Manchester United registered an impressive victory against Aston Villa in their Premier League fixture on Friday. In their first game of 2021, United hosted the Midlands team on New Years Day. Goals from Martial and Fernandes propelled United to a win over the resilient visitors who scored a goal through Traore.
Ole went with a 4-4-2 like formation for this game keeping Maguire and Bailly in the center back role. Wan-Bissaka and Shaw were the fullbacks behind Fred, McTominay, Pogba, and Fernandes. Martial and Rashford were the two strikers and David de Gea retained the goalkeeper’s role. Telles, Matic, Tuanzebe, van De Beek, and James were among those on the bench.
Manchester United went on the attack from the beginning and came close when Paul Pogba rolled the ball for Fred. Unfortunately, the Brazilian’s shot was slightly high. Pogba may have been better off taking the shot himself- something that the Frenchman has been doing a lot. Being cheeky and clever is good occasionally, but Pogba’s style coupled with medium intensity play often put the team in bad spots. In Villa’s first chance, Pogba jogged behind Cash giving him all the time he needed to deliver a cross. Luckily, de Gea denied McGinn to keep the scoreline level. United displayed some impressive teamwork in their passing and movement but were unable to break the deadlock. In the first half, both sides were finding chances and holding the ball well.
United looked more threatening with some great counterattacking but Villa’s center backs negated Rashford and Martial well. Fernandes came close with a fantastic turn-and-shoot from a tight angle in the 37th minute. Shortly after Pogba and Rashford combined well to give Wan Bissaka space to deliver a cross into the box. The wing-back’s excellent cross was met by Anthony Martial who nodded past Emi Martinez in goal to make it 1-0 right before halftime.
Manchester United started the second half a bit more cautiously, looking to defend the lead and hit Villa on the break. David de Gea made an excellent reflex save to deny Ollie Watkins in Villa’s first chance of the second half. However, the visitors soon equalized through Bertrand Traore. A quickly taken freekick allowed Grealish to cross into an unmarked Traore, who fired past de Gea and Maguire. Pogba and Shaw failed to mark players in the box on that occasion. With the scores level, both teams felt that they had a chance to go on and find a winning goal. However, Manchester United responded immediately after Paul Pogba was brought down in the box by Douglas Luiz. Bruno Fernandes fired the resulting penalty in the bottom left corner making it 2-1 in favor of Manchester United.
Soon after, Nemanja Matic came on to replace Scott McTominay in hopes of icing out the game defensively. Marcus Rashford also had a shot at goal saved comfortably by Emi Martinez. Martial and Shaw combined on the left to give Pogba a golden chance to make it 3-1 but the midfielder failed to get his shot on target. In the final 15 minutes, both sides had a flurry of chances as the game became frantic. On the other end, Cash’s freekick was headed wide by Mings thus giving Villa plenty to be frustrated about, and United plenty to be worried about. In the 87th minute, Bruno came off for Daniel James. Cash’s shot from distance in the 92nd minute to draw a save from David de Gea- the Spaniard had a great day in goal making some very key saves for the Red Devils.
In injury time, Tuanzebe replaced Fred as Ole looked to go on the defensive in order to preserve the lead. In the dying seconds of the game, Davis’ shot from 10 yards out was astonishingly blocked by Eric Bailly to keep Manchester United ahead. The full-time whistle saw United players rushing to hug Bailly for his heroic block and overall fantastic game.
Despite struggling to survive in last year’s Premier League, Aston Villa have been a dangerous and tricky side to play against this year. Manchester United worked hard to get three points and did almost everything right while doing so. Defensively, the team was mostly sound as Maguire and Bailly kept many passes and crosses out. Eric Bailly certainly had a game to remember as he cut out many crucial passes while also helping move the ball ahead while in possession. The fullbacks were also very impressive as their combination plays and crossing were noteworthy. McTominay and Matic did very well to slot into defensive roles when the fullbacks pushed ahead. Pogba started off slow but grew into the game and made a great impact going forward.
Rashford struggled a little with his finishing today but his fine work rate helped the team immensely. A special shoutout to David de Gea for making some brilliant saves and keeping the visitors out. Overall, a great team performance that deserved a win. Manchester United are now level with Liverpool on points at the summit of the table. Manchester United play Manchester City in the Carabao Cup on the 6th before hosting Watford in the FA Cup on the 9th. Wins in these two games will see United progress further in their cup competitions, and will also be part of the games where Edinson Cavani will serve his ban.