ASTON VILLA 1
MANCHESTER UNITED 1
Collins (og) 23
The Manchester United players left the field at Villa Park last night with conflicting emotions.
Having gained a point away to a side pushing for a Champions League place, and having played for an hour with 10 men, there was a certain satisfaction concerning the result, especially considering Chelsea’s defeat away at Everton. This satisfaction, however, will have been slightly tainted by the feeling that things could have been even better for Sir Alex Ferguson’s side and that this was in fact an opportunity missed. Villa Park has often been the scene of success for many United sides and it seemed at times that another chapter was going to be written into that particular history again last night. Much of this was again owed to the performance of Wayne Rooney. Although the United number 10 failed to get his name of the scoresheet and equal his best ever season’s goal haul, his overall performance was fantastic, culminating in a gut-busting sprint back to cover Patrice Evra. Having seen his side reduced to ten men, Rooney was required to carry much of the attacking threat on his own towards the end of the first half and was ably assisted by Antonio Valencia in the second.
The England man was unlucky to be denied by the impressive Brad Friedel and was a constant threat to the midlanders, showing an ever expanding maturity in the manner he lead the line holding the ball up as adeptly as two previous United number 10’s – Mark Hughes and Ruud van Nistelrooy. Another United player who has been lavished with praise for his improved maturity in recent weeks is Nani. This new found level of maturity however seemed to leave the United winger in a moment of madness with his impetuous challenge earning him a straight red from referee Peter Walton. Nani can have no complaints as although winning the ball, a point the Portuguese was keen to make known, he was guilty of diving in two-footed, something which will guarantee a straight red in any match in world football. Sir Alex Ferguson had no complaints in relation to Walton’s decision but will be furious towards his much improved winger. Nani will receive a three game ban meaning he will be missing for the tough trip to Merseyside to face Chelsea’s most recent conquerors, the home match with West Ham and the League Cup final against last night opponents.
The trip to Everton is looking increasingly difficult for United considering the performance of Luis Saha against Chelsea and the return of Mikel Arteta, meaning that if they are to come away with a result all their ability on the break shown in recent encounters will be required. United’s attacking strength will surely be put to the test without Nani and the likely loss of Ryan Giggs due to an arm injury, but the performance of Valencia in the second half will certainly provide some encouragement. If Valencia can build on this second half showing then the loss of Nani may not prove that costly to his team but where it will undoubtedly prove costly is for the fortunes of a player seemingly starting to put the inconsistency in his appearances behind him.