It is very unlikely that Manchester United’s remarkable resilience will make any difference to the outcome of the Premier League title race, but they go further than many of us expected.
It would require a monumental collapse by Manchester City to throw it out now – not to mention that United must beat Leicester and Liverpool within 50 hours to have the slightest chance of taking the match after the week’s end. to win.
For 45 minutes at Villa Park, it looked like Pep Guardiola and his players would crack open the champagne on Sunday night.
Manchester United came from behind to seal a 3-1 away victory against Aston Villa
Aston Villa had taken the lead by a stunning attack in the first half from Bertrand Traore
Bruno Fernandes scored from the spot to start Manchester United’s second half comeback
ASTON VILLA (4-2-3-1): Martinez 5.5; Cash 6, Konsa 7, Mings 6, Targett 6; Douglas Luiz 5.5 (Ramsey 65.6), McGinn 7.5; Traore 7, Barkley 5.5 (Davis 77.6), El Ghazi 6.5 (Wesley 77.6); Watkins 5.5.
Subs not used: Heaton, Nakamba, Elmohamady, Hause, Philogene-Bidace, Chukwuemeka.
Scorer: Traore 24
Booked: Watkins, McGinn
Manager: Dean Smith 6
MAN UTD (4-2-3-1): Henderson 7; Wan-Bissaka 7.5, Lindelof 5, Maguire 5.5 (Bailly 78, 6.5), Shaw 7; McTominay 5.5, Fred 5; Greenwood 8 (Cavani 65, 7), Fernandes 6.5 (Matic 86), Pogba 7; Rashford 6.
Subs not used: De Gea, Mata, Alex Telles, Williams, Van de Beek, Tuanzebe.
Scorers: Fernandes pen 52, Greenwood 56, Cavani 87
Manager: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer 7
Referee: Chris Kavanagh 6
Again United was bad before half-time and decidedly better after that. They came from behind to win in the Premier League for a record 10th time, taking 31 points from losing positions this season.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side deserves credit for that, but it’s puzzling why they keep doing this to themselves.
“To be honest, I don’t really know – we might not be ready for the game yet,” was the rather alarming confession of defender Luke Shaw.
“We have to increase it in the first half, because we cannot continue to count on our performance in the second half and come back from behind.”
It allowed Aston Villa to take the lead with an excellent attack from Bertrand Traore and raise the hope of a first league game against United here since 1995 – Alan Hansen’s comment ‘You can’t win with kids’ and all.
But in the end, they continued to curse referee Chris Kavanagh’s decision to award United another penalty for Douglas Luiz’s challenge to Paul Pogba, and then show Ollie Watkins a second yellow card too late for the diving.
So this most distant title race will move on to United’s game against Leicester on Tuesday and then maybe Liverpool on Thursday. This win also confirmed a top-four finish for United.
Solskjaer had expressed dissatisfaction with having to play four games in eight days – and three important league games in five days.
He picked up a strong line-up on Sunday, suggesting the changes will come against Leicester. Cue outrage on Merseyside. United didn’t start out as a team determined to keep City waiting for their coronation.
Villa’s goal previously summed up United’s shortcomings in the first half when Mason Greenwood and Fred both gave away possession close to their own penalty area.
John McGinn passed the ball to Luiz, who quickly pushed the ball to Traore. He spun Victor Lindelof, who didn’t get enough ball contact or didn’t get close enough to his opponent, and shot his left foot past Dean Henderson into the top corner with his left foot.
Traore opened the score after turning around Victor Lindelof and firing in the top corner
Manchester United received a penalty when Douglas Luiz fouled Paul Pogba in the box
Fernandes then withdrew from the penalty spot to even the score against Aston Villa
Not long later, Mason Greenwood scored the second to give the Red Devils the lead
This was another weak defense by Lindelof, who gave the ball to McGinn just before half time, enabling Watkins to force a save by Henderson.
United had offered little to attack the threat until then. Marcus Rashford got the ball under his feet in front of a cross from Greenwood, which was rejected by a great one-handed save by Emiliano Martinez.
Heaven knows what Solskjaer puts into his players’ halftime tea, but it seems to work every time. The transformation was instant and it netted two goals in five minutes.
The first came from the penalty spot in the 52nd minute. Luiz had already tripped Pogba once when the Frenchman held him at a distance, then sent him over again with a fumble to win the ball from behind.
Ezri Konsa defended well in the match, but got into a heated argument with Marcus Rashford
Both men got involved in a pushing match where teammates broke the pair apart
Harry Maguire’s streak of games played every minute came to an end due to injury
Bruno Fernandes had scored from the spot on his two other Premier League appearances against Villa and did the same here. There was a small run-up to a stuttering move to get Martinez to make the first move before pushing the ball the other way for his 27th goal in all competitions this season.
They were barely up to United’s level when they went on for Greenwood’s 16th league goal for the club – moving ahead of Wayne Rooney as United’s top Premier League teen scorer.
That list also includes Ryan Giggs, Cristiano Ronaldo and Rashford. And he has five months to go before he turns 20.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka played the ball into him from the right and Greenwood turned Tyrone Mings over far too easily before defeating Martinez with a low shot to the front post.
Edinson Cavani came off the bench and added a third late – his ninth league goal of the season
United lost captain Harry Maguire to an ankle injury shortly after nearly being headed into his own goal, but substitute Edinson Cavani secured the victory with his eighth goal in seven appearances in the 87th minute.
The ball was worked wide to Rashford, who hit a cross to the edge of the box where Cavani had stolen a meter from Matty Cash and scored with a nice, looking header.
Things got worse for Villa before the end when Watkins defeated Henderson to a through pass and went into the penalty area. There was contact but enough for a penalty?
Kavanagh stubbornly decided it was a dive, VAR supported him and Villa’s striker was on his way for a second booking.
Ollie Watkins received his marching orders for a second yellow card for simulation
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team faces tough matches with Leicester and Liverpool this week
Sportsmail’s KIERAN LYNCH provided live coverage of Aston Villa vs Manchester United, including all build-up, team news and in-game updates.