United show class and resolve even with ten men

Aston Villa v Manchester United, Nani off

Not So SuperNani: Winger sent to the naughty step

Excuse the Supernanny reference. When Aston Villa last beat Manchester United it was 1995, and Alan Hansen had famously said “You win nothing with kids”. It sounds like something Jo Frost will agree with, seeing as her career revolves around telling parents the correct punishment for kids. The referee had sent Nani off yesterday for an inexplicable two-footed challenge and rightly punished him.

Pundits and journalists alike wondered if he has ‘matured’ like Sir Alex said. I’d still like to think so, however, there is no place in the game for those kind of challenges. Has he matured from a kid into a man? Still United showed class and resolve even with ten men on the field and you’d think, after yesterday’s results, that they look the strongest going into the run-in.

Aston Villa had looked clueless at times, failing to take advantage of the extra man. The Villans didn’t play that bad, however they were reluctant to exploit United’s gaps. The Red Devils had reshuffled from a 4-2-3 to a 4-3-2 (at times it was unclear what they were playing especially when Berbatov was introduced) but didn’t find it difficult to adapt to the different formations as Wayne Rooney continued his good form even down the left flank.

The decision to send on Antonio Valencia for Paul Scholes was a bold one, sacrificing the holding midfielder for a more direct player. Valencia and Rooney were busy on the flanks but creating chances and getting men into the box was difficult. And because of this, and Villa’s lack of urgency we didn’t see any goals in the second half as everything had happened in the first half, or a very action-packed five minutes.

Carlos Cuellar had put the visitors ahead with a glorious header that had beaten Edwin van der Sar all ends up. Moments later, United had equalised after James Collins had diverted Ryan Giggs’ blasted cross. Shortly after that, Nani was sent off for a reckless, two-footed, studs showing challenge. Yes, he did get the ball but those tackles are against the laws of the game and therefore rightly shown red. A moment of naivety, inexperience thus meaning a three-game ban (missing the Carling Cup final against the same oppositions). What will affect Nani the most is that he was starting to play so well and had been a first on the team sheet in recent games.

Manchester United were hardly rattled by the decision, or at least looked like they were. They continued as they had, and like the games against Man City in the Carling Cup final, were comfortable with possession playing with a good tempo. A draw but still a very good point considering the Chelsea result. As we close in on the season, Manchester United look hot favorites to retain their crown.


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