Report: United 1 Aston Villa 0
Manchester United are through to the fourth round of the Emirates FA Cup after beating Aston Villa 1-0 in a high tempo, controversial and entertaining tie at Old Trafford.
The Reds will face Middlesbrough in the next round thanks to Scott McTominay’s early eighth-minute winner against Steven Gerrard’s Villa side.
It was an edge-of-your-seat watch throughout a pulsating first half and the visitors dominated the second 45 minutes but couldn’t find the equaliser.
Villa had an Ings goal ruled out after a nail-biting VAR check that led to referee Michael Oliver overturning his decision after a look at the pitch-side TV monitor. The Midlanders also had one ruled out by Ollie Watkins for offside.
But a much-improved and energetic display from the Reds survived the onslaught and squeezed us through to secure the tie against Boro.
FIRST HALF: SCOTT GIVES REDS THE EDGE
It was a perfect start for the Reds with McTominay featuring prominently. Our Scotland international had the first United effort on target as he smashed a trademark low drive that was saved by Villa’s no.1 Emiliano Martinez in the sixth minute.
McTominay then beat the Argentinian two minutes later, with a firm header from eight yards out, as he met a cross that was brilliantly delivered by Fred.
Villa’s response wasn’t long in coming and it was dangerous. Firstly, Ollie Watkins couldn’t connect cleanly enough to steer in at the far post as a corner was whipped in across the Reds goal in the 11th minute. Then, two minutes later, Danny Ings was only a fraction away from making contact with a miscued shot from Emiliano Buendia in front of the Stretford End.
United hit back with a Marcus Rashford shot coming that almost took Edinson Cavani’s head off, as our Uruguayan striker tried to steer the ball home.
It was certainly an entertaining cup tie that was creating excitement at both ends.
David De Gea was next in the firing line after 19 minutes, when he palmed a ferocious drive from John McGinn away to safety. Our Spanish no.1 then had to save from Buendia before his opposite number Martinez showed he too was on top of his game, when he needed a strong hand to keep out a Cavani shot in the box after he was set up by Fernandes.
You couldn’t take your eyes off this one as the action swung back again to United’s end, as Watkins turned Victor Lindelof in the area and slammed a close-range shot against the bar. Then a Jacob Ramsey shot headed goalwards until it clattered off McTominay’s legs for a corner.
Back up towards the East Stand next as United responded. Fernandes had a low shot blocked and when the ball eventually came to Luke Shaw, our left-back smashed a piledriver from 35 yards that Martinez tipped over thanks to a vital fingertip.
McTominay was lurking on the edge of the area after 44 minutes in the kind of position he loves to let fly from. The midfielder unleashed a volley that was saved and therefore we headed into the break with just his early goal on the board.
SECOND HALF: VILLA FIGHT BACK BUT REDS HANG ON
It was a controversial and feisty start to the second half that raised the atmosphere to fever pitch.
Villa thought they’d equalised after 50 minutes when a free-kick was headed back into the six-yard area by Konsa at the far post and McGinn stooped to bundle the ball home via his chest and head.
There was a long, tense VAR wait before referee Michael Oliver, who’d given the goal, was instructed to take a second look at the pitch-side monitor and, after several views, overturned his decision and disallowed the leveller.
Gerrard’s side were aggrieved and a number of meaty challenges from both sides had the crowd on their feet.
United couldn’t find much fluency and the visitors had the ball in the Reds net again after 59 minutes, but this time Watkins was flagged offside.
Villa were certainly the side in command, as United struggled to rediscover our first-half threat and tempo.
After their ‘goal’ disappointments, Villa surged back and a Matt Cash shot was turned aside by De Gea.
There were yellow cards for Fred, Shaw and Dalot as United fought to knock the visitors out of their stride. But the goalmouth action remained firmly at the end United were defending and Watkins went close with a low curler after 70 minutes.
Rangnick made his first change two minutes later, seemingly in a bid to win back control, with Donny van de Beek replacing Cavani. We did lift our attacking game and Mason Greenwood broke away after 74 minutes but had his shot saved.
Jesse Lingard and Anthony Elanga came on for Fernandes and Rashford, respectively, to give the Reds fresh legs for the finale.
The fire had gone out of Villa's hopes of an equaliser and United secured the passage to a game against Middlesbrough.
United: De Gea, Dalot, Lindelof, Varane, Shaw, McTominay, Fred, Greenwood, Fernandes (C, Lingard 85), Rashford (Elanga 85), Cavani (van de Beek 72).
Subs not used: Heaton, Mata, Amad, Telles, Wan-Bissaka, Matic.
Goal: McTominay (8)
Bookings: Fred, Shaw, Dalot
Aston Villa: Martinez, Cash, Konsa, Mings, Targett, McGinn, Douglas Luiz, Ramsey (Philogene-Bidace 85), Buendia (El Ghazi 79), Ings, Watkins.
Subs not used: Steer, Sinisalo, Sanson, Hause, Chukwuemeka, Archer, Iroegbunam.