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Aston Villa 0 United 1: Jones Steals The Show

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Phil Jones scored the first goal of his fledgling senior career as Manchester United ground out a victory over Aston Villa to ensure Manchester City’s lead at the top remained at five points.

Whilst it was far from a spectacular game of football at Villa Park, United looked in control of the game and kept up their recent good defensive performance with another clean sheet which is certainly a good sign going into the testing winter period.

The only blemish on the result for Sir Alex Ferguson’s side was the early loss of Javier Hernandez who was stretchered off after appearing to twist his ankle attempting to turn to reach a Nani cross. Antonio Valencia was brought on immediately to replace him.

United took the lead after 20 minutes with their first real attack of the game. Some nice build up play ended with Rio Ferdinand threading the ball through for Wayne Rooney to play in Evra running towards the area, the Frenchman played the ball through to Nani out wide on the left who crossed for Jones who coolly side footed the ball past Shay Given and into the roof of the net.

It was a nice moment for the youngster and a goal that brought Sir Ales Ferguson and United’s players both on and off the pitch great joy. Jones is certainly making an impression and seems to be improving game by game. Who’s to say his long-term position for United cannot be in midfield, as right now he’s not looking out of place there is he?

A mistake by Aston Villa’s captain Richard Dunne almost allowed United to double the lead but Nani couldn’t quite make the Irish international pay as his header from a Valencia cross was saved by Shay Given. Valencia was making an impact in the game and drove a shot narrowly over from 25 yards, which would have been a repeat finish of his goal against Aldershot Town in the Carling Cup last month.

Just before half-time Given limped off with a hamstring injury as the problems were beginning to mount for Villa. Things didn’t improve for Alex McLiesh’s side in the second half as just before the hour Jermaine Jenas on his full debut limped off with an ankle injury, going down in an off-the-ball incident similar to how Hernandez suffered his injury.

Emile Heskey came on to replace him and should have done better with a header at the back post after Dunne flicked a Barry Bannan corner into his path inside the six-yard box. Shortly afterwards Anders Lindegaard who was a surprise name in the United line-up spectacularly saved a James Collins header from a Dunne cross over the bar.

In the later stages of the game United could have sealed the win but Rooney shot over inside the area after a nice one-two with Michael Carrick before playing in substitute Danny Welbeck to slot home after a break only for the officials to correctly the goal out for offside.

The final attempt of the game by Heskey was driven embarrassingly wide for a corner, summing up the game from the perspective of Villa who have certainly played better this season. United too have played better but right now they are doing what’s needed of them and that’s grinding out results.

United: Lindegaard, Evra, Ferdinand (Giggs), Vidic, Smalling, Nani, Carrick, Jones, Young (Welbeck), Rooney, Hernandez (Valencia).

Star Man

Who else but Phil Jones, once again the young defender showed why United spent £17m to Blackburn Rovers for his services in the summer. He looked assured in midfield again and when Ferdinand went off after the hour slotted back to defence and looked rock-solid there. He took his goal well and has probably been the club’s player of the season so far.

By Adam Dennehey @ADennehey87