to come, especially with RVP being out.

    Thought Januzaj had an excellent first half; Welbeck’s goals could easily have been his. Love the way he ghosts past players and draws the foul. Appears to have an excellent temperament.

    The return of Fletch was great to see and let’s hope he can sustain his fitness and energy levels.

    Raphael was my man of the match, tackling and marauding down the right hand side and bringing out the best in Valencia.

  2. charlz says:

    i was with the result but i think we should have score more than five goals, DM should learn from other coachers like Manuel Pellegrine and Rodgers that he should give chance to young talented boys like Zaha, Januzaj, Buttner because players like Vidic, ferdnand, young are out form n usless at Man utd. Then why loan out Zaha and keep Young?!

  3. cb says:

    Very true,thats a bit more like it,.all the pingpong passing and waiting for an opening is all very careful but does,nt win games.United has got to press and challenge and get the ball up the park and in the net with the least touches,(jer right).Little Raphael is a good example,he allways wants to get the ball up there.Need to win a couple more games and Things will be looking up a Little.

  4. Darren says:

    it was the pace of attack going forward and decisiveness that I like to see especially from valencia, when he got the ball his play was use his pace and don’t hesitate what he was doing worked great 100% better from valencia .rooney dropping deeper was a major factor being overlooked,it just really shows how much we need a dam good creative attacking midfielder and not rooney playing there.he needs to be on the end of those balls not starting them.

  5. noqman says:

    i think united’s tactics was changed which we see united player is more intercept the opponent’s passes than put the pressure on them…we also see change of Valencia’s style of play..he play at his best during villa’s game…and welbeck is the striker, not winger…do you remember when he was out on loan to sunderland during 2009? he scored many goals, beat chelsea at stamford bridge…

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