Before kick-off, United fans were rightly worried about Aston Villa’s attacking threat. The idea of Ashley Young tearing strips off John O’Shea following our two defeats on the trot left us cold.
Upon walking on to the concourse and learning that Rio Ferdinand was also missing, my heart sunk. These have been testing times for United of late and after already knowing we’d be without three of our best players in Wayne Rooney, Nemanja Vidic and Paul Scholes, as well as Dimitar Berbatov, the thought of Neville playing centre back alongside the impressive, yet still inexperienced Jonny Evans, was fairly terrifying.
Aston Villa showed early on their potential to score goals. They broke our back line with ease time and again, the linesman flag for offside saving us on numerous occasions. Our defenders didn’t have the speed to keep up with the likes of Young and Abonglahor, or the height or strength to cope with Carew. Whilst it was frustrating to see our defence take a battering, there weren’t many criticisms directed from the crowd in the direction of these players, because we knew that simply our defenders couldn’t do any better than they were doing.
Still, despite the amount of time they spent in our half, particularly during the first 45 minutes, they only created six chances all game, scoring two of them. Time and again one of their speedy forwards would be first to the ball in our half but their attack had to slow whilst they waited for support, which rarely came in strong numbers.
If Villa had gone for the kill today, they could have put the game to bed long before Federico Macheda was even subbed on. However, they were too reserved. They showed the potential, they had us on the ropes, but they kept bottling the knock-out punch they needed, too fearful that we may pounce on the break.
From a United perspective, obviously I am over the moon these were the tactics they employed, but I imagine many neutrals would be disappointed. Maybe it was a lack of confidence following recent results or maybe Martin O’Neil was showing us too much respect, but whilst Villa will bemoan their luck, or maybe they’ll blame the referee like their manager, the fact remains the result was there for the taking and their players just didn’t seem to have the bottle for it.
Our defence were second best consistently throughout the match and our attack wasn’t anything too special, despite creating fourteen chances, yet we still came away with the three points and could have scored a couple more in those remaining few minutes, Darren Fletcher’s effort the best of the lot.
Now we can look to Porto with Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand returning to the starting line-up. Edwin Van der Sar, who made two cracking saves today, will be glad to have his first choice defenders in front of him after a shit-yourself display from the players he had attempting to keep out the opposition today.
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