1. After picking up maximum points against the likes of Liverpool, Newcastle, Chelsea and Arsenal, ahead of the game I said I hoped that Aston Villa wouldn’t be a banana skin for us. It’s so typical of United to win the difficult games then throw it away against someone they should be battering. Villa have been awful this season so, even though they were playing home, should have provided United with an easy three points. It wasn’t an easy three points but we got the job done and that’s all you can ask for.
2. It doesn’t seem to matter which combination of defenders we play, we give goals away to our opponents. Villa had shown a few signs of what they were capable of on the break before they took the lead, with Weimann and Ireland getting away from our midfield, before Benteke beat the offside trap but couldn’t capitalise on it. Patrice Evra played him on but that didn’t stop Rio Ferdinand having a fit at the linesman. We conceded seconds before the half-time whistle, despite dominating the possession, after Benteke made a mug of Chris Smalling. All our young defender had to do was keep Benteke out of the box, but instead he threw his weight at him and was shrugged off. After realising the error of his ways, as Benteke raced away from him, Smalling feigned a little fit on the floor, as if he had been fouled, then had to watch Weimann rifle the ball in to the back of our net. Agbonlahor was blocking David de Gea’s view but it was a top finish. The speed it came at the keeper meant it was virtually impossible to save and the bigger concern should be Weimann waiting totally unmarked inside our penalty area to bury it. The second goal was even worse. It started with a sloppy Paul Scholes pass and finished with a simple cross and tap in for Weimann, becoming the first Villa player to score against us twice. Rio was again appealing for offside again but bizarrely didn’t give Smalling a shout, who was clearly closer to the goal than him and playing the goalscorer onside. 2-0 down and it had been easy peasy for Villa.
3. The game was obviously all about Javier Hernandez, who replaced a disappointing Ashley Young at half-time. Young has struggled to justify his £18m pricetag, aside from a few great performances when he first joined the club, and the Villa fans enjoyed watching him lose possession, have his crosses blocked, and generally perform in an ineffective manner. In contrast, Chicharito turned the game around and ensured that we left with all three points. He scored two goals outright and claimed a third, despite his effort deflecting in off a defender. He took the matchball home with hom though, determined for a hattrick. He’s now the first player in Premier League history to score 9 goals away from home as a substitute and has scored 21% of all our league goals this season (compared to Van Persie’s 28%). What does this mean for Rooney’s place in the starting team?
4. In the first half, all players were below par, but after the introduction of Chicharito, things seemed to change. Smalling put in a solid second half performance after the embarrassment of the first half. Valencia, who had highlighted how painfully one-footed he was in the first half and rarely took his opponent on, started running at the defence again and certainly looked better. After losing possession for Villa’s second goal, it was a beautiful ball from Scholes that set up Chicharito for the first goal. It was encouraging to see players making amends for their mistakes.
5. De Gea made a few good stops over the 90 minutes, showing again how great his reactions are, but his most impressive spell was the last five minutes of the game. Villa kept pumping crosses in to the box and De Gea was making his presence felt. He punched clear time and again, barging anyone out of the way and really made the 6 yard box his own. It’s amazing what being played consistently and not dropped for any mistake can do!
6. Van Persie had one of his quieter games for United but was unlucky not to score after he hit the woodwork twice in the space of a minute. A Rooney corner saw Van Persie head against the woodwork, before moments later the goal opened up for him and he saw his left-footed curled effort come back off the woodwork. It was his perfectly placed freekick that lead to the winning goal though. That’s his 4th assist of the season, meaning only Rooney, Hazard, Ruiz and Mata have more assists than him this season, as well as him still being top scorer in the league.
7. This season we’ve now come from behind to win a game on eight occasions, which is something we didn’t manage once last season. That probably says more about how frequently we are going behind this season compared to last than anything, but it’s still pleasing to see we’ve got the right mentality. Three weeks ago we were 4 points behind Chelsea and now we’re 3 points clear of them. Things change quickly in football so there’s no point getting carried away just yet but things are looking good.