Manchester United were made to settle for a point in their home clash against Aston Villa on Sunday afternoon. It was just another setback for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who made eleven changes from their recent Europa League clash against Astana on Thursday.
United recalled Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Harry Maguire, but it was yet another frustrating day for the Old Trafford faithful as they watched a newly promoted side boss proceedings at the Theatre of Dreams. But, where did the game get away from United? And what must be changed if they are to get back in contention for a top-four finish this season?
Villa Midfield Dominates
The middle of the park has been a concern for Solskjaer all season, but on Sunday we saw especially why it has become a big problem. Scott McTominay and Paul Pogba were missing once again for the Red Devils, while meant Andreas Pereira and Fred were forced to deputise. It is fair to say that neither of the Brazilians’ would be getting in the famous United sides of seasons gone by.
The duo were overrun and overworked in the draw by a more energetic Villa midfield. Connor Hourihane and Douglas Luiz both produced wonderful performances, while John McGinn once again put in a standout performance.
The Scotsman’s performance highlighted precisely what the United midfield is lacking. He was a strong runner throughout the game and transitioned the game effortless from defence to attack for the visiting side. It is little wonder that the Red Devils have been linked with a big-money move for the 25-year-old.
Creativity In Final Third
Another player that United have been linked with made all the headlines in the draw- Jack Grealish. The Englishman is certainly knocking on the door of the national side, judging by this performance. He opened the scoring in the game with a wonderful curled effort into David De Gea’s top right-hand corner.
He set up the chance by his own hard work by cutting in on his right foot. His intelligence is only matched by his eye for a pace and a speed that would match a horse running in the Kentucky Derby race.
It was a striking difference between the sides as United don’t have the same calibre of player in their final third to create the chances. Juan Mata was given the opportunity on Sunday, but he was taken off after 74 minutes after offering very little. Jesse Lingard replaced the Spaniard, but his record of just one goal in eleven months hardly offered much confidence.
Grealish’s performances this season have seen him overtake Lingard in the England picture, and it is likely that he could possibly be taking his United place if the Red Devils choose to make a move for the Villa captain.
Rashford Shines In Second Half
It was a relatively quiet first half by Rashford’s recent standards, but he enjoyed a much more progressive second period after being move into a more central position. In the first half, he looked indecisive in the final third and missed a handful of clear opportunities.
However, in the second period, he was moved centrally and given more space to roam. He was immediately more effective and picked the right moments in which to move into a wide position. By no means is he the creative player that United are crying out for, but he does offer something fresh with his directness when he is deployed in the right position.
The draw was yet another blow for Solskjaer as the pressure continues to build on the Norwegian ahead of a big week with fixtures against Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City. United’s odds for a top-four finish are already decreasing, and they will need to turn their form around to have a fighting chance.