- Manchester United’s draw at Aston Villa ended a run of six straight wins
- United manager Louis van Gaal described the draw as ‘two points dropped’
- Van Gaal also said that his men were ‘not creative enough’ against Villa
This was another incomplete performance characterised by pedestrian build-up play. United controlled possession and had a significant territorial advantage. But aside from a period at the start of the second half, they never exerted the craft or drive needed to break down the Aston Villa defence. Ron Vlaar was back to his best and Jores Okore and Ciaran Clark impressed — even when Villa were inexplicably reduced to 10 men with Gabriel Agbonlahor’s red card 25 minutes from time.
United’s clinical finishing has outweighed brittle defending of late, but neither were evident here. Despite the presence of Radamel Falcao, Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney, sparks failed to fly.
Robin van Persie fails to connect with an opportunity to give Manchester United the lead against Aston Villa
Christian Benteke opened the scoring on a day that United boss Louis van Gaal said was ‘two points dropped’
Benteke’s shot was too good for United goalkeeper David de Gea who was left rooted to the spot
United playmaker Juan Mata (right) is tackled by Villa captain Ron Vlaar during the Villa Park encounter
Given the ground United have to make up on Chelsea, a draw away to Villa is, as Van Gaal admitted, ‘two points dropped’ even after falling behind to Christian Benteke’s opening goal of real quality.
Falcao scored with a powerful header on his return to the side but his overall influence must improve. For long periods the Colombian struggled to impose himself.
Rooney, who had a good game, vocalised United’s disappointment. ‘We were pushing them and we had good possession but just couldn’t get a breakthrough,’ he said.
‘We’re paying the price for that now. We should have got three points, so we’re a bit disappointed and frustrated.’
From a player who had previously talked up United’s title challenge, the overall sentiment was clear.
Michael Carrick’s deployment in a three-man defence may have run its course. Darren Fletcher played in midfield due to the injury and illness of Ander Herrera and Marouane Fellaini respectively.
United substitute James Wilson (left) battles for the ball against impressive Villa defender Ciaran Clark
But the Scot could not provide the creative thrust of Carrick, who switched to midfield at half time as Tyler Blackett replaced Fletcher.
Van Gaal explained: ‘We kept the ball much better but we didn’t create so much because we were not looking to the forwards. That’s why I changed Darren Fletcher with Michael Carrick at half time, because I know he’s more a of a passer to the forwards.
‘But it was not good enough to get the victory here. We were not creative enough in the second half; we didn’t keep the ball as well as in the first half but we had more aggression. So that was the plus, I think.
Radamel Falcao scored the equaliser with a header from an Ashley Young cross just before the hour mark
Falcao slides on his knees in front of the travelling United supporters as he celebrates his strike
‘Okay, we have a draw and that’s why I’m a little frustrated because we could have won this game, we didn’t and we are responsible.’
Asked if United could win the title, Van Gaal said: ‘No, because you have seen that you have to win these matches and we didn’t win. But there is still a long time to go.
‘When you want to be a part of the title race you have to win these games.’
Carrick predicted that Falcao is set to start showing his worth. ‘He’s scored so many goals over the years and you always feels when he gets that chance he will score. After being out for a bit that’s him back and hopefully he can go on a bit of a streak for us.’