NO HEROICS FROM THE VILLANS: ASTON VILLA 0 – MANCHESTER UNITED 1

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With Sherwood naming an unchanged side from the one that started the first game of the season, the Villans took to the pitch in front of a packed Villa Park for the season’s first home game.

Neither side was able to maintain possession or mount a meaningful attack in the opening stages.

The first opportunity fell to the visitors after sixteen minutes, when Schneiderlin ghosted towards the back post to meet Depay’s ball in. However, he was unable to steer the ball towards the target.

Things could have gotten messy a few minutes later as Guzan crashed into Depay in an effort to stop the Dutch international reaching Mata’s through ball but the Villans escaped and continued to stand toe-to-toe with the visitors.

The opening thirty minutes would have been rather uneventful had it not been for Januzaj, who collected a clever pass from Mata, cut inside a clumsy Richards and unleashed a low drive that went in off the right-hand post, taking a big deflection off Clark en route. The rather fortunate goal exposed the hosts’ defensive shakiness.

Having raced all over the field for the first thirty minutes, Gueye showed signs of tiredness – and he wasn’t the only one. The Red Devils began to dominate and should really have been able to exploit the Villans’ obvious tiredness.

Mike Dean decided to ignore Darmian’s aggressive defending in the thirty-seventh minutes, when he clearly had his hand round Richards’ neck and threw the Villa captain off balance when he had a clear goal-scoring opportunity. Despite clear grounds for a penalty, Dean was unmoved.

Louis van Gaal’s men then opted to camp in their own half but Januzaj was presented with acres of space and Rooney, who wasn’t enjoying one of his more memorable games, mishit his pass.

Another who was having a game to forget was Veretout but he drifted to the right at the end of the first half and found options in the box but sent his cross sailing straight to Romero.

With the full house having seen little to suggest that the Villans would finally end their winless run against Manchester United at Villa Park, the teams emerged unchanged for the second half.

After Mata gave the ball away, Ayew took a shot from twenty-five yards out that roused the Villa faithful. In truth, it wasn’t particularly close and the Reds continued to look quite comfortable as they passed the ball between defence and midfield.

Amavi burst down the left after fifty-two minutes and sent a swinging cross across the six-yard box with Romero caught out but, frustratingly, none of his team-mates came close to making contact with it and a glorious opportunity was wasted.

He then won a free kick on the left that Westwood wasted, dropping it into the gloves of Romero.

Two minutes later, the hosts again proved wasteful. When gifted a free header following a corner, Agbonlahor fired straight at Romero.

As the United defence proved sloppy, the Villans enjoyed more opportunities to level the score but were unable to take advantage of them.

Just before the hour mark, Sinclair made way for Gestede, the scorer of last weekend’s winner, who received a warm welcome.

Amavi then conceded a corner that should have been a free kick but the visitors were unable to do anything with it.

Westwood looked incredibly composed and soon picked out Agbonlahor with a superb cross but the Villa veteran ignored the waiting Gestede and Ayew, instead sending the ball straight to Romero.

After Depay attempted to impersonate Ronaldo, Ayew tried to impersonate Young and was rightly booked by Dean in the seventieth minute for his embarrassing dive over a trailing leg.

Mata continued to pick Villa’s defence apart and his through ball for Depay was quietly impressive. Somehow, Depay’s curling side-footed effort went wide of the far post.

After seventy-six minutes, Guzan was at full stretch to keep out Depay’s effort from distance.

Sanchez replaced Veretout, whose evident exhaustion meant he was becoming increasingly ineffective.

The visitors looked in very little danger of conceding their advantage and played keep ball and nullified their hosts’ aerial threat until the clock ran down and the pre-match favourites picked up three predictable points.

Speaking post-match, Sherwood said:

“The boys gave everything for the cause but we didn’t carry enough attacking threat. The attacking force wasn’t there. It may be down to personnel missing who might give us a little cutting edge.

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