Saturday 21 April 2018

Louis van Gaal's gamble on Adnan Januzaj pays off as United continue winning start

Manchester United's Adnan Januzaj celebrates scoring the only goal of the game
Manchester United's Adnan Januzaj celebrates scoring the only goal of the game

Nick Mashiter

Adnan Januzaj maintained Manchester United's stranglehold on Aston Villa as they extended their unbeaten league run at Villa Park to 20 years with a 1-0 win.

The midfielder netted for the first time since April 2014 to settle an uneventful game which the visitors comfortably controlled.

United have now not lost at Villa Park in the Barclays Premier League since a 3-1 defeat in August 1995.

Villa rarely looked like hitting back, Jordan Ayew shooting over from distance, as their wait for a home win over United continued.

The result sealed back-to-back victories for United this season and consecutive clean sheets for Sergio Romero who kept his place ahead of David de Gea with the Spain keeper's future in doubt.

Januzaj made his first start for United since February in their only change from the 1-0 win over Tottenham and justified his recall after 29 minutes of a slow-burning game.

A match graphic of the Aston Villa v Manchester United match.

United had already begun to take control but the 20-year-old ensured their patience paid off with a cool winner.

Juan Mata's defence-splitting pass was perfect for the run of the Belgian who outfoxed the sliding Micah Richards with a smart turn.

He still had plenty to do from the corner of the six-yard box but his shot took a slight touch off Ciaran Clark before going in off the far post.

There had been little previous action with Brad Guzan mopping up from Memphis Depay while Morgan Schneiderlin was caught sleeping while unmarked at the far post.

The goal did, though, rock Villa's momentum and, aside from a bright opening five minutes, they failed to recover from the blow.

United were prepared to maintain their patient build-up with Villa limited to sporadic breaks which routinely came to nothing.

Ayew, one of Villa's 10 summer buys, shot over two minutes after the break when the sloppy Mata gifted him possession but Romero remained untroubled.

The hosts had upped their pedestrian tempo after the re-start with Romero gathering Gabriel Agbonlahor's header, and United reacted by replacing Michael Carrick with Bastian Schweinsteiger while for Villa Rudy Gestede made his home debut for Scott Sinclair.

United had lost their first-half fluency, a testament to Villa's increased efforts in midfield, although hardly looked in danger of losing their lead.

And they should have doubled it - finishing the game off - with 18 minutes left when Memphis missed a golden chance.

Again it was Mata with the exquisite pass to send the Holland international clear but his first-time curling effort from the edge of the box bounced just wide of the post.

It was a huge let off for limp Villa but one they failed cash in on as United, marshalled by the excellent Chris Smalling, cruised to the final whistle with minimum fuss.


"2 games, 2 wins and 2 clean sheets! LVG will be a happy man.. Look much stronger outfit to break down with Schneiderlin in front of back 4!"

Andrew Cole @vancole9




Aston Villa

Brad Guzan: 6 (out of 10)

Leandro Bacuna: 6

Micah Richards: 5

Ciaran Clark: 5

Jordan Amavi: 6

Ashley Westwood: 6

Jordan Veretout: 6

Idrissa Gueye: 6

Gabby Agbonlahor: 6

Jordan Ayew: 6

Scott Sinclair: 6



Rudy Gestede: 6

Carlos Sanchez: 6


Manchester United

Sergio Romero: 7

Matteo Darmian: 7

Chris Smalling: 7

Daley Blind: 7

Luke Shaw: 7

Adnan Januzaj: 7

Michael Carrick: 7

Juan Mata: 7

Morgan Schneiderlin: 7

Memphis Depay: 7

Wayne Rooney: 5



Ander Herrera: 6

Bastian Schweinsteiger: 7

Ashley Young: 6



Chris Smalling: The centre-back was rock solid in the heart of United's defence as he helped keep Villa quiet. With a new goalkeeper and midfielder Daley Blind for company as a partner the onus was on Smalling to show he could lead United from the back. He was cool and composed when under pressure and rarely wasted possession as United tried to build from their defence. The England man read the game well with Villa given little to feed off.



The goal: Villa could not cope with the build up to Adnan Januzaj's goal with Juan Mata producing the pass of the night to dissect four of the hosts' players. Idrissa Gueye may have lost Januzaj for the goal but it was Januzaj who started the move from midfield by spreading the ball wide to Memphis Depay. Once Mata received the ball though he spotted the run of Januzaj and took Villa out of the game with a sumptuous slide-rule ball.



Louis van Gaal will be pleased to have negotiated what could have been an awkward trip with United yet to find their fluid best. They did enough to beat Villa but there was a sense there is still plenty to come from this new-look side. Tim Sherwood will be disappointed not to have seen Villa test United more. It is early days for his side - having brought in 10 new players - and perhaps they cannot be judged too harshly but Sherwood will need them to gel quickly.



It is now 20 years since Villa beat Manchester United at home in the league. After a combative opening 15 minutes the hosts waned and their failure to seriously test Sergio Romero was a major disappointment. Their home record in the last three seasons has been appalling and they must improve their performance if that is going to be addressed. It is too early to seriously judge Villa but they were limp again at home and cannot afford to continue that way.



Crystal Palace v Aston Villa (Premier League, Saturday, 22 August)

Manchester United v Club Brugge (Champions League qualifying play-off, Tuesday, 18 August)

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