05/04/2009 17:07, Report by Nick Coppack
United 3 Villa 2
It’s not called the Theatre of Dreams for nothing.
Seventeen-year-old striker Federico Macheda, making his first-team debut, became an instant Old Trafford hero when he scored a sensational injury-time winner to send United back to the top of the table.
Macheda, thrown on for the final 30 minutes, capped a superb performance with the sort of goal usually scored by the likes of Rooney or Ronaldo. Receiving the ball with his back to goal, the young Italian's first touch took the ball between his legs, wrong-footing his marker and allowing him space to curl a superb shot past Brad Friedel and into the far corner.
Earlier, Cristiano Ronaldo had put the Reds in front on 14 minutes before goals from John Carew and Gabriel Agbonlahor turned the tide. Ronaldo equalised with 11 minutes to play but Macheda stole the headlines with what could prove a title-winning strike.
Indeed, United now sit a point clear of Liverpool with a game in hand. It’s a scenario Reds fans wouldn’t have thought possible as Aston Villa enjoyed large periods of possession during the game.
Beset by injuries and suspensions, Sir Alex was forced to tinker with his starting XI. Gary Neville made his first appearance since January, while Nani was handed only his fifth league start of the season. Neville and Jonny Evans lined up in the centre of defence (Rio Ferdinand was ruled out with a groin injury sustained on England duty), with John O’Shea on the right.
Sir Alex’s major selection headache came in the striking department. With Wayne Rooney suspended and Dimitar Berbatov ruled out with an ankle injury, Carlos Tevez was the only first-choice forward available. Despite playing 75 minutes against Bolivia at high altitude in midweek, the Argentina international started from the opening whistle. Alongside him, Sir Alex opted for the experience of Ryan Giggs, while the