Report: Aston Villa 1 United 3
Manchester United once again came from behind on the road to take all three points at Aston Villa.
The hosts had taken the lead in the first half courtesy of Bertrand Traore, but a much-improved United grabbed three in the second period to emerge from Villa Park with a 3-1 win.
Bruno Fernandes’s penalty put the Reds on our way, before Mason Greenwood’s turn and finish put us in the lead. Edinson Cavani wrapped it up late on, when he headed in a late third goal, after Harry Maguire was forced off with a worrying injury.
The result leaves United in second place, with 70 points from our 34 games to date, ahead of Tuesday’s meeting with Leicester City, and keeps Manchester City waiting to be crowned champions.
Reds come from behind again Gallery
See our pictures from the 3-1 victory at Villa Park, following a fine second-half showing.
FIRST HALF - FRUSTRATION FOR THE REDS
The Reds certainly started the brighter in the West Midlands, with Greenwood registering the first shot after five minutes, which he placed just wide with his right foot. But it was Villa keeper Emiliano Martinez who was busiest man in the ground during the early proceedings, as he faced a barrage of shots from United players.
The former Arsenal stopper pulled off a great reaction save to deny Luke Shaw’s powerful strike, before dealing with efforts on target from Paul Pogba and then Fred.
A rare Villa foray into the opposition half resulted in a deflected Traore shot, before United were back on the attack, with Fernandes poking wide from a half-chance inside the box.
Marcus Rashford was then inches away from converting when he connected with a ball that was smashed into the six-yard by Greenwood. However, the United no.10 couldn’t quite react in time, and the the opportunity went begging.
After all United’s early dominance, it was the lively Traore who grabbed the game’s opening goal. The winger’s smart turn inside the box was cut out by Victor Lindelof, although, when the ball deflected back to him, Traore unleashed a powerful strike that gave Dean Henderson no hope, and put the Villans in front.
That goal seemed to spur Villa into life and Dean Smith’s men looked much more effective from the midpoint of the first period, with Traore and Anwar El Ghazi seeing plenty of the ball in the wide areas.
Despite that, United were still producing opportunities to score - Fernandes fired over from distance, before Martinez was called into action to hold Rashford’s effort from the edge of the box.
Greenwood was perhaps the Reds’ best performer in the opening period and, on 40 minutes, he again stung the palms of the Villa keeper, with the Argentine at full stretch to push the youngster’s powerful shot wide.
It was the hosts who registered the final shot of the half, when Ollie Watkins’s drilled effort was kept out by Henderson.
United started the second period much like the first, and Pogba had a shot deflect wide within a few minutes of the restart. It was a lively beginning for the Frenchman, who was fouled by Douglas Luiz in the box soon after, leaving Chris Kavanagh with no option but to point to the spot.
From there, Fernandes did what he does best and coolly slotted the ball into the net to put the Reds on level terms.
United were just getting started, and just 11 minutes after half-time, the Reds were in front. It was Greenwood who grabbed the important strike, when he shrugged off Tyrone Mings’s challenge at the edge of the box and blasted the ball past Martinez at his near post, after collecting the ball from Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
The game was really open now and Maguire headed over from a corner, before Rashford went close from distance with a powerful driven strike. Meanwhile, Henderson had to be on hand to claw away Maguire’s accidental header back towards his own goal, while substitute Cavani cleared the ball in his own box to deny El Ghazi a header at the back post.
Villa were pushing for an equaliser and threw strikers Keinan Davis and Wesley on to beef up their attack. Soon after, Wan-Bissaka’s flying tackle prevented Watkins from registering a shot on target, before Henderson held Traore’s curled effort.
But when the goal came, it was at the other end of the pitch, as in-form Cavani nodded in a third. Rashford picked up the ball on the right wing and floated in a delightful cross for our no.7 to clinically head past Martinez.
After play resumed, Villa were almost immediately reduced to 10 men, as Watkins picked up a second booking for simulation after evading Henderson saw him go to ground in the box.
With the outcome no longer in doubt, the final knockings were quiet, with United dominating possession and closing out another important three points to virtually assure Champions League football next season.
Aston Villa: Martinez; Cash, Konsa, Mings, Targett; Luiz (Ramsey 65), McGinn; Traore, Barkley (Davis 78), El Ghazi (Wesley 78); Watkins.
Substitutes not used: Heaton, Hause, Elmohamedy, Nakamba, Philogene-Bidace, Chukwuemeka.
Goalscorer: Traore 24.
Booked: McGinn, Watkins.
Sent off: Watkins.
United: Henderson; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire (c) (Bailly 78), Shaw; Fred, McTominay; Rashford, Fernandes (Matic 86), Pogba; Greenwood (Cavani 65).
Substitutes not used: De Gea, Telles, Tuanzebe, Williams, Mata, van de Beek.
Goalscorers: Fernandes 52 (pen), Greenwood 56, Cavani 87.