Perhaps there's a reason that football gets played on a Saturday. The Premier League's first foray into Friday night football was a largely turgid affair, as Manchester United huffed and puffed their way past a bleak Aston Villa.
United began the first half with most of the ball but without much time or space: Villa, for the first twenty minutes or so, were relentless in their closing down. But they tired, particularly in midfield, and United took advantage. Januzaj, who'd started brightly in the centre, ran onto a perfectly-placed pass from Juan Mata, chopped back inside to leave Micah Richards on the floor, then got a little lucky as Ciaran Clark diverted the shot around Brad Guzan and into the net.
The great United sides of old would have scented blood at this point, and tried to see a limited, reeling Villa off before halftime; this version isn't quite so cold. In a spirit of self-congratulation, United slackened off, and while Villa didn't create much from their own endeavours, they could easily have had a penalty after Matteo Darmian grappled with Richards' shirt and neck. Fortunately for United, Mike Dean was having a worse game than Wayne Rooney.
That's not true. Nobody was having a worse game than Wayne Rooney.
The fire and brimstone sermons of Tim Sherwood put a bit of spark back into Villa, and the home side started the second half brightly, bossing possession and forcing United's defence into mistakes. Jordan Amavi delivered a perfect cross through United's six-yard box, then Gabby Agbonlahor planted a header straight at Sergio Romero. Louis Van Gaal, presumably quite startled at the sudden disappearance of control, removed the comically ineffective Wayne Rooney ... oh no, hang on, Rooney has to play. So he took Januzaj and Michael Carrick off, introducing Bastian Schweinsteiger and Ander Herrera.
To be fair to Van Gaal, it worked, which isn't something that can always be said about his changes. Schweinsteiger took control of midfield, Ander Herrera brought some energy into proceedings and Villa shrank back into themselves. And though United weren't able to find a second goal — Memphis Depay squandered a wonderful chance to open his account, placing another exquisite Juan Mata pass just the wrong side of the post — they did, at least, spend the last half hour in charge of the ball.
Six points: perfect. Two wins: good, considering it took United until late September last season to get their second. Two clean sheets, despite the presence of Daley Blind and Romero: kind of remarkable. But beyond Adnan Januzaj reminding everybody that he is quite good, there wasn't too much to get excited about here. United are still very much working out the rust. Let's hope Wayne Rooney finds some WD40 soon.