Adnan Januzaj showed why Louis van Gaal insisted he is not for sale by scoring on his first start since February as Manchester United beat Aston Villa 1-0 in the Premier League.
United manager Van Gaal this week ruled allowing Januzaj to leave Old Trafford amid reported interest from Sunderland and the Belgium international repaid the Dutchman for putting his faith in him at Villa Park.
Januzaj showed great skill and composure to score his first Premier League goal since April 2014 and ensure United made it two wins out of two in the league on Friday.
United goalkeeper Sergio Romero was rarely troubled as he kept a second consecutive clean sheet, as David de Gea was once again not involved as speculation over a move to Real Madrid continues.
In a game brought forward due to a request from West Midlands Police, with a march being staged in Walsall on Saturday, Villa lacked a cutting edge as their wait for a first home league win over United since 1995 goes on.
Villa manager Tim Sherwood named an unchanged starting line-up, so Rudy Gestede had to settle for a place on the bench despite scoring the winner at Bournemouth last Saturday.
Januzaj was recalled at the expense of former Villa winger Ashley Young in the only change to the United team following the victory over Tottenham.
Two of United’s new signings combined for their first goalscoring opportunity of the night, with Memphis Depay whipping in a free-kick that Morgan Schneiderlin could only head wide.
Depay was then denied by Brad Guzan when the alert Villa goalkeeper raced out to avert the danger with a sliding tackle as the Netherlands international raced clear.
United were in front 29 minutes in, though, as Januzaj latched onto a brilliant pass from Juan Mata and fooled Micah Richards by cutting inside sharply before finding the far corner of the net with a right-foot shot that took a slight deflection.
It was no more than United deserved, with Villa showing plenty of endeavour without looking threatening in the first half.
Jordan Ayew, making his home debut, had half a chance to equalise just after half-time, but fired high over the crossbar, before Jordan Amavi surged down the left and drilled over a cross that evaded everyone as Villa raised the tempo.
Gestede replaced Scott Sinclair before the hour mark, while Van Gaal sent on Bastian Schweinsteiger and Ander Herrera in place of Michael Carrick and Januzaj.
Depay ought to have opened his Premier League account 18 minutes from time when Mata once again opened up the Villa defence with a fine pass, but the Netherlands international shot wide with only Guzan to beat.
Villa’s latest signing Adama Traore – recruited from Barcelona earlier in the day – watched on from the stands as his new team-mates ran out of ideas and United made it back-to-back 1-0 victories.
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