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Aston Villa 1-4 Man United: “Oh That Was So Easy!”

Pre-match, I had warned about how important this game could be especially coming after the international break. Seems like that was a little premature — at least from the look of the score line.

Of course, we did fall behind, for the first time in, like, erm… ever. But we bounced back with such force that some of the Villa players must be wondering what really hit them. It certainly wasn’t as breathtaking as, say, against Bolton or Fulham of last year or even Wigan from two weeks back. But Aston Villa are a more than decent side especially in their own back yard.

And it showed yesterday. The forward trio of Young, Moore and Agbonlahor had loads of pace and power to burn. The exuberance of their youthful forward line showed as they started in full flow fearless of reputation; Ashley Young did well to keep the ball in and sent in a delightful cross that Agbonlahor had to just guide into goal. 1-0 Villa.

However, we did well to pick ourselves up and dominated the proceedings from then on. We had moments in the game that showed signs of the greatness this team can attain, and one such instance was when Tevez played that dummy onto Rooney’s path while moving to his right in the box. Rooney then promptly gave the ball back to him with his first touch and it had to take a desperate move by Zat Knight to send the ball out of bounds and into safety. That move was something I’ve been watching over and over again as I write this. Whoever said Tevez and Rooney couldn’t play together!

After that, a goal seemed only inevitable; Nani received the ball from Scholes out on the right and sent in another one of his crosses. With the two defenders who could have cut out the cross seemingly going blind at that moment, Rooney popped in to make full use of the poor defending to score and thus net the equaliser.

The second goal, however, was better. Scholes played the ball to Tevez on the left wing who then cut inside and sent in an excellent ball from the outside of his right foot to Rooney, who put the ball past Carson for his, and United’s, second goal. 1-2 to United.

And just before half time, Ferdinand’s weak kick off a corner was mis-kicked into the net by Gardner and Rio celebrated his first goal of the season. At 3-1, it was better than what many would have ever expected. International worries? Injured players? Bah!

The second half was less open than the first, but we did see the game drift surely away from Villa as two of their players got sent off. Reo-Coker’s red was slightly harsh because I think his first yellow wasn’t all that deserved. But Carson’s red was textbook stuff. The penalty that followed, though, from Rooney was poor. Perhaps it was the English ghost coming to haunt him, so we’ll let it pass for now. (He should have hit the ball harder, though.)

Goal number four was off a mazy run from Giggs, who scored, after the ball deflected off two heads. He was visibly happy, and he should be. 4-1 and the match was over. Great performance from the team. Shame, Villa were reduced to nine-men that took the sheen off the game slightly. But that is not to take anything away from the performance of the team.

All that said, I was very apprehensive about the team selection at the beginning. Playing Anderson alongside Scholes against Villa was going to be a gamble. I was also worried about Pique playing against the pace of Agbonahor and Young, and was surprised in equal measure that Vidic hadn’t recovered as yet. But most baffling of all was the presence of Ronaldo on the bench.

The fact that it paid off is a totally different matter, and Villa being reduced to nine men made it a lot easier. Perhaps, SAF was resting Ronaldo after his heavy involvement in Portugal’s games, but then, Tevez had flown in from South America. The manager also has the midweek Champions’ League game against Kiev in mind. Hence his decision to field the team he did.

The selection also blew away two myths that were generated by hacks all over.

1. ‘Rooney and Tevez cannot play together‘ If you did watch the game today I am sure you’ll agree with me that some Premier League teams might be quaking in their pants already. Their understanding is reaching that telepathic level you see between successful strike partnerships. It looks promising already.

2. ‘Fergie has lost faith in Anderson‘ He had O’Shea and Fletcher fit yesterday, either of whom could have been pressed into action. He chose Anderson instead. Enough said, I suppose.

The manager termed it as ‘our best performance of the season‘. I may not completely agree. I felt the Wigan game was a shade better given our circumstances then. But we’ll grant him that. It’s nice to see the team slowly coming into it’s own in time for the Arsenal game. Hopefully we stay in touching distance so that we can catch up with them finally at the Emirates. But then let’s not get too ahead of ourselves either. Next up: Dynamo Kiev on Tuesday.

So that’s about it. Excellent performance from the lads — Scholes was masterful in midfield, and Tevez was outstanding, but for a chance he scuffed. My only disappointment was that I had Ronaldo in my fantasy team and didn’t have Rooney in it. In the long run, I guess, Ron will score goals. So here’s hoping for a good season ahead. For United as well as my fantasy team.

For those who missed it, here’s a rapidshare link of the MoTD extended Highlights.
(This is the actual link, sorry for posting the Wigan link earlier)