Man Utd XI (w/ratings): De Gea 6, Rafael 6, Smalling 5, Ferdinand 6, Evra 7, Valencia 5, Carrick 6, Scholes 6, Young 5, Rooney 6, Van Persie 6. Subs: Hernandez 10, Cleverley 6, Anderson 6.
Manchester United. What can I say? This season we are truly being spoilt. We’re being spoilt with seeing a classic Manchester United comeback almost every week now, and yesterday was no exception. 0-2 down at Villa Park we fought back to win 3-2 thanks to 3 second half contributions from Javier Hernandez. Whether he will be awarded all 3 goals, we wait to see, however there was no doubting who the match-winner was.
From a United perspective the first half was pretty dire. Despite the superior possession, no real chances were created and a sloppy piece of defending in the dying moments of the half gave the home team the lead. A returning Chris Smalling was out-muscled by Christian Benteke who pulled it back for Weimann to score. Weimann and Aston Villa doubled their lead early in the 2nd half after a swift counter attack.
Under normal circumstances you would think that would almost be game over. Two rival supporting fans with whom I was watching the game with believed that. 50 minutes into the game the two fans of Chelsea and Arsenal began celebrating Man Utd dropping points. My reply: “there’s plenty of time left” as we have proven on multiple occasions this season, and this proved to be such an occasion. It took the two goals for us to start playing, and when we did we saw the best in United. The ability to never give in and to keep playing regardless of the circumstance.
I feel this season I am seeing something special this. There’s an excitement I’ve not felt in a long time. This Man Utd is different class, not least in terms of entertainment. For all of our current defensive frailties our attack has just been a cut above the rest. They are dragging Man Utd to victories when we’ve no right to win. As entertaining as it has been I cannot imagine this can continue if we are to win major trophies this season. The defence needs to tighten up.
The defence itself has not been helped by injuries. It’s just a cruel circle. One player comes back, another is out injured. Vidic’s injury occurred when Evans returned. Smalling has now returned when Evans has found himself on the treatment table again. Thankfully it doesn’t seem lengthy however in terms of having a consistent performing back 4, the recent setbacks indicates it could still be a few weeks until it happens. Having said this, Rafael and Evra’s form this season is deserving of starting berth at Man Utd. Both have been playing well consistently and yesterday was no exception.
The midfield was also a little cause for concern. Until Man Utd started playing, they offered very little in terms of creativity. Scholes had a poor game by his standards, giving the ball away cheaply for Aston Villa’s second. He did however make up for it with a beautiful assist for Javier Hernandez’s first. Ashley Young had a very poor game and was subbed off at half time for the eventual match-winner. Antonio Valencia too did not create much. The recent form of both wingers is a bit concerning, as is the form of Nani who didn’t make it on today. All 3 of them are not as productive as in previous seasons. Hopefully their form will be addressed soon.
Robin van Persie had an odd game. He was quiet as much as Man Utd were in the first half but went on to hit the post twice and assist Javier Hernandez’s winner. If that’s the sort of productivity we get in a quiet game, Man Utd have a scarily good player in the Dutchman. Wayne Rooney too had a quiet game. He ended up on the left for much of the second half and was subsequently subbed off limping. Javier Hernandez had a storming game and scored what I am counting as a hat-trick in just 45 minutes.