11/12/2009 16:53, Report by Gemma Thompson
United 0 Aston Villa 1
was Villa who made the decisive breakthrough. Agbonlahor collected possession with his back to goal 20 yards out and, after laying the ball off to Ashley Young on the left wing, he made a dart into the area where he stooped between Brown and Vidic to head home Young’s centre on 21 minutes.
The goal may have come against the run of play, but Villa grew in confidence thereafter. After Friedel had dived low to his right to parry a Michael Carrick long-ranger and Valencia had gone within inches of converting Rooney’s flick-on, the visitors went close to doubling their advantage after a mix-up between Kuszczak and Fletcher. A pass-back from Vidic looked likely to be hoofed upfield by the Polish stopper, but he opted instead to slip the ball to Fletcher, who was stood just outside the box. Agbonlahor was in close proximity and nipped in to steal possession from the Reds’ stand-in right-back. He crossed towards the unmarked Ashley Young, but fortunately Kuszczak managed to get a hand on it allowing Fletcher, at full stretch, to poke the ball clear.
Seconds later the Reds went within a whisker of restoring parity. A Patrice Evra cross was collected by Rooney who turned Carlos Cuellar brilliantly inside the six-yard box before smashing a shot against the crossbar.
Old Trafford’s South Stand rose to celebrate the net rippling five minutes before the break, but unfortunately Giggs’ close-range effort, which had Friedel beaten, found the netting on the wrong side of the post.
That was to be the Welshman’s last action of the afternoon after he was replaced at the interval by Michael Owen as the Reds switched from a 4-5-1 formation to 4-4-2. The renowned goal poacher almost turned provider just before the hour when he linked well with Valencia before firing a low centre across the face of goal. Unfortunately neither Rooney nor Park could get on the end of it.