United defeated Villa (2-1) and are now on the same points as Liverpool at the top of the premier league table (33), with just goal-difference separating the two teams.
After a hard-fought win against Wolves a few days ago, Manchester United welcomed Aston Villa in a mouth-water clash at Old Trafford. The Stakes were simple – If United wins they go level on points with Liverpool at the top of the table. With only GD difference separating them.
Before the kick-off, both sides held a minute’s silence to mark the passing of Tommy Docherty. Our former boss, who passed away on Thursday at the age of 92. All players also wore black armbands as a mark of respect.
Historically, Manchester United has been a team that is quite difficult to beat on New Years Day. And the Red Devils did not disappoint. After a fluid and encouraging first-half display, we finally took the lead via a great team goal just before half-time (40′). De Gea started it, Pobga showed brilliant control and skill to send it on to Rashford, who helped it on to Wan-Bissaka, who played a peach of a pass and Anthony Martial headed it home (1-0).
Villa found some rejuvenation and scored an equaliser (58′). Bertrand Traore scored with a cool finish after Villa took a quick free-kick, United was not too quick to defend it (1-1). In the three minutes, Pogba was clipped and brought down by Douglas Luiz in the Villa box. Penalty! (61′). Bruno Fernandes slotted it in the back of the net past Martinez (2-1).
Aston Villa braved till the final whistle. It was not easy for United. Jack Grealish being their stand-out performer. In the end, United defeated Aston Villa 2-1.
How Did We Line-Up?
Ole made 4 changes to the side that beat Wolverhampton. The question before the kick-off was if United would play the diamond formation or move one of the mid-fielders to the left side. United played 4-2-3-1 with Pogba playing on Fernandes’ left. With Scott McTominay and Fred playing the anchors, United’s midfield was set up for success.
Fred and McTominay have really grown into big-game players and they did not disappoint against Villa as well. And Pogba thrived on the left and pulled a lot of strings. Perhaps one of his best performances in the Red Devils shirt.
First Half. End-To-End Action and We Take The Lead!
The first-half started with high-intensity. Both the teams clearly playing to win. United started strong and on the front foot. Fred played a great pass to Bruno Fernandes who forced a save from Martinez in the opening minutes of the match. Burno then setup Martial who wanted to curl one home but was denied by Martinez. Then Fred and Bruno came close to scoring with goal-bound shots from outside the box. United first half before the goal was half-chances, wide shots, and attempts that were saved by Martinez.
Five minutes before the break. United took the lead by a beautifully worked team goal. De Gea to Pogba to Rashford to Wan-Bissaka to Martial who scored past Martinez by heading the cross into the goal.
United 1-0 Villa.
Villa by no means was a sitting duck. They stood their ground and created problems for United. John McGinn came close to scoring but De Gea was able to save it. Jack Grealish was at it again, making life difficult for the opposition. United was being extra cautious when he had a ball.
At the end of the first half. United led 1-0, which was the correct reflection of the game.
Second Half. Villa Equalise But United Win It!
Villa started the second-half strongly. They came really close when Grealish sent a great cross which Watkin’s headed towards the goal. De Gea made a great save and flipped the ball over the bar. United had both their CBs on yellow cards within the first 10 mins into the second half. Villa then equalised at the mark of 58′. From a United foul, Villa played a quick free-kick and potentially caught United off-guard. Grealish played a great cross from the left-side to find Traore. He was able to put it past Maguire and De Gea to score.
United 1-1 Villa.
United wasted no time to try and find an equaliser. Douglas Luiz brought down Pogba in the box. VAR checked and sided with Michal Oliver’s decision to award the penalty. Emi Martinez dove to the correct side, but Fernandes’ attempt had too much pace and precision and went into the bottom corner.
United 2-1 Villa.
United then enjoyed a decent spell of possession. Martial and Pogba, both coming close to scoring. Villa excited by the fact that the lead was only 1 goal, went on to mount attacks of their own. Watkins and co brought out a couple of world-class saves from De Gea. And Fernandes and Rashford got glimpses of goals as well. But the score remained 2-1
The last 10 minutes as Ole said, Felt like a Cup final. Aston Villa gave it their all and looked dangerous. Their best chance coming potentially with the last play of the match. Matty Cash got the ball in the United box and sent a shot towards United’s goal. If not for Eric Bailly’s heroics, it looked like a certain goal.
Phew! The match ended with United winning a thriller against Aston Villa. Eric Bailly was voted as the Man of the Match by the fans. For his efforts, the entire team ran to him after the full-time whistle. Pogba had a great game as well and looks to be focused back on football now. There were a lot of positives from the match for United and Villa both.
And the Reds go marching on on on …
Some Stats (And Fun Facts):
- Manchester United extended our unbeaten run in the league to 10 matches winning 8 of them.
- Anthony Martial has now scored on all seven days of the week in the Premier League for Manchester United, becoming the fifth player to do so, after Ryan Giggs, Andrew Cole, David Beckham, and Wayne Rooney.
- If the Premier League season started from Bruno Fernandes’ debut 11 months ago: 1) Manchester United: 65 pts 2) Liverpool: 62 pts Both have played 30 games.
- This match marked Bruno’s 30th in the Premier League and he scored his 19th league goal the same as Robin Van Persie. It means only Ruud van Nistelrooy has scored more times for the Reds in his opening 30 Premier League games (22).
What’s Next For United?
United is tied with Liverpool on points and second due to goal difference in the premier league.
However, for the next two matches, they would have to focus on the Carabao Cup and FA Cup.
Manchester United host Manchester City in the Carabao Cup semi-finals on Wednesday and welcome Watford in the FA Cup on Saturday 9 January. Their next Premier League game is away at Burnley on Tuesday 12 January.