Five things learned from Aston Villa's defeat to Manchester United

Aston Villa 2

A first-half strike from Adnan Januzaj saw Tim Sherwood's side fall to a 1-0 loss in their first home game of the season.

Time running out for Gabby?

Gabby Agbonlahor has been a tremendous servant to his boyhood club for the best part of a decade but, after a handful of barren seasons in front of goal, it’s clear that patience with the homegrown striker is wearing thin.

He certainly wasn’t the only poor performer on Friday night, but the fact the 28-year-old front man managed just eight passes and one headed attempt on goal during the 90 minutes goes some way towards highlighting his ineffectiveness.

Rudy Gestede’s lack of fitness is ultimately all that’s keeping him in the line-up for now but, with the towering striker getting up to full speed and more attacking reinforcements potentially on the way, you have to wonder whether he is fighting for his claret and blue future at this point.

Amavi looks a star in the making

Left-back has been a real problem area for Villa in recent seasons but, in Jordan Amavi, it looks like Tim Sherwood has found a long-term answer at the position.

Arriving from Nice for £10 million last month, the France Under-21 international was linked with the likes of Arsenal and Atletico Madrid earlier in the summer [h/t Daily Mail] and his performance against United showed precisely why.

A former winger, the 21-year-old looked exceptional going forward but, at the same time, he didn’t shirk his defensive duties either, managing to keep both Matteo Darmian and Juan Mata quiet for the duration of the match.

It’s still very early days, of course, but it certainly seems like Villa have a real gem on their hands.

But other new boys need time

Nevertheless, while Amavi was the star performer on the night, there were certainly signs of teething problems for Villa’s other summer signings from Ligue 1.

Midfielder Jordan Veretout and striker Jordan Ayew both looked decidedly off the pace and, though Idrissa Gueye fared somewhat better, the former Lille man still proved far too wasteful when it came to making the final pass.

There’s absolutely no need whatsoever for fans to panic at this stage, as they were always likely to face a few initial struggles, but the claret and blue faithful are going to have to be patient with their new recruits over the coming weeks – and possibly even months.

Villa missing their playmakers

While there was little wrong with Villa’s defensive showing against United, there was clearly something missing in the attacking third of the pitch – something which could well have been solved by having either Carles Gil or Jack Grealish in the line-up.

The pair both returned to full training this week after picking up pre-season injuries but, with Sherwood not willing to risk them for the home opener, his side were painfully lacking a creative spark with which to break down the opposition defence.

It’s easy to get excited about all of the club’s recent reinforcements but, in the long-run, the aforementioned playmakers could well end up proving their most crucial pieces during this current rebuilding phase.

In praise of Westwood

After penning a new five-year deal this week, it’s worth reserving this final slot for the ever-underrated Ashley Westwood.

As usual, the 25-year-old midfielder received few plaudits for his display against United but he once again performed his job to a tee in typical, no-nonsense fashion – dictating the tempo from his holding role in front of the back four with his calm passing.

Also impressing with his positional awareness and discipline, the former Crewe Alexandra captain really has come a long way since arriving in the West Midlands and, though he will never get many headlines, Villa really are lucky to have him.

Maybe we won’t ever develop into the England international some thought he would become a few years back but, for the Michael Carrick-type role that Sherwood is looking to fill, he really is the perfect player.

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