1. So we’re barely in December and we’ve already won as many games away as we had done all of last season. Whilst the scoreline meant we had a nervy ending to the game, it was a convincing performance that was worthy of victory. Whilst I don’t think dominating a team in the top half away from home is anything to be sniffed at, it is frustrating to see us struggle to put games to bed. It’s not as though we aren’t creating the chances either.
2. The media tried to make something of Rooney’s “goal drought” ahead of kick-off, largely ignoring the fact he had been forced in to midfield for some games this season and played alongside a different strike partner every week, thanks to the injuries to Welbeck, Chicharito and Berba. He was excellent against Villa though and yet again showed off his impressive passing range. I don’t know what has happened to his decision making though. In front of goal, he keeps picking the wrong option, which is so unlike him. As long as we keep winning games and he keeps contributing at the level he is doing though, the supposed goal drought and decision making shouldn’t make too much difference.
3. Phil Jones, how we love you. A few weeks ago he talked about how he would celebrate his first professional goal, having never scored at Blackburn. Not long after he stuck the ball in the back of his own net in our draw with Benfica. At Villa Park, he cushioned the ball perfectly as he fired past Shay Given, after an inch perfect cross from Nani. His goal celebration was nothing to write home about although I did enjoy him pointing to the bench and the proud Grandad impression from Fergie which followed, as he waved back to the teenager, beaming. Rene Meulensteen had been giving him some stick before kick-off, so the gesture was for his benefit.
4. Jones and Michael Carrick combined well in the centre of the park and were probably the best performing pair post-Cleverley. Fergie said a few weeks ago that Carrick hits good form at this time of year, which has become a self-fulfilling prophecy, with our experienced midfielder having a string of good games now. As was pointed out on Twitter, United have only conceded once with Carrick on the pitch this season, and that was the penalty that should never have been awarded against Newcastle. I know you can get stats to support most arguments but I have been genuinely impressed with Carrick again. He’s been making some great tackles and has remembered where “forward” is. Great stuff.
5. Five points behind at this time of year, with City yet to play any of their toughest games yet (pretending the 10 man derby day just never, ever happened), is a decent position to be in. I do worry about whether our squad, particularly with the weekly injuries we are picking up, has enough in the engine to cope with the crowded fixture list ahead. You’ll have to hope that extra experience we have will push us through to January in a better position though.