There are European commitments and then the domestic ones – for Manchester United the roster is pretty hectic in the coming days and the strain was evident, still, the Red Devils did not wilt under pressure. They bagged full points at Villa Park and for which Manchester City have to wait a bit more.

The Villa Park schedule had been the first of three league matches in five days for Manchester United or six in a 17-day period with the Europa League final in Gdansk. Ole Gunnar Solskjær knows about the strains of the schedule and for which he has to manage his squad carefully.

Aston Villa, who have not beaten Manchester United at their own backyard since 1995, never really believed that they could break the jinx because the way they started, it lacked the spark and intent. The visitors took advantage and put their foot on the paddle and dominated the proceedings.

Luke Shaw was running down the left several times with such ease that the Manchester United defenders had the opportunity to serve him with several diagonal passes. Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford each had half-chances to open the scoring.

While Manchester United advanced, in between, Aston Villa regrouped – Anwar El Ghazi signaled Villa’s growing menace by unloading their first shot, drilled wide from 20 yards.  The home team pressed led by Ollie Watkins and which started to jolt the composure of Manchester United.

John McGinn and Douglas Luiz gained control and left no spaces for Fred, Scott McTomminay, and Bruno Fernandes.

Sluggishness took over: Manchester United lost possession three times in a matter of seconds before Bertrand Traore arrowed a wonderful shot into the net from an acute angle.

El Ghazi posed a threat after the break when Ross Barkley led a counterattack – Ghazi could not connect the shot better.

But the sluggishness was fading from the Manchester United players and they looked more focused.

Paul Pogba had maneuvered his body between the ball and Luiz, who clunked into Pogba from behind, leaving the referee with a straightforward decision. Fernandes sent Emi Martinez the wrong way from the spot.

Another comeback by Manchester United and this has been the story for the Red Devils throughout the season – they have been in such tricky situations so many times that Ole learned how to drag the whole unit out of the rut.

A few minutes later, Aaron Wan-Bissaka ran down the right and supplied Greenwood at the right, who turned nimbly past the confused Tyrone Mings and cracked a low shot in at the near post.

Villa tried to retort swiftly and United endured a nervous wait on the hour as the VAR checked for a possible handball by Greenwood after a cross by El Ghazi.

Villa continued to stretch the Manchester United defence, and it took a toll on Harry Maguire, who limped off after a collision with El Ghazi in the 72nd minute.

That brought an end to an impressive record for Maguire, who until then had not missed a minute of league action for United since joining them in August 2019.

With three minutes remaining, El Matador Edinson Cavani buried the hopes of a Villa comeback by nodding a cross by Wan-Bissaka into the net.

“We don’t really want to go behind but it gives us a little boost to come back and get the win,” Greenwood said to BBC after the match.

“It was well improved [in the second half]. Ole said his bits in the changing room. It seemed to pay off.”

“To be on the main stage and scoring important goals like today, it means a lot.”

“We just concentrate on ourselves; we take it game by game. We want to get as many points as we can and keep the pressure on.”

Luke Shaw said to Sky Sports, “Going 1-0 down in the first half we knew it was going to be a hard game and we have been in this situation so many times – second half we came back much better.”

“That’s a positive but we need to start the first half better than we normally do. Maybe we’re not ready for the game but we have the quality and can’t keep counting on second-half performances.”

“He (Solskjaer) said exactly what I have just said, we have been in this situation a lot of times, we have the quality, are a fit team and we always believe. When we got the first goal I felt we were going to win.”

“We are just focusing on ourselves, even more so we look at the City result and we are disappointed with the points we have let go this season. We have two games in four days, we need to be ready.”


Manchester United are 10 points behind champions-elect City but will have the chance to move within four points as they face Leicester and Liverpool before the league leaders next play.

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