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Pretty Convincing Villans

 Posted by on December 17, 2013 at 12:57 am  Aston Villa, Blogs/Media, England, EPL, Manchester United
Dec 172013

Aston Villa 0-3 Manchester United
71755039 welbeck getty Pretty Convincing VillansTouted as one of the hottest up-and-coming young managers in the Premier League, and Scottish to boot, Paul Lambert blew it big-time at home against Manchester United. With David Moyes’ United team going through a period of uncertainty after major internal managerial changes and a parallel inability to win consistently on the football field, Lambert clearly thought they were ripe for a beating at the hands of his young team. Physically small in general, United have often been pummeled by opposition this season, especially away from home. Clearly out to test the waters with the referee, Lee Mason, from the get-go, Lambert had his left-back, Antonio Luna, go after one of the red devils more hot-headed players, Rafael Da Silva only one minute in. When Mason chose to ignore a reckless body-check on Rafael by Luna that had the Brazilian wing-back flying through the air like a trapeze artist, he sent a clear message to both managers and their teams. By the time another ten minutes had gone by, Villa’s huge, lumbering center-back had already raked the back of Danny Welbeck’s thighs with his studs and stepped on Wayne Rooney’s foot while Luna also kneed winger Adnan Januzaj and then grabbed a handful of his shirt before tossing the tiny Kosovar to the ground which at least drew a whistle and a free kick from the indolent Mason.

Victories at Villa Park haven’t been difficult in years for United and this one was almost a route, because , simply put, Villa’s unconvincing Yobbo act served to motivate rather than intimidate United. Moyes pretty much got a good performance from everybody barring a leggy Evra. Particularly satisfying was the performance of the often unfathomable, but undeniably gifted striker Danny Welbeck, who had, up to Sunday’s match, repeatedly been a disappointment all season. Welbeck scored twice–his first goals in the Premier League for United since the opening day of the season–within a three minute period and the relief, to Welbeck himself, the manager, his teammates and the fans was clearly visible. Additionally, on a raw late Brum afternoon, Tom Cleverley, who has now flattered to deceive for United for around three seasons, notched up his first goal of the season. Best of all, if you’ve been embarrassed by United’s clear lack of technique and guts in midfield, the sight of Darren Fletcher returning to the team in the 70th minute as a substitute for Ryan Giggs was a sight for sore eyes after two years off caused by ulcerative colitis.

Their first victory in five matches put them up a place on the league ladder to eighth. Indeed an angry United salved their bruises of the body and the ego with an effortless dominance. Only a ridiculous profligacy in front of goal by Rooney, Welbeck and Cleverley prevented United from easily scoring eight or nine goals. Weird that they had started the game low in confidence, punchy from relentless criticism from the usual pundits, convinced by the fickle majority that they were cruising for a third PL loss in a row. Yet, by the end of the match, United were passing the ball around with the old virile swagger as the traveling red army warbled happily through their Christmas songbook. Indeed with fixtures against Stoke City, West Ham United, Hull City and Norwich before the transfer window opens up in January, things may really, actually be looking up.

The truth is that Villa, having attempted the thuggish approach, simply quit after Welbeck put United ahead in the 15th minute. The bruised Rafael and his intimidating Ecuadorian right-wing partner Antonio Valencia, utterly humiliated both Antonio Luna and his pivot back-up Nathan Baker who were about as useful to Villa as a couple of tree stumps.

Welbeck’s goal famine came to an end as Rafael da Silva wriggled clear of Nathan Baker despite his holding on to his shirt with both hands. The Brazilian fired a fine cross off his laces which an unmarked Januzaj headed hard against the far post. The ball then rebounded into Welbeck’s path and he volleyed home from six yards. A bare 180 seconds later, the gormless Nathan Baker carelessly allowed Januzaj to steal the ball off his toe 45 yards out from Villa’s goal. Januzaj, brilliant once again, nattily found Cleverley and he found Welbeck. A sweet one-two followed between Valencia and Welbeck. Valencia was off to the races then, accompanied neck and neck from the inside by Welbeck. A low cutback followed and the England international striker slid the ball into the corner of the net while Villa’s American goalie Brad Guzan remained static and frozen.

Had United taken a succession of yawning chances before the half-time whistle blew it would have been a rugby score. Valencia repeatedly took an ineffectual Antonio Luna to school. He fashioned two chances out of nothing as the superb Wayne Rooney mistimed a shot off his pass an inch past the post; and, another as Welbeck executed a wind-sprint to catch up with a perfectly hit through ball from the Ecuadorian in the inside-right channel, which he over-hit, dragging the ball narrowly wide.

When the third United goal finally arrived six minutes into the second half, Antonio Luna’s tough day at the office transitioned into a nightmare as he gifted possession to Tom Cleverley on the edge of Villa’s box. The Yorkshireman traded passes with Rooney before double-dummying both Nathan Baker and Matthew Lowton before beating an advancing Guzan with a shot inside his near post.

Watching Lambert’s Villa team is instructional for those of us who wish upon a star for young British talent to be blooded in the Premier League. A fine player for the likes of Glasgow Celtic and Borussia Dortmund in his pomp, Lambert has worked his way up from the ham-and-egg world of the Second Division to the PL, one division at a time. Inheriting what had been the league’s finest youth team (save for United’s) in 2004-05 and 2005-06 was thought of by the so-called experts as offering Lambert a huge opportunity. Indeed players like Matt Lowton, Kieran Westwood, Ciaran Clark, Nathan Delfouneso and Nathan Baker were supposed to mix with brilliant newly acquired rising stars like Fabian Delph, Christian Benteke and Karim El Ahmedi and form a challenging, low-budget quality club that could compete well in the top ten. This has not happened. In much the same as United have produced lots of fine warriors who compete well in the championship Division like Luke Chadwick, James Chester, Matty James and Robbie Brady, Villa have suffered from the same problems. Atypically, against United’s Rafael Da Silva and Antonio Valencia, Baker, Westwood, Clark and Westwood were all found desperately wanting. As we’ve seen so many times, most young British and Irish players just tend to not measure up.

At any rate, it was, all in all, a good night for Manchester United. Nevertheless, the sheer volume of missed chances, especially by Danny Welbeck–despite having scored two goals–still gives food for thought. With a number of upcoming fixtures offering a lesser threat quotient, including Olympiakos in the European Champions’ Cup, David Moyes can perhaps use the time to make the ruthless decisions he needs to make between now and midnight on January 31, 2014
danny welbeck 011 Pretty Convincing Villans

Ivor Irwin

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