Manchester United settled for yet another 1-0 win and another scraped three points as they visited Villa Park to come up against Aston Villa. Similar to the 1-0 win over Newcastle, United looked sharper and more energetic than recent performances.
United were in control throughout and could have counted themselves unlucky to not have put the game to bed at any point. There were very strong performances from Vidic and Smalling to keep Villa from getting a goal themselves. Vidic gave United a strong presence in the air up against danger-man Darren Bent. Smalling built on his impressive return from injury against Crystal Palace as he dealt well with the threat of the pacy Agbonlahor not letting him cut inside to create chances.
An attack, which in recent times has looked restricted and lacklustre, was a bit more threatening against Villa. United moved the ball around well and looked more free-flowing and comfortable as they were unfortunate to only find the net once.
Injury problems saw Phil Jones moved out of defence to make another appearance in the United midfield. He looked comfortably at home alongside Michael Carrick as the two formed a neat partnership in the centre of midfield. Jones’ defensive capabilities and holding role allowed his central partner to see a lot of the ball and use his clever passing to start moves and dictate play.
Jones was solid in his role breaking down Villa’s attacks through the midfield, working well alongside Carrick to give the defence extra support and then distribute the ball out well.
United’s only goal game through Jones in the 20th minute. Evra laid the ball out to Nani on the left wing who whipped a cross into Villa’s box, Jones charged forward from his holding role to get a touch on it and send it past Given for his first goal in United colours.
Jones made sure he was available to receive the ball when it was in defence, his distribution was then always very clever. On the odd occasion he would play a threatening ball in behind the Villa defence, including the ball he played causing Given to rush out and injure himself.
Later in the game when Jones was moved back in to defence he adapted well giving Vidic a strong and reassuring partner as they prevented Villa making any breakthrough.
Jones has made more appearances than any other player United player this season and continues to develop as he has quickly established himself as a key part of the team. He proved that against Villa as he was solid as a rock in midfield with tidy passing, he also turned a goal poacher and later in the game continued his fantastic performance moving back into his familiar role to help United hold on to the goal he scored.
SAF should bring some much needed consistency in central midfield by allowing this partnership of Jones and Carrick to gel. Jones defensive capablities blends well with Carricks ability to dictate the game.With the injuries to our forwards it wont be a bad idea to play fletcher in a midfield of five along with carrick and jones with rooney alone upfront.