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It seemed like the Ginger maestro was trying to match Xavi's statistics against Celtic in the first half. Paul Scholes completed an amazing 74 out of 80 attempted passes in the first half.
However, one of the passes he misplaced caused Manchester United dear as it led to the counterattack for Aston Villa's first goal. The second half saw United defer less to Scholes. However, he did produce a brilliant ball over the top that allowed Javier Hernandez to score United's first goal.
Once again, he and Carrick failed to protect the defence against Villa counterattacks, but his overall influence on the pitch was positive for the Red Devils.
Every time Michael Carrick plays alongside Scholes, he seems happy to act as the second fiddle and defers to the United legend. This was especially apparent in the first half when 17 of his 60 successful passes (out of 69 attempted) were to Scholes. The second half saw him try to play the ball forward or to the wings quicker, and this definitely contributed to United's increased potency.
There was not much wrong with the performances of either Scholes or Carrick individually. However, it is clear that a midfield of Carrick and Scholes sacrifices pace in favor of control, which almost cost United dear in this match.
When the team sheets were announced, everyone jumped on the fact that the Aston Villa left-back, Enda Stevens, would have to make his debut against Antonio Valencia. However, the youngster must have wondered what the fuss was all about for an hour, as the Ecuadorian winger found little joy down the Manchester United right flank.
However, he was much more effective in the last half hour when Rafael began to overlap with him. As Stevens tired, Valencia's strength and pace saw him create a few openings. However, Valencia's final ball was mostly a disappointment, as shown by the fact that he only completed three out of 12 attempted crosses.
Ashley Young made a return to his old club, where he got a hostile greeting from his old fans. He saw a lot of the ball early on, but failed to do anything with it.
He had a disappointing first half just like most of his team mates as he failed to provide any penetration in attack. He was substituted at halftime in favor of Javier Hernandez, a game-changing move by Sir Alex Ferguson, if ever there was one.