The results eases the pressure on David Moyes and sees the Red Devils move into eighth place on the table, though all surrounding the club are certainly still looking to the January transfer window in anticipation of reinforcements.
A visit from West Ham United lies ahead as the next hurdle following a midweek League Cup clash with Stoke away, followed by encounters with Hull and Norwich to close out December in what could prove a fruitful run for United to close out 2013.
Following are five things we learned about Moyes’ men in their winning effort at Villa Park.
Januzaj’s influence belies his age
He may be only an 18-year-old, and one whose impact during a lackluster campaign has been well-documented, but it’s only becoming increasingly clear how important his presence is to this United side. His bursting runs down the left against Villa constantly compromised the shape of Paul Lambert’s men, whilst his header that cracked off of the woodwork enabled Danny Welbeck’s opener and highlighted his intelligence in moving off the ball. Januzaj looks only more like becoming a talisman for United in years to come, and will have played a major hand in resurrecting United’s dismal term if they are able to do so in the time remaining.
Central defence best left to the young
Phil Jones and Jonny Evans looked a formidable pair with Rio Ferdinand on the bench and Nemanja Vidic out of the squad with a knock, marking Christian Benteke out of the game and remaining secure in possession throughout. Much has been made of the need for United to bring in a fresh face at centre-back to aid in phasing out the aging primary pair, but the solution may already be in house given what Jones and Evans were able to accomplish in opposition to a powerful striker.
Welbeck a change of pace from Van Persie
The loss of the Dutchman to injury served not only as a blow for the Red Devils on the pitch, but as a further indictment of Moyes’ supposedly dated training techniques. Danny Welbeck stepped in for the former Arsenal man and made the most of the opportunity to play in an advanced central position, bagging a brace early to send United well on their way. His searing pace provided a threat different to that of Van Persie, allowing him to pull defenders out of position off the ball and creating space for Wayne Rooney to operate in the attacking third.
Central midfielder still required
Tom Celverley got his name on the scoresheet and Ryan Giggs did what was needed in victory, but United’s weakness in central midfield was still quite apparent as at times Villa were given full license to cruise into the attacking third without much resistance. A versatile character who can cover vast swaths of ground, distribute the ball with accuracy and win back possession as well is still needed to raise the Red Devils’ level in the centre of the park. Better sides have been able to exploit this soft spot in Moyes’ outfit, and the Mancunians would do well to press hard for Inter’s Fredy Guarin, a January target who has the proper skills in his locker to prove a solution.
Fletcher comeback a boon
The Scot’s return to action provided not only a morale boost to a club that could use it more than most, but also has added another experienced option well-versed in United’s tradition of winning. Fletcher looked solid in a 20 minute run-out, though didn’t have a great deal of time to demonstrate how fit he is. Regardless of his progress, however, his presence could serve to galvanise the squad and if he’s able to get back to his best could be a major factor in improving the midfield.
image: © gordonflood.com