Player Ratings: Aston Villa 0-1 Manchester United
Friday night Premier League football got off to a slow and uneventful start as both teams Aston Villa and visitors Manchester United tried to avoid making mistakes and maintain their shape and concentration. There were hardly any runs from midfield and penetrations into the box were rare.
Villa’s hopeful balls from behind the halfway line were intercepted by Manchester United centre backs; the absence of new Liverpool player target man, Christian Benteke, clearly being felt at Villa Park.
On the other hand, a rare start and the only goal in the game for Adnan Januzaj will have his manager, Louis Van Gaal, celebrating, but the Dutchman will hope the performance of his team will match the results in the upcoming matches.
Here are the player ratings for the match:
Brad Guzan – 6/10
Guzan could hardly be blamed for the goal he conceded as the shot from Januzaj took a big deflection of defender Ciaran Clark and found the back of the net. The shot stopper had no other significant saves to make for the rest of the match, and the one shot from Memphis Depay that had him beat also went past the wrong side of the post.
Leandro Bacuna – 6/10
The majority of Manchester United attacks happened with Depay attacking Bacuna, and the Aston Villa defender found himself in for quite a battle. The trickery of Depay and the quickness of Shaw was difficult to handle but Bacuna did a fine job of limiting the damage from these attacks.
Micah Richards – 6/10
The strong, commanding centre-half playing his second game back in England had a decent game keeping Wayne Rooney quiet. The ex-Manchester City player should’ve stayed on his feet as Januzaj tricked his way towards the goal when he scored. Richards also probably should have had a penalty in the first-half when Darmian had his arm around the Villa defender’s neck while jumping for a corner.
Ciaran Clark – 6/10
The Aston Villa defender had a quiet game at the back, playing alongside Richards and keeping an eye on Rooney as the lone striker. Clark was responsible for most of those long balls that pinged off of Manchester United defenders’ heads, wasting Villa possession.
Jordan Amavi – 7.5/10
With Darmian not venturing forward and Mata playing centrally, Amavi wasn’t tested defensively during the game. In his attacking role, the fullback did exceptionally well, partnering with Sinclair on the left-side of attack. His crosses, a couple of which weren’t dealt with by the Manchester United defenders, unfortunately, didn’t find any Aston Villa attacker either. Amavi has had two good games as left-back for Aston Villa and could make the position his own during the course of the season.
Jordan Veretout – 6/10
Being an enforcer in the middle of the park and helping the defence transition into attack, Veretout gave Westwood and Gueye the license to roam a bit more. After a minor collision with Januzaj, Veretout kicked the Manchester United player after the duo fell to the ground, and later, feigned injury. With the new Premier League rules in place, it’ll be interesting to see if any action is taken against the player.
Idrissa Gueye – 5.5/10
While Gueye did well in the attacking phases of play - passing the ball to the wings and making the late run in the box, he was at fault defensively during the goal. After following Januzaj, his marker, into the penalty box, the Villa midfield let him go, leaving Januzaj all alone with acres of space around him. The match could have played out differently if it weren’t for that one mistake.
Ashley Westwood – 6/10
Ashley Westwood was the playmaker for Aston Villa in tonight’s game, but with the attackers not finding space in United’s half, Westwood was silent for most of the game. He started getting into the game a little bit more in the second-half after the introduction of Gestede.
Jordan Ayew – 6.5/10
Brother of Andre Ayew at Swansea City, Jordan looked promising in the start of the game, making diagonal runs into the box and supporting Agbonlahor, who was playing up front. However, in the second-half, Ayew started losing concentration and got booked for simulation. After that, for the rest of the match, he was second best when up against the United defenders.
Gabby Agbonlahor – 5/10
Playing as the lone striker up front, Agbonlahor didn’t have a chance, especially as his team played long balls towards him for the entirety of the first-half. In the second half, when Gestede came onto the pitch, Agbonlahor was pushed onto the wings where he had no impact.
Scott Sinclair – 6/10
Aston Villa’s brightest player in the first-half, alongside Amavi, both of whom gave defender Darmian some trouble. Sinclair looked sharp, but Villa lacked any sort of height in the box for him to cross to. Unfortunately, he was taken off early in the second half to be replaced by striker Gestede.
Rudy Gestede – 6/10
Gestede came on early in the second half and won a few headers against Smalling and Blind. However, he had no impact in the opposition penalty box and no touches to feet to note. Just like Agbonholar, found himself isolated and impossible to carve an opening.
Carlos Sanchez – 4/10
Came on for Veretout but definitely not the answer for a team that was looking to attack and get an equalizer. Nullified Manchester United’s passing in the final third after coming on but offered no attacking option.
Sergio Romero – 6/10
All the talk before the game was about Van Gaal dropping David De Gea and omitting him from the squad, but that didn’t distract Romero, who made his second start in as many games this season after signing for the club. The World Cup finalist had no saves to make in the first half and regular gathers in the second.
His weakness in the first game - his distribution – also seemed to have improved as the Villa attackers did not press the goalkeeper into any mistakes. Two clean sheets in two games for Romero, but more difficult challenges lie ahead.
Matteo Darmian – 7/10
A tougher challenge awaited Darmian after his Man of the Match performance against Tottenham Hotspur last week as Aston Villa duo, Sinclair and Avami, took him on during this game.
The Italian looks like he’s improving week after week and is cemented his place in the Manchester United starting XI, with another mature and sophisticated display. Darmian stayed in his own half for most of the game last night, unlike last week where he was a constant attacking option, and the right-back did his job very well.
Luke Shaw – 7.5/10
Luke Shaw was the standout performer for Manchester United in last night’s game. The left-back shut down the right side of Aston Villa’s attack, forcing them to operate from the left or through the centre. Shaw contributed to his team’s attack as well, making numerous overlapping runs and offering support to Depay and, later, Young, who occupied the space on the inside.
He had an opportunity to play in Wayne Rooney and finish off the game in the second half but overshot the pass, but otherwise, a great all-around performance from the young Englishman.
Chris Smalling – 7/10
Smalling received a lot of criticism before the start of the season, as the club’s fans were hoping for a world class defender to replace him as the first choice centre back. Over the last two games, the tall defender has garnered a lot of praise from the club’s fans on social media.
Last night, Smalling was the leader of his defence, taking charge and clearing any 50-50 ball. When Gabby Agbonlahor was the lone striker, Smalling shut him down, offering him no space to move. Even when the much more physical Gestede came on as a substitute, Smalling gave the striker no opportunity to have a shot at goal.
Daley Blind – 8/10 – Man of the Match
Daley Blind’s performance today went largely unnoticed, and the decision to award him the Man of the Match had the fans divided, but the statistics speak for themselves: 11 clearances, 3 interceptions, 2 headed duels won, 95% pass accuracy. These are statistics of a player that didn’t put a single foot wrong in the game and is part of a defensive partnership that has just kept its second clean sheet in a row.
Michael Carrick – 5.5/10
The workload on Michael Carrick and his midfield partner, Morgan Schneiderlin, was higher than usual as Aston Villa set up with three players in the centre of the park, which explains why Carrick was taken off in the 59th minute of the game.
During the early part of the game, the English international had a calming influence on the game, as he dictated the tempo that his team played with and sat right in front of the Manchester United back-four. The game got away from Carrick when Aston Villa started applying pressure and throwing men forward in search of the equalizer.
Morgan Schneiderlin – 6/10
Scheiderlin’s attacking display was good, making several key passes and good ball distribution. The Frenchman, however, got dispossessed and was lacklustre in defence on occasion. While his overall performance was satisfactory, Scheiderlin should look over his shoulder, with many capable replacements waiting for an opportunity to dispalce him from the starting line-up.
Juan Mata – 6.5/10
Mata got caught in possession numerous times; sometimes, in dangerous positions right outside his own box. He looked a bit out of the game at times, especially in the later half of the game, and it’ll be interesting to see if he is rested for the Champions League game in midweek.
Aside from that, Mata was the best attack-minded player Manchester United had on the pitch at any time during the game. Starting on the right wing, Mata found himself on the left, feeding a perfectly timed ball to Adnan Januzaj for the only goal of the game. The vision and intelligence showed by Mata for the goal was sheer genius.
Adnan Januzaj – 7/10
In the pre-match conference, Van Gaal made it clear that both the player, Adnan, and himself see the Belgian youngster as a no.10 – and that is where he played in tonight’s match. Although a bit light and easily pushed around by Richards, Januzaj played well in the hole, finding pockets of space and linking up and changing play from side to side. Lacked a bit of vision, but scored the only goal of the game; his first for 14 months in Manchester United colours.
Memphis Depay – 6/10
Depay ran at the Villa defence and succeeded in going past them on multiple occasions. With Shaw as an overlapping runner, the new signing did well to isolate the Aston Villa right-back, but got no rewards for his display – missing a glorious opportunity to seal the game deep into the second half. Depay’s delivery was a mixed bag, as he under hit and over hit his crosses, and is still very much a work in progress.
Wayne Rooney – 5/10
It is proving very difficult for Wayne Rooney to be the lone frontman in Van Gaal's system as he doesn’t see much of the ball. Hardly had any touches in the game, found himself isolated and marked by two or three defenders. Rooney did not do much with the ball when he did receive it. A disappointing performance by the Manchester United captain against his most favoured opponents.
Bastian Schweinsteiger – 6/10
After coming on for Carrick in the 59th minute, the German international slowed down the game, playing one-twos with his teammates and frustrating the opposition. Schweinsteiger always found himself some space and put in a tremendous performance in the last 30 minutes of the game – sliding into tackles, rushing back to cover his defenders and showing a great range of passing.
Ander Herrera – 5/10
Herrera celebrated his birthday by coming off the bench, along with Schweinsteiger, and put in a good display. Immediately receiving a yellow card for a professional foul, the Spaniard played smart for the rest of the match, not making any mistakes and finding himself space to hold the ball between the opposition defence and midfield. The match seemed to calm down as soon as the twosome of Herrera and Schweinsteiger came onto the pitch.
Ashley Young – N/A
A barrage of boos greeted Young as he went back to the stadium he had spent four years in, before joining Manchester United. Having come on late on, Young didn’t have an opportunity to play a big role in the game.