Danny Welbeck scored twice as Manchester United beat Aston Villa 3-0
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Following defeats to Everton and Newcastle at Old Trafford it was important that United secured all 3 points at what has usually been a good luck ground in Villa Park.
After a nervy start where Villa created several chances from long range, United took control with two instinctive finishes from the returning Danny Welbeck up front. A third goal from Tom Cleverley (TC23) in the second half secured a very comfortable 3 points that could and should have been more.
Performances from Rooney, Welbeck, Januzaj and others plus the return of Darren Fletcher in midfield were major high points in a win that hopefully means the team will kick on through the vital Christmas period.
Here we discuss the talking points of the game and welcome feedback from both sets of fans.
Welbecks Form and Instincts
It was fantastic to see Danny Welbeck played as the man at the top of the team today rather than the left sided attacker. The form of Rooney and Van Persie in the last 18 months have meant that it’s a role he’s not been assigned in recent times. With Van Persie and Hernandez now out of the team due to injury he needed to take his chance and today he took full advantage. Welbeck’s biggest strengths have always been his work rate and ability to hold the ball up bringing others into play, it was precisely this reason that he was chosen over Rooney in the Real Madrid games last year.
Welbeck was at his link up playing best today with Rooney, Valencia and Rafael all benefiting with quick touches from the boots of the ‘Fresh Prince’. One thing that has been identified with Welbeck is that he operates better from instinct rather than when he has too much time to think. Both of his goals today came from doing what every good striker does naturally, get into dangerous positions and benefit. After fantastic work from Rafael on the right in churning out a deep cross, Januzaj’s run and header rebounded off the post and within the blink of the eye Welbeck followed up to poke it home. A case of knowing exactly where to be had resulted in his first goal since the opening day in the league.
As if things couldn’t get better it was 2-0 minutes later as Welbeck doubled his tally. After winning the ball in midfield, Cleverley played it wide and Valencia stroked a low cross into the middle. Welbeck and Januzaj had anticipated this and Welbeck took the ball off Adnan’s foot to put it into the roof of the net.
Welbeck was unlucky not to claim a hat-trick but his work rate and link up play made United look more potent going forward than at any other point this season. With Van Persie’s enforced absence this could be the time Welbeck finally starts to deliver consistent goals.
All Right On The Night
United appeared to identify Aston Villas left side as the weak link and Valencia/Rafael haven’t looked this dominant in a while. All in all 10 chances were created from United’s right hand side as Valencia in particular rolled back the years and roasted Luna over and over. Valencia’s output has been the biggest cause for concern with his performances but today he made the right decision when required and with Rafael overlapping it was crosses aplenty. It would be pointless knocking balls into a box with no players to aim at but the options today were numerous. Alongside Welbeck was Rooney coming from deep and then Januzaj coming from the left and causing defensive uncertainty for Villa to handle.
The overall balance of the team going forward was a joy to watch with strength, guile and persistence all on display. Valencia’s strength coupled with Rafael’s guile overlapping won the right side all day long, setting the foundations for a comprehensive win.
Strength From The Back
Whilst Rafael and Evra were making waves going forward it was Jonny Evans and Phil Jones who provided a brick wall that Villa could not break down. Whilst Villa had several long range efforts early in the game, they failed to break down the pair even when United eased off on the gas in the second half. Games such as this usually resulted in a sloppy goal conceded but today Jones and Evans were having none of it.
All the players we have in central defence are technically good enough to play there but with the years now catching up with Ferdinand/Vidic, it’s about building the next central pairing. Of all the players it is Evans who looks the most ready to be the every week man in central defence. He has the confidence to bring the ball out of defence and his reading of the game improves each and every week. It is clear to see he has picked up tips from both Rio and Vidic whilst being their understudy. Evans looks the natural leader at the back for years to come.
Alongside Evans it looks like Phil Jones could be the man to build the next great partnership. Jones has excelled in midfield in recent weeks but long term he is a central defender and proved why today. The only thing you could previously highlight as a negative in Jones play was his decision making which sometimes left him out of the game. Going to ground too easily and playing the wrong pass meant he was at times a liability at the back. Jones’ reading of the game and positional sense has come on immensely in the last 12 months. The pairing of Jones and Evans has the makings of a new Ferdinand/Vidic pairing with comfort on the ball, strength and good communication all present.
It could now be worth giving the pairing time to develop understanding in the next few weeks in games we are expected to perform well.
Welcome Back Fletch
It was a joy to see Darren Fletcher return to the bench and get minutes on the pitch today after nearly 12 months out of the picture. Whilst Fletch wouldn’d have been the complete answer to our midfield prayers had he been fit, he would have offered a solid man alongside Carrick. The level of experience he has alongside the defensive ability would allow a central pairing behind to develop.
I’m not sure exactly what we can expect of Fletcher long term, my gut instinct suggests that he will need to be managed very carefully. Having Fletcher off the bench though instead of Giggs or Anderson does seem a lot more appealing.
Overall it was exactly the type of performance and result we needed after the last few weeks but the importance now in taking this into next week and Stoke/West Ham is vital. A strong return over the Christmas/New Year can get United back into the Champions League picture and that is the minimum we must be looking at.
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It was delightful to see DarrenFletcherinho return to game-action. When he was in his “football genius” mode a few years ago – 7-1 v. Roma, brilliant displays against InterMilan, two goals against ManShitty and so on – his partnership with MC16 was fantastic. Fletcherinho’s absence from both CL defeats to Barcelona might not have changed the final outcome but his presence would have made the contest more equal and, perhaps, yielded a tighter score-line, too. He’s been very, very, very sorely missed and the stop-gaps who have been used to replace him have all left something to be desired, most of the time.
The big surprise today was not just the starting eleven but also the significant faster pace at which TheLads played, especially down the right flank where LitteRedRafa/AV25 were totally dominant – so much so that Valencia even had the courage to use his left foot.
Playing TheWayneBoy at the base of an attacking diamond was also evidence that AgentMoyes learned something from the second half of the match against Shakhtar. Wazza was spraying Scholes-esque passes across the field, covering every blade of grass and providing the necessary “protection” for Giggs/YoungTom, who was surprisingly better when playing in something resembling a three-man midfield.
Was a corner truly turned today ? was this the swallow that makes a summer ? A succession of three relatively-easy matches against DeadMenWalking (Norwich/WestHam/Hull) before the new year “should” provide another nine points which should allow TheLads to creep a little closer to the promised land.