Manchester United Eke Out Yet Another 1–0 Win
At Villa Park against Aston Villa, the Red Devils rinse-and-repeat their opening weekend performance against Spurs
The Premier League schedule makers must really enjoy putting Manchester United in weird time slots. United opened the Premier League season last Saturday morning at 7:45 AM EST with a 1–0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur. Then, this week, they were set up for the only Friday afternoon (2:45 PM EST) match against Aston Villa, a team that, like United, started their season last Saturday with a 1–0 win over the newly-promoted Bournemouth side.
But, the weird timing of the match was no competition for the pre-match headlines since the Aston Villa-United match was embroiled in some controversy — positive (if that’s even possible) and negative — before the opening whistle had even sounded. Aston Villa announced Friday morning that the club had completed the transfer of 19-year-old Barcelona starlet Adama Traoré from the Catalan behemoth. The announcement, following the victory over Bournemoth, gave Villa manager Tim Sherwood full hopes that his side could pull off the upset against a Manchester United side that had just narrowly secured their opening weekend victory over Spurs.
On the other hand, United was reeling from the ongoing “will he or won’t he?” David de Gea transfer rumors. The beleaguered keeper is the focal point of constant speculation surrounding his big money move to Real Madrid. The move, for a number of reasons, did not pan out earlier in the summer transfer window and, unfortunately, the saga still continues two weeks into the Premier League season.
Manager Louis van Gaal declared that de Gea was unfit to protect the United goal ahead of the tie against Aston Villa and that, for the second straight match, Sergio Romero would mind the goalposts.
“However, Van Gaal also said the origins of that decision came from a meeting eight days ago when, according to the United manager, De Gea was asked outright if he wanted to play and told the club’s coaching staff he did not want to be involved because he was too distracted.”
— Daniel Taylor, The Guardian
While de Gea and his camp have been using phrases like “completely clear conscience” and “baffled” to describe his standstill, murky situation at United, van Gaal continues to claim that the star keeper wants no part in match day activities since his mind is preoccupied with the impending transfer to Real Madrid. In fact, van Gaal informed the media ahead of the Villa match that Frans Hoek, his goalkeeping coach, had a “meeting with David de Gea and he asked him: ‘Do you want to play?’” At that point, according to van Gaal’s voluntary testimony, de Gea responded with a definitive “no.”
Arsenal, Chelsea, and Tottenham all suffered disappointing results in the first EPL weekendmedium.com
With the goaltending duties handed off to the underrated Argentinian Romero, van Gaal proceeded to field the same exact team that faced Spurs last weekend, with the notable change being the swapping of Ashley Young for the 20-year-old Adnan Januzaj. Young, who had provided the “assist” that led to the Kyle Walker own-goal last weekend, now had to give way to the young Belgian international who slotted in United’s only goal in the twenty-ninth minute, only after thoroughly embarrassing Villa captain Micah Richards with a cheeky change in direction.
Speaking of Micah Richards, how on God’s green Earth is that man a captain of Aston Villa after transferring to the club only this summer? Sure, he’s 27-years-old, experienced in the Premier League, and has plied his trade for a big club in Manchester City, but if that was enough to warrant the captaincy, then James Milner should be the captain of Liverpool. Speaking of Milner, while he’s not the captain of Liverpool, the former Man City player is the vice-captain, after joining the side only this — you guessed it — summer.
Brad Guzan and Martin Škrtel must be pissed.
When Micah Richards wasn’t busy spending his time chasing down the speedy Memphis or the wily Januzaj around Villa Park, the new captain was seen shouting at his colleagues to close up the defensive gaps that allowed passing extraordinaire Juan Mata to thread pinpoint passes like it was a simple training drill. Playing in his 50th Premier League match for United, the magical Mata was responsible for about ten perfect through balls to the likes of Memphis “call me just Memphis from now on” Depay and Wayne “Radamel Falcao 2.0” Rooney, who both proceeded to botch their best chances in front of goal.
Thankfully, the United defense, besmirched endlessly last season for their late goals that cost United multiple games, was the savior for a second straight week as the solid seven of Morgan Scheneiderlin, Michael Carrick, Matteo Darmian, Chris Smalling, Daley Blind, Luke Shaw, and Sergio Romero locked the doors and threw away the keys to the Aston Villa attack for most of the match.
As United look to continue their pursuit of one of the last remaining Champions League spots tomorrow against Club Brugge at Old Trafford, van Gaal and his Red Devils will hope that the remaining faulty four will perform up to their expectations if United is to cruise to a win. In not, then this will be the third straight match that United’s front four have put in insignificant shifts.
But, not to worry; because as they say, “the third time’s the charm.”