Report and free match highlights as Anthony Martial and Bruno Fernandes send Man Utd level with Liverpool at top of the Premier League; Bertrand Traore equaliser not enough as Aston Villa’s five-game unbeaten run ends at Old Trafford
Friday 1 January 2021 22:29, UK
Manchester United kicked off the New Year by underscoring their title credentials with a 2-1 victory over Aston Villa that moved them level on points with Liverpool at the top of the Premier League.
Anthony Martial’s second league goal of the season and Bruno Fernandes’ second-half penalty were enough to see off a spirited Villa, who equalised through Bertrand Traore and pushed United all the way in an entertaining contest at Old Trafford.
Tyrone Mings, Matty Cash and Keinan Davis squandered late chances to snatch a point but United stood firm to end Villa’s five-game unbeaten run.
United are now 10 games unbeaten in the Premier League and level on points with champions Liverpool, who they trailed by nine points when they last tasted defeat against Arsenal on November 1.
Man Utd: De Gea (7), Wan-Bissaka (6), Bailly (8), Maguire (7), Shaw (7), McTominay (6), Fred (6), Pogba (8), Fernandes (8), Rashford (7), Martial (8).
Subs: Matic (6), James (n/a), Tuanzebe (n/a).
Aston Villa: Martinez (8), Cash (7), Konsa (7), Mings (6), Targett (6), Luiz (5), McGinn (7), El Ghazi (6), Traore (7), Grealish (8), Watkins (6).
Subs: Davis (n/a), Ramsey (5).
Man of the Match: Paul Pogba
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How United got past spirited Villa…
United made the brighter start but were unable to find the early breakthrough as Fernandes, Martial and Harry Maguire were all denied by Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez.
Villa stood firm in the face of the early onslaught and then drew a line under it, with John McGinn’s 12th-minute near-post drive forcing a save from David de Gea which sparked the visitors into life.
Villa displayed all of the hallmarks of a side on a five-game unbeaten run and limited United to shots from distance, as Fred and Paul Pogba both failed with attempts to grab the initiative.
But United’s encouraging play was rewarded five minutes before the interval when Pogba released Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Martial stooped to head his second league goal of the season from the right-back’s hopeful cross after Mings failed to clear.
Villa found the quality in the final third that eluded them in the first period as they hunted an equaliser early in the second half.
Ollie Watkins very nearly delivered it within seven minutes of the restart with a towering header back across goal, but De Gea produced a stunning save to claw it over the bar, before the in-form Anwar El Ghazi flashed a volley over the United bar.
The Villa pressure finally told just before the hour when a quick free-kick released Grealish in behind the advanced Wan-Bissaka. His cross found Traore unmarked at the back post and he took a touch to control before firing past De Gea and Maguire on the goal line.
It was no more than Villa deserved but parity lasted less than three minutes as Villa gifted United the chance to restore their lead. Douglas Luiz clumsily clipped Pogba’s heels in the area, handing Fernandes a penalty which he clinically dispatched into the bottom corner.
Falling behind only invigorated Villa further and they could have drawn level for a second time, but a last-gasp clearance from Wan-Bissaka hooking the ball away just as El Ghazi stooped to head home at the back post, before De Gea palmed the Dutchman’s strike from a tight angle away.
United responded and should have put daylight between themselves and Villa, but Pogba diverted Luke Shaw’s driven cross inches wide and Rashford sent a rasping drive inches over either side of Martinez expertly tipping Fernandes’ dipping volley onto the bar.
United nearly paid the price for their profligacy when Mings outmuscled Maguire to reach Cash’s sumptuous cross from a free-kick, but the Villa captain’s header curled agonisingly wide.
Cash’s long-range drive was tipped around the post late on before Eric Bailly’s crucial block prevented substitute Davis from snatching Villa a point in stoppage-time as United saw out the victory which sparked impassioned celebrations on the field at the full-time whistle.
How Man Utd pulled level with Liverpool
Opta stats – Fernandes flawless from the spot
- In Premier League history, the only player to be directly involved in more goals in their first 30 appearances in the competition than Bruno Fernandes (33 – 19 goals, 14 assists) is Andrew Cole (37 – 28 goals, 9 assists).
- Manchester United are unbeaten in their last 16 Premier League matches against Aston Villa (W12 D4).
- Aston Villa have lost 13 of their last 15 away Premier League games against Manchester United at Old Trafford (W1 D1).
- Anthony Martial has now scored on all seven days of the week in the Premier League for Man Utd, becoming the fifth player to do so, after Ryan Giggs, Andrew Cole, David Beckham and Wayne Rooney.
- Manchester United forward Anthony Martial ended a run of seven Premier League appearances at Old Trafford without a goal, netting his first home goal since scoring against Southampton in July.
- Only Tottenham’s Harry Kane (10) has assisted more Premier League goals this season than Jack Grealish (7), while the last Aston Villa player to assist more than seven Premier League goals in a season was Ashley Young in 2010/11 (10).
- Since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first Premier League match in charge of Man Utd in December 2018, the Red Devils have taken (27) and scored (21) the most Premier League penalties.
Man Utd host rivals Man City in the semi-finals of the Carabao Cup on Wednesday at 7.45pm – live on Sky Sports Football – before entertaining Watford in the third round of the FA Cup on Saturday at 8pm.
Aston Villa host Liverpool in the third round of the FA Cup on Friday at 7.45pm before entertaining Tottenham in the Premier League on January 13 at 8.15pm – live on Sky Sports.
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