1. Well that was a relief. Not just three points in the bag but United actually looked like a half decent side again. I made the trip to Aston yesterday and wasn’t entirely sure what I had in store for me. We’re so hit and miss that you genuinely couldn’t rule out us absolutely thrashing Villa, or getting absolutely thrashed by Villa. Thankfully, it was the former, with United good for the three points after putting in a great performance.
2. Danny Welbeck was named Man of the Match after scoring two goals and working tirelessly up front all game. After scoring two goals on the opening day of the season, we’d all hoped for better luck for him in front of goal this season, but it’s taken until now for him to find the back of the net again. Still, with Robin van Persie out for a month, him finding a bit of form couldn’t really come at a better time. The first goal came from a Rafael da Silva cross which Adnan Januzaj was desperately unlucky not to head in. His effort came back off the post and Welbeck was the first to react. Just minutes later, the Longsight lad put us 2-0 up, after getting a toe to an Antonio Valencia cross. Let’s hope for more of the same in the coming games.
3. Whilst Welbeck was Gary Neville’s Man of the Match, Tom Cleverley was probably equally as deserving, following a great performance from him. Whilst we shouldn’t get too carried away with ourselves, given the poor quality of the opposition, it was still pleasing to see him take control of the game. His passing was spot on all day, with him completing 25+ more passes than anyone on the pitch with an impressive 94% accuracy. He took bossed the midfield, in the way that he did in those brief appearances at the start of the 2011-2012 season, and it was great to watch. Wayne Rooney played in a lovely ball to him but with a tight angle, he still had work to do. He struck the ball so nicely and had the keeper beaten at his near post. He ran to the away fans and had to be stopped from jumping in with us. That’s what you get when you have players who have spent their lives dreaming of scoring for the team.
4. Our wingers looked fantastic. Antonio Valencia was possibly aided by the appalling left-back, but he looked like a world beater again. Charging forward whenever he got the opportunity, delivering dangerous crosses and playing with total confidence. He’s gradually been improving this season, certainly in comparison to last season’s form, but this was easily his best performance of the season. He should have had two more assists to his name though, after putting it on a plate for both Rooney and Welbeck, only for them to pull their shots just wide of the post. Adnan Januzaj on the other wing looked almost as threatening but was hampered by the Villa players chopping him down when he got on the run. The fans sung his songs more than any other player though. He is such an exciting player and his stock is certainly rising.
5. It was great news to see Darren Fletcher was named on the bench, having not played for the first team since Boxing Day last year. He warmed up at half-time and the fans sang his name on repeat. His every touch was cheered once he was subbed on and he went on to have a great 20 minutes. Every bit of praise seems to come with a reminder that Villa were poor, so the same has to be said here, but Fletch looked totally composed and as though he had never been away. How fantastic would it be if he came back as a proper option for us in midfield? I won’t get carried away though, despite being desperate for it to happen.
6. United were certainly worthy winners, but the early chances fell to Villa. They’d had three or four shots on target early doors, even though none of them worried David de Gea, and you had to wonder whether it was going to be ‘one of those days’. De Gea made a great stop in the second half and had a bit of a ruck with Agbonlahor after being shoved off the pitch to concede a corner. The defence didn’t really put a foot wrong though after those initial jitters, with Jones and Evans really putting the pressure on Vidic and Rio for their starting places. Rafael da Silva was fantastic behind Valencia on that right wing too, with United so much stronger offensively and defensively with him at right back.
7. This weekend, Chelsea had one former youth team product in the team (John Terry, who made his debut 15 years ago), as did Arsenal (Jack Wilshere) and City had none. It has to make you proud to see Welbeck and Cleverley playing and scoring, as well as good performances from Evans, Fletcher and Giggs. Let’s hope the extra passion these players show for the club can help compensate for what we’re lacking in ability.
8. There’s no point talking about us ‘kicking on’ and building on this performance, because our form is ridiculously inconsistent. But it was still pleasing to see United put in such a good performance. Everything went right for us and it is reassuring to see we are still capable of playing like that. Whilst there are fans on internet forums and Twitter calling for Moyes to be sacked, the away fans were in full voice supporting the manager. Let’s hope that faith in him can be rewarded with more games like Sunday.