A fifth consecutive win for Louis Van Gaala s side coupled with Liverpoola s day of misery in London has all but assured Manchester United a place in next yeara s Champions League. This win has also raised hopes of The Red Devils finishing above their neighbours for the first time in the post Sir Alex Ferguson era.
Their opponents for the day a Aston Villa fought gamely and were always in the game till Ander Herreraa s injury time goal. But you always felt that United were playing in 2nd gear and could up the tempo a few notches should the situation demand.
Win a throwback to the Sir Alex era
During the final few years of the legendary Scotsmana s reign Manchester United were known to be efficient more than thrilling and almost always got the job done. Infact a lot of their title challengers played the more fluent football but it was always the Red Devils who walked away with the honours at the end of the season.
This performance against Aston Villa was of a similar ilk. The high intensity from the Liverpool match was missing along with the silky football seen at times against Tottenham Hotspur. But that famous old quality of beating down on the opposition remained and that was enough to get past the Midlands based side.
Ander Herrera is key in LVGa s 4-3-3 plan
If Louis Van Gaal is to continue playing the 4-3-3 then it is imperative that the young Spaniard be deployed in midfield. While Michael Carrick provides the transition between defence and midfield, Herrera does the same further upfield a between midfield and attack.
Herrera not only had a pass completion % of 96 but also got 2 fine goals capping off his most profitable appearance since moving to England. His first goal was set up on the left where a lot of Uniteda s best openings were fashioned from in the first half and the Spaniard finished with aplomb following Daley Blinda s pullback.
The Spaniarda s second assured United of the 3 points after he passed the ball into the back of the net following a clever pass from compatriot Juan Mata. But more than the goals it is Herreraa s understanding with Carrick and Mata which will please his manager the most.
Wayne Rooney scores a beauty
Wayne Rooney had a pretty quiet night until the 78th minute. But this is when he decided to wake up and show the world that he remains a force to be reckoned with. After Angel Di Maria whipped in a ball from the left, the United & England captain controlled the ball with the left, before pirouetting beautifully and striking the ball powerfully into the top corner of Brad Guzana s net.
And Rooney showed during Uniteda s third goal that he still remains the main man for Van Gaal. During a drop ball situation in injury time he continuously heckled the Villans until they ceded possession to the Englishman who then proceeded to drive the Red Devils and helped them secure the win.
Relegation still a possibility for Villa
Despite a spirited performance, Aston Villa remain only 3 points clear of the relegation places. Sherwood knows that his mission remains to ensure that the Villans remain in the top flight of English football come next season even though a trip to Wembley is in the bag as a part of a successful FA Cup run.
The Birmingham based club have also played a game more than three of the sides below them and if Burnley and Sunderland manage to win their home matches than Villa will find themselves in the relegation zone come the end of the weekend.
Tougher tests lie ahead for United
Manchester Uniteda s next two games are at home to Manchester City followed by an away trip to London to face league leaders Chelsea. For both of these matches Van Gaal will know that his side will have to raise their game and play like they did against Liverpool and the Spurs.
Both of these matches will also indicate how far the Red Devils have come since the Dutchman took charge last summer. But for now Van Gaal will be pleased with the fact that Champions League football is almost secured.