Aston Villa 0 – 1 Manchester United
20 years and counting since Villa last recorded a win against United and two years and counting since the reds last had their hands on the Premier League trophy.
Both teams still look short of breaking that statistic anytime soon on the evidence of tonight’s match.
Adnan Januzaj settled this affair with a deflected goal in a game that was littered with mis-placed passes and very little goalmouth action.
United may well have two wins out of two, but they still look short of a genuine world class player to make them serious title contenders.
A much improved Aston Villa coming off the back of an opening day win against Bournemouth, started this game with match winner Rudy Gestede on the bench.
Villa boss Tim Sherwood adamant the Benin International has still to reach full fitness.
They were facing a Manchester United side still trying to convince the jury that they can be in the mix for the Premier League title come the end of the season.
The win over Tottenham last week was far from convincing in front of an expectant Old Trafford and the uncertainty continued at Villa park.
In a poor first half, the only shining light came in the 29th minute with United’s only attempt on target from Adnan Januzaj.
It’s hard to believe United are considering a loan move to Sunderland for the Belgian, but only Louis van Gaal knows what strength he has now and what he’s about to add to the squad before the window closes.
The goal owed everything to the vision of Juan Mata after Januzaj had started the move in midfield.
Memphis, Mata and Shaw exchanged passes, but when United’s number eight looked up, he played a superb pass into Januzaj who remained composed, side-stepped one challenge, before shooting passed Brad Guzan with the help of a deflection off Ciaran Clark.
Villa had a penalty claim turned down before the break with Micah Richards making a strong call to referee, Mike Dean, that he was dragged down in the penalty box by United defender Matteo Darmian.
The Italian had a clear grip on Richards and was practically strangling the Villa player, who somehow managed to still get his header in, which was way off target.
Ten minutes into the second half, Agbonlahor should have done better with a free header from a Villa corner, which ended up straight in United keeper Romero’s hands.
United should have had the game wrapped up in the 73rd minute. Yet again a defence splitting pass from Juan Mata set Memphis Depay in on goal and with only the keeper to beat, the Dutchman didn’t even hit the target with his curling shot.
It’s another three points for United, but the jury remains out on their title credentials until stronger evidence is displayed on the field to suggest silverware awaits.
As for Villa, their measure of success is whether or not Tim Sherwood can win the battles outwith the top sides to guide his team to mid-table safety this season.
No surprise United boss Louis van Gaal highlighted the positives from the game.
He told Sky Sports “ I think we played better than last week and it is an away match, so I am very happy. “
“ We kept the ball better in the first twenty minutes and we scored a wonderful goal. A fantastic pass from Mata and fantastic goal from Adnan.”
van Gaal was less forthright in his commitment to the goalscorer Januzaj and his possible long term future at Old Trafford.
“ He had a lot of ball losses, in my opinion, unnecessary. He scored a wonderful goal, but all the other aspects of football, he has to show it also. I am very pleased he scored the goal and we have won, but there is more than scoring a goal.”
Villa boss Tim Sherwood, as you would expect, highlighted the penalty that wasn’t awarded to his side.
“ I think we had a shout for a penalty, I’ve only watched it once, but it looked like a penalty to me.”
“ I’m not going to criticise the referee, today he’s decided not to give it.”
“ I couldn’t fault the boys out there tonight, they gave everything, I couldn’t fault them. Obviously we will get better, I know that and we need to.”