Aston Villa – Manchester United 1:1
Manchester United seem to be improving with each passing game. As expected from a Van Gaal team, the Red Devils dominated possession for the entire match. Rooney put in a great performance as a central midfielder and Aston Villa had a few scenes where they exploited Unitedâ€™s defense. Though United dominated for nearly the entire match, a few deficiencies in their offensive play and a moment of brilliance from Benteke resulted in the game ending as a draw.
Manchester United Dominance
United used their back 3 in defense for extra stability when building play, as we have seen many teams do throughout more recent EPL games. To supplement this, principles of Van Gaalâ€™s philosophy of play were visible as well. They would look to invite Aston Villaâ€™s defensive pressure to one side of the field and then position themselves accordingly in order to attack the opposite side quickly. Though most of those switches ended in crosses, a few times dangerous situations arose. Rooney in particular had excellent positioning in relation to his teammates. He also played great long passes and looked like he was made to play the position.
Especially on the left side, Manchester United sought to use their overload from the back 3 with Evans running up to create a free man, whether it be Young or Rooney. Most of the time it was Rooney and he played excellently with the chances he was given. Rooney played many penetrating vertical passes but the trioÂ of Falcao, Van Persie, and Mata couldnâ€™t quite combine and provide enough penetration to create truly dangerous situations. This is where I felt Angel Di Maria was lacking.
There were times when the ball was switched across to Rooney who played the ball out to Young in a 1 vs. 1 situation against Aston Villaâ€™s right back. This matchupÂ actually resulted in the goal that leveled the score in the game.
In the second half, Carrick was moved into the right central midfielder role as Van Gaal substituted Blackett for Fletcher. Rooney become slightly more involved in finishing attacking movements and even made some runs into the box, while still contributing to the build up play. This seems like the perfect role for Wayne Rooney. Maybe a systemÂ with Rooney, Mata, Di Maria, and Carrick in central areas would be most advantageous for Manchester United.
Later, Angel Di Maria came on for Van Persie. United looked better in combinations in tight spaces as well as being more direct. It would have been interesting to see how United wouldâ€™ve played if Di Maria came on for Falcao instead, who is worse than Van Persie in tighter situations.
The Red Devils ended up creating more chances and dominating the game, but didnâ€™t score to take the lead. Aston Villa used their back 3 somewhat similarly to United in itâ€™s initial moments during buildup, but when they found some freedom, they would look to play long passes and press the 2nd ball instead of building the play with short passes. They did have moments whereÂ they manipulated the man marking of United in midfield though. Delph in particular drifted very wide and Fletcher followed him, leaving Rooney alone in the center and passing lanes to Agbonlahor and Benteke open. Besides those few scenesÂ and Bentekeâ€™s goal from the set piece, Aston Villa didnâ€™t threaten United very much. United look to be increasinglyÂ comfortable with Louis Van Gaal and look like they will secure the 3rd spot in the EPL, but that is yet to be seen.