Inspirational Valencia stars in United triumph

Manchester Utd 2-1 Aston Villa: Observations

You can never have too many trophies; Sir Alex knows that, this Carling Cup triumph his 34th of his illustrious career. A remarkable game in which the winning goal was fittingly scored by the in-form Wayne Rooney, again scoring with his head. Only one of his last eight goals was scored with his feet, remarkable considering he’d only ever scored four goals with the head before the start of the season.

However, this time it was not Rooney who inspired victory. It was the tireless Antonio Valencia, with another Garrincha-esque performance (with all the greatest respects to the Brazilian legend) much like he did some days earlier against West Ham. And rightly so, he was awarded man of the match as he ran full-backs ragged on the flanks, creating a host of chances and most vitally, the second-half winner.

There was also Dimitar Berbatov, hardworking as usual. Although the Bulgarian failed to get on the scoresheet he played a crucial part in the first goal and continued to pressurise Villa throughout, Cantona-esque. No longer is he the goalscorer he was at Bayer Leverkusen or Tottenham, but he makes up for that with his workman-like attitude.

United were the better side over the 90, but it was far from easy as Villa had their moments. It could’ve been a completely different story had Villa held their early lead. Their opener was controversial. Gabriel Agbonlahor was in on goal and with Nemanja Vidic looking a beaten man, the Serb fouled him and Phil Dowd had pointed to spot without any hesitation. You’d argue that Vidic should’ve been sent off for preventing Agbonlahor, who had a clear goalscoring opportunity and with Vidic being the last man, a red card had to be shown. It wasn’t. Nor was a yellow.  James Milner had dispatched the resulting penalty but Aston Villa felt they should’ve had a man extra.

The goal had opened up the game and United had piled pressure and had most of the possession a spell which brought about the equaliser. Michael Owen, a rare start with Rooney on the bench, scored after Berbatov had stolen the ball of Richard Dunne. The Irishman looked to have recovered from his mistake and tackled Berbatov, but the ball fell into the path of Owen who executed his shot past Brad Friedel in front of a watching Fabio Capello. However, it was bittersweet for Owen as he limped off with hamstring only minutes left to go in the first half. Park could have made it 2-1 before the break but he hit the post as United had now seized control.

The second half was not as eventful, and after a quiet, but long spell which lasted about 25 minutes, the Red Devils had got the winner. Valencia swung a cross from the right and Rooney headed home, something Friedel could not prevent even though he got a hand to it. Valencia was at it again and sent in another cross moments later, but this time Rooney’s header had hit the woodwork. A deserved victory for United against a team they have struggled against this season. Thanks to Valencia, Berbatov and Wayne Rooney’s head, United, captained by Patrice Evra, secured their first piece of silverware this season. Hopefully, that’s not the last.

Kuszczak 7, Rafael 7 (Neville 6), Vidic 5, Evans 6, Evra 8, Valencia 8*, Carrick 6, Fletcher 7, Park 7 (Gibson 6), Owen 7 (Rooney 8), Berbatov 8


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