Aston Villa faced Manchester United having won only once at Old Trafford in the Premier League era. They added to their streak of futility today taking a 3-1 beating and setting up a must-win match against QPR on Tuesday.
The first half was entirely dominated by Manchester United. While they only managed one goal, it never felt as if they put their foot all the way on the pedal. Wayne Rooney had an early penalty shout when Ciaran Clark took him down in the Aston Villa box, but replays made it look as if the balding one went down very easily and was looking to the ref for the call before he even hit the ground. Elsewhere, the Villa attack was practically non-existent. Alan Hutton managed to twist his ankle going for a ball sometime around the 35th minute and stayed on for the rest of the half despite the fact that he was obviously well under 100%. United managed to exploit that weakness up the Villa right side when they blazed up there and sent a ball to Ander Herrera waiting in the Villa box. He cooly slotted it past three claret and blue defenders and past a diving Brad Guzan to make it 1-0, a score that would hold up into halftime.
The second half started a bit more brightly for Aston Villa. Around the 50th minute, Andi Weimann made a spectacular run up the left (why was he on the left? We'll never know!) and an even better pass threaded back to Christian Benteke. Benteke had all the time in the world, but he looked to be surprised by the pass and, while falling because he was off-balance, took a quick shot that went over the bar. It was an absolutely inexcusable mistake from a player who hadn't done a thing all day.
United were able to double their lead in the 79th minute on an absolutely gorgeous Wayne Rooney goal that came from the wings on (you guessed it) Villa's right side. Before we could even work up a rage or spend some time admiring the goal, though, Villa had gotten a corner. Joe Cole took it and the ball snaked its way to Benteke who was able to somehow put it in the goal.
Villa looked as if they might have some hope, but that was killed off when Herrera got his brace in the 92nd minute. Fabian Delph gave up a stupid ball and United were able to break and make it 3-1, which is how it ended.
And now to the quick thoughts to wrap this all up.
- I spent most of the first half in an angry rage and almost none of it was directed at Aston Villa. West Bromwich Albion had given up three goals to a QPR team who can't play on the road. West Ham spent most of the first half losing to Leicester City. And the football injury gods were at it again, taking out Alan Hutton and giving us a scare with Gabby Agbonlahor. The 43rd-minute goal given up to Ander Herrera seemed like nothing more than a minor nuisance.
- Speaking of the first half, I think you could confidently say that two players played pretty well: Jores Okore and Ciaran Clark. Brad Guzan had a great save but then got nowhere near the goal. Andi Weimann did nothing in attack, but was not terrible elsewhere while playing a bunch of positions he's not used to (we had Weimann at right back for a few minutes!). And then... Benteke, Agbonlahor, Lowton, Hutton (sort of not his fault), and N'Zogbia were all actively useless.
- Benteke, in particular, was useless. Gave up possession and did nothing to further the attack. If he had been taken off at halftime, it would have been totally fair.
- Nathan Baker came on in the 60th minute for Charles N'Zogbia. That meant that Leandro Bacuna (who replaced Hutton at halftime) bumped up to midfield, Lowton shifted to the right, and Baker played... left back. Interesting choice, Tim. But to be honest, I really love Nathan Baker, so I was just happy to see him back in any capacity.
- I still like Tim Sherwood, but I finally see why so many Spurs fans hated him. Carles Gil, one of the team's only truly creative players, couldn't see the pitch in a match that Villa couldn't create to save themselves. Instead, the final sub was Joe Cole. Okay, sure. But Cole came on for Weimann instead of Benteke. Weimann had been the only Villa forward to do anything well all day and Benteke had quite possibly been the worst player on the pitch all day.
- And literally as I was typing that last bullet point the right side (where we'd have likely seen Gil) got rampaged against and Wayne Rooney was able to score a second goal.
- And literally as I was typing THAT last bullet point, 94 seconds after Rooney's goal, Benteke (who you may remember as "quite possibly been the worst player on the pitch all day") was able to tap in a goal from a Joe Cole corner. Clearly football is crazy and no one knows anything.
- Thought: Perhaps Tim Sherwood thinks that "Gil" is short for "Gilet" and thus puts him on the team-sheet every week because "Well of course I want my gilet with me". And maybe Sherwood doesn't even know that Gil is a player. That would explain a lot.
This was a match in which we never expected anything, and that's what we got. A two-goal loss at Old Trafford isn't the end of the world. Tuesday is a must-win though. Lose and QPR leapfrog us. Win and we probably only need one more.