Aston Villa 0 Man United 1: Three talking points as Morgan Schneiderlin impresses
Three talking points as Manchester United secure successive wins thanks to 1-0 victory over Aston Villa
Schneiderlin immediately proving his worth
Morgan Schneiderlin cost Manchester United £24m. Already, that figure looks a bargain.Both David Moyes’ United team, and the Van Gaal edition of last season, were desperately lacking any mobility in the middle of the park. It is plain that with the former Southampton player in their engine room, the Red Devils won’t be lacking for legs this term. Adopting a positon between his centre-halves one minute, linking up with Wayne Rooney on the edge of Villa’s box the next, Schneiderlin was everywhere. This wasn’t an adrenaline-fuelled charge about the pitch, though, far from it. The 25 year-old is deployed, primarily, in a holding role. He is, though, as close to a box-to-box midfielder as you will see in today’s game. Schneiderlin knows exactly when to cover behind a full-back, is always available for his team-mates and is adept at timing his runs into the opposing penalty area. It is a measure of his new signing’s place in the pecking order that when Van Gaal introduced Bastian Schweinsteiger on the hour mark, it was Michael Carrick, not Schneiderlin, who gave way for the German. A final note; the speed with which Schneiderlin appears to be adapting to life with the Red Devils perhaps offers an indication as to why players with Premier League experience come with a hefty premium attached.
United in their intensity
The overwhelming intensity associated with Manchester United teams, a hallmark of the Sir Alex Ferguson sides that landed trophy after trophy for the Old Trafford club, had been mislaid in the last couple of years. It’s on its way back. There is still a fair way to go in Van Gaal’s rebuild of this team, but with the application on show from his players in the Midlands the Dutchman will be encouraged that he is headed in the right direction. The visitors displayed only sporadic quality in possession. That slight failing meant that there was plenty of call to have to win the ball back, and every single man in white responded accordingly. It wasn’t only the more renowned ball winners putting the press on, either. Particularly heartening for the United supporters, who had battled horrendous traffic on the M6 to make it to Villa Park, would have been the sight of the likes of Juan Mata, chasing, harrying and battling for everything in his sphere. One of the big stories on the eve of the game – and for the second week running, with regards to United – was the ongoing exclusion from the Red Devils’ team of David De Gea. The Spaniard’s replacement, Sergio Romero, remains something of an unknown quantity, however. That has plenty to do with the organised, disciplined and committed back-four in front of the Argentine shot-stopper. Commentating on the game for Sky Sports, Gary Neville singled out Daley Blind for the man of the match award. It was a deserved accolade for the ex-Ajax player, considered by many observers to be a weak link for United, in his new role as a left-sided centre-half. Against Villa, though, and most notably, when the 6ft 4ins Rudy Gestede entered the fray mid-way through the second period, Blind rose to the challenge. He even made up a height deficit of nearly six inches to come out on top in one aerial duel with the Benin international. His clean-sheet secured, Blind traipsed off, his jersey soaked in sweat – something he had in common with each of his team-mates. If you can’t win pretty, just win. United did just that.
The demise of the Premier League player has been slightly exaggerated
It was reported this week that FA Chairman Greg Dyke was especially perturbed that of the 220 players to start the opening round of Premier League fixtures, only 73 (33.2%) were eligible to represent England. Roy Hodgson had plenty to keep his eye on here, though. Both line-ups featured four players reared in this country, including one who, if he maintains his current upwards trajectory, could be ready to re-stake a claim for international honours before long. Micah Richards seems to have been around for ever. Aston Villa’s new centre-half and skipper is, in fact, still only 27 years-old – relatively young for a man operating in his position. The former Manchester City man’s surge to stardom was as rapid as his subsequent decline. Tipped as an England certainty for years to come, when he shone as an exciting home-blooded product as a teenager at The Etihad, Richards progressively slipped out of the frame for club and country as his progress stalled – and City’s did the opposite. A defender who plays on the front-foot – witness the way he stormed out of the back-line to dispossess Adnan Januzaj in the second minute of this game – Richards’ main strength can also be his prime weakness. One rash tackle after 15 minutes left his side defending a dangerous free-kick, while the way he went to ground as Januzaj twisted and turned, before firing the game’s only goal, was an error of judgement. Now afforded the match-time he has been deprived in recent years, and handed the responsibility of the armband at Villa, the Birmingham born player can iron out those kinks in his game and develop into the player so many highly rated judges believed he would become. Mentions also for Luke Shaw and Chris Smalling; two Manchester United players who made sound contributions in Van Gaal’s back four at Villa Park – although Smalling’s passing has a long way to go to match his improving defensive attributes.