Manchester United came from a goal down to beat Aston Villa 4-1 in a game David Moyes must have felt was a must win after a turbulent week for the United boss.
Moyes made 5 changes from the team that was emphatically beaten by bitter rivals Manchester City on Tuesday with Evra, Ferdinand, Carrick, Cleverley and Welbeck making way for Buttner, Vidic, Young, Fletcher and Kagawa. They lined up in a 4-2-3-1 with Wayne Rooney operating as the central striker in front of a trio of Kagawa, Mata and Young in a lineup similar to the one that impressed at West Ham last weekend.
Much of the speculation in the build up was centred on the frankly embarrassing plane protest that was said to go ahead. Moyes was out early ahead of the players and received a great ovation from the Stretford End. In a season when our fans have been a shining light with their unwavering support of the team, this protest left a sour taste in the mouth.
That’s enough of that, on to the match. United started the game slowly and the defence looked nervous when Villa attacked. After 12 minutes Rafael was booked for an all too familiar rash challenge on Gabriel Agbonlahor. Ashley Westwood stepped up guided his free kick into DeGea’s top corner. United’s responded quickly and were on level terms five minutes later when Wayne Rooney glanced Shinji Kagawa’s beautifully flighted cross in off the post. It was just the reaction Moyes would have wanted from the players. Juan Mata’s incisive run into the box drew Ciaran Clark and created the space for Rooney. The rest of the half was somewhat of a non event with neither side able to carve out any clear cut chances. As the clock ticked towards half time Kagawa played a slide rule pass which reached Juan Mata, who checked his run inside the bus only to be fouled by Bacuna. Wayne Rooney emphatically converted the spot kick and United were ahead right on the stroke of half time.
Michael Carrick replaced the injured Rafael at half time with Phil Jones moving to right back and Carrick going to centre half where he played at Upton Park 7 days ago. Villa grew into the game in the opening stages of the second half with Vidic and Carrick struggling at times with the power of Benteke. The Belgian missed a guilt edged chance when he took the ball down on his chest in the area, missed the ball entirely with his first effort and then lashed it well wide. Benteke continued to be a handful and headed a cross just over after good work down the Villa right from Marc Albrighton.
The pressure was relieved on the hour mark when Juan Mata scored his first goal for the club. Mata coolly dispatched his effort into the bottom corner after the ball had fallen at his feet via a ricochet off Fellaini and the defender. Shinji Kagawa was replaced by Januzaj after an impressive display from the Japanese playmaker, and the mercurial talent was immediately involved, cutting in from the left and steering a shot towards the bottom corner which Brad Guzan comfortably saved. The American stopper was called into action once again moments later to deny Rooney his hat trick, after he sublimely controlled in the Villa area and cut onto his right foot. That was that for Rooney after he was replaced by Javier Hernandez, before being named Man of the Match.
In the closing minutes Januzaj broke down the left and whipped a great ball across the Villa six yard line which Hernandez duly converted for United’s fourth. At the final whistle David Moyes paid tribute to the fans who had been right behind him and the team throughout the day. A positive performance and result was important today after the disappointment of the Manchester Derby. The focus now switches to Tuesday night’s Champions League Quarter-Final against Bayern Munich.