Louis van Gaal lined the team up with the same lineup as the opening match excluding Ashley Young who was replaced by Adnan Januzaj, who played in the number 10 role instead of Memphis Depay. This move paid off when the young Belgian midfielder scored his first goal for United in the Premier League since the 5th April 2014 against Newcastle. Juan Mata was passing with certainty and kept United running at a high-pace, even when others tried to slow the game down.
Manchester United started the evening off with a bit of possession and an attempt at a longball to get things going. Aston Villa had a go at possession in the fifth minute when they kept the ball amongst the back four and attempted a lobbed ball over-the-top of Matteo Darmian who dealt with it well. Memphis gave the ball away in the seventh minute after he fell over rather easily following a tackle. It proved to be a wake up call as the Dutchman stayed on his feet for the rest of the half. Luke Shaw made a magnificent tackle in the 8th minute and brought the ball forward to start an attack. Mata was looking for openings throughout the match as he tried to break down the Villa defence.
Sergio Romero looked much more comfortable in his area as he came out to collect the balls. On a free kick on the left side of the corner of the box, Memphis swung the ball in back post where Morgan Schneiderlin was left alone, but did not seem to expect the ball to reach him. The Frenchman saw his headed effort go wide. Michael Carrick looked composed in the midfield and kept his calm whenever he got the ball.
Goalkeeper Brad Guzan made a huge challenge on Memphis and executed the tackle perfectly after a redirection caused the American to rush out of his goalmouth. The play had a look about it that is seen on one-on-ones where the keeper trips the attacker after mis-timing the challenge, however, Guzan got it spot on. Chris Smalling made a big interception on a through ball on the edge of United’s box, potentially saving a goal-scoring opportunity. Memphis dazzled down the left finding Rooney at the top of the box, who flicked it on to the Dutchman, but his shot was deflected wide for a corner. Rooney appeared slow on the ball in some cases during one-on-ones.
Villa showed great organization and contained many of United’s attacks. Memphis timed his runs well and avoided Villa’s offside trap. Januzaj scored after he made a beautiful run on the right side. After beating several players on the right, he found Memphis on the left who found Shaw and Mata. Mata played it through to Januzaj and the Belgian cut the ball from his left foot to his right and struck it home via a small deflection inside the six-yard-box. Januzaj was rather quiet prior to the run which lead to his goal. The young Belgian was mentioned by Van Gaal in his press conference earlier in the week when the manager said he was not for sale. Following his goal, the confidence in the 20-year-old skyrocketed and he seemed more comfortable and loose.
In the 35th minute United had to do some defending. Darmian made an effort on the right side and Mata, who intercepted a pass, lost the ball which was crossed in and headed out for a corner kick. On the corner kick, Darmian grabbed defender Micah Richards by the neck, causing the Englishman to jump at the ball with a diving effort to get the ball on frame. After his header flew over the bar, there was protest from Villa attackers claiming a foul on the Italian right-back, who certainly got away with a foul.
At half-time United led 1-0 with everyone questioning the no-call on Darmian’s marking technique on the corner kick. The problem with it is that the call is rarely given in plays like that, and United needed to start the second-half off with a goal to give the Red Devils some breathing room. Schneiderlin made several giveaways and Rooney seemed to have a difficult time bringing the ball down with his first touch. Memphis looked more comfortable on the left side of the pitch Mata showed control with 96 percent pass accuracy with an overall team pass accuracy of 90 percent, according to Squawka.
When the second-half started, Tim Sherwood’s men appeared to want a goal more than United. Villa were rushing up the field and pressing United players every time they got on the ball. Villa had the first attack of the half in the 52nd minute where Jordan Amavi received a wonderful ball from Scott Sinclair on the left, but Amavi’s cross did not find anyone in the box. Amavi was fouled by Darmian after he flicked the ball past the Italian to set up a free kick for Westwood, but his delivery was not met by a Villa player. Rooney gave the ball away again and Villa attacked the Holt end with force, earning a corner kick. Gabriel Agbonlahor had a decent header off of the corner which was easily handled by Romero.
In the 56th minute, the traveling supporters tried to get the United captain more energetic by chanting, “Rooney, Rooney, Rooney.” However, it did not have any immediate effect as Villa continued to rush up the field with loads of energy from the players and the fans. United eventually regained possession which was almost lost by Rooney but Memphis rescued the captain. United earned a corner off of the attack, but Mata’s decent cross was headed away for a throw-in, which was called back for a foul-throw on Darmian.
Ander Herrera and Bastian Schweinsteiger got set to make appearances as substitutes. Herrera celebrated his 26th birthday by entering the match for Januzaj and Schweinsteiger entered for Carrick. United finally looked like they have depth in the midfield. Schneiderlin hustled to the byline with Amavi and kept the ball in dramatically. He laid it off to Darmian, whose cross was headed out for a corner. United went short and earned another corner after Schweinsteiger’s cross was knocked out. Memphis’ next corner had pace and Guzan punched it away and out of danger. In the 69th minute, Shaw sped by Jordan Ayew and drew a foul in a decent position. Memphis took the shot, but the ball was never coming down.
Ayew received the first booking of the match for simulation when he dove past Schneiderlin in clear sight of the match official. Mata intercepted a pass in the midfield and found Memphis on a through ball behind the defence on the left and he curled his effort inches wide of Guzan’s far post. Herrera was then booked for a shirt tug in the centre of the pitch in the 74th minute. Memphis, Rooney and Shaw all linked up, but Shaw could not find any white shirts in the area. Memphis took another shot at goal from just outside of the area, but he did not have the force he desired and Guzan made a comfortable save. Schweinsteiger played a lovely ball to Mata on the right, but the play broke down when Shaw tried to feed Memphis in on the left. Villa were closing down well and were not giving United much space on the ball. In the 82nd minute, former Villa star Ashley Young entered the game for Memphis and was greeted with the sound of boos from his old fans.
Darmian received a booking for a foul, which set up a free kick in a decent position again, but Romero made ease of the cross. Schweinsteiger looked calm on the ball and did not get pressured to release the ball when Villa players went in for tackles. Schneiderlin and Darmian continued their superb tackling form and made 5 successful challenges each in the match. As the match approached full-time, the tension seemed unreal and Rooney was giving the ball away each time he was passed it. Rooney and Schweinsteiger both went down in the 90th, but both made it to their feet at their own leisure. Rooney an Schweinsteiger dug the ball out of the corner and killed about 45 seconds off the clock. With three minutes of stoppage time, United were killing time with absolute professionalism.
The whistle was blown for full-time and United secured the three points with another 1-0 victory. Januzaj, Mata, Schneiderlin, Shaw and Blind were all at the top of their games. According to Squawka, Blind had 11 clearances, three successful tackles and 95 percent pass accuracy. Two 1-0 wins and two clean sheets are the biggest positives and United get the win on the road. The next match is against Club Brugge in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday and the next Premier League match against Newcastle at home on 22 August.
Goals: Adnan Januzaj 29′
Assists: Juan Mata 29′
Match Statistics: Goals 1, Shots 9, Shots On Target 2, Shots Off Target 4, Corners 5, Offsides 3, Fouls Won 10, Fouls Conceded 13, Yellow Cards 2, Red Cards 0, Pass Success Rate 87.5%, Possession 54.4%
Manchester United: Romero; Darmian, Smalling, Blind, Shaw; Carrick, Schneiderlin; Mata, Januzaj, Memphis; Rooney
Substitutes Not Used: Johnstone; Valencia, McNair; Young, Herrera, Schweinsteiger; Hernandez