United win but fail to sparkle

Adnan Januzaj (front) celebrating with team-mate Luke Shaw after scoring against Villa during a rare start. The Belgian later denied talk that he wanted to leave and pledged to fight for a regular place.
Adnan Januzaj (front) celebrating with team-mate Luke Shaw after scoring against Villa during a rare start. The Belgian later denied talk that he wanted to leave and pledged to fight for a regular place.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Van Gaal critical of scorer Januzaj's ball usage and team's sloppy show in victory over Villa

BIRMINGHAM • Adnan Januzaj made the most of a rare start for Manchester United, as the winger scored the only goal in their 1-0 English Premier League win over Aston Villa on Friday.

The 20-year-old Belgian had been linked with a loan move away from Old Trafford but manager Louis van Gaal, who has said he is not for sale, was rewarded after giving the youngster a place in the Premier League side's starting line-up.

Despite the win, the Dutchman was displeased by United's sloppy performance, as they conceded possession far too frequently and struggled to penetrate Villa's rearguard, getting only three shots on target.

"When you score more than your opponent, it's enough," he said.

"But I think we had too many unnecessary ball losses - not only Adnan Januzaj, but also Memphis Depay and Wayne Rooney. We have to improve that.

DON'T TAKE IT EASY

"Belgian teams can play very compact and can defend, and always their team can create chances. When they score, it shall be very difficult."

LOUIS VAN GAAL, warning that United need to keep things tight at the back in the Champions League play-off first leg against Brugge, just like in the 1-0 league wins over Spurs and Villa

"But in spite of this, we had more chances than the opposition, and bigger chances, and we scored a fantastic goal after a fantastic pass from Juan Mata and a fantastic cut from Adnan."

Januzaj's goal saw him race onto a splendid pass from Juan Mata, before cutting inside Villa captain Micah Richards and beating Brad Guzan with the help of a deflection off Ciaran Clark.

He was replaced by Ander Herrera on the hour and while van Gaal said the substitution had been pre-planned, he was critical of the Belgian's use of the ball.

"I'm pleased with the goal, because it was a wonderful goal, how Adnan scored, but you have to do more than only scoring a goal," said the Dutchman.

When asked about the potential loan move, Januzaj told Sky Sports: "No, it was only rumours. I'm happy here and, of course, I'm going to fight for my place.

"It's a good feeling to have scored a goal because I haven't had a game for a long time so my fitness is not so good. I hope to have more games in my legs and score more goals."

Van Gaal refused to be drawn on David de Gea's future after the Spanish goalkeeper, strongly linked with Real Madrid, was again left out in favour of Sergio Romero.

While he said that United would go into Tuesday's Champions League play-off first leg at home to Club Brugge with confidence, he warned that his side would need a defensive performance of similar fortitude to those produced against Villa and Spurs.

"When you win two times then you shall have a lot of confidence, but every match is difficult," he said. "Belgian teams can play very compact and can defend, and always their team can create chances. When they score, it shall be very difficult."

Villa manager Tim Sherwood gave home debuts to six players and conceded that it will take time to find a winning formula.

"It's going to take time," he said. "We expected that. But they give me everything and they try and take instruction on. It's not perfect, but they will improve."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 16, 2015, with the headline 'United win but fail to sparkle'. Print Edition | Subscribe