Manchester City’s champagne remains on ice after Manchester United fought back to beat Aston Villa 3-1 and delay their rivals’ Premier League title celebrations.
A late defeat for City to Chelsea on Saturday has seemingly only prolonged the inevitable but United had to work hard to preserve their unbeaten away status in the league at Villa Park.
Bertrand Traore’s fine strike, albeit United’s defending left plenty to desire, had Villa dreaming of a first home win over the Red Devils since an EFL Cup tie in 1999.
But Bruno Fernandes’ penalty preceded Mason Greenwood putting United in front and Edinson Cavani’s late header came before a red card for Villa’s Ollie Watkins as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side – who reached the Europa League final in midweek – maintained the slimmest of title hopes.
United started strongly and Luke Shaw stung the palms of Emiliano Martinez before Marcus Rashford got in behind to tee up Fernandes to stab wide.
It was Villa who went ahead in style, though. Douglas Luiz picked up the pieces after Niall McGinn had dispossessed Scott McTominay to tee up Traore, who turned Victor Lindelof and fired into the top-right corner.
Greenwood’s shot across the face of goal brought the best out of Martinez, while Dean Henderson also palmed away Watkins’ low shot.
United were level in the 52nd minute when Fernandes rolled home from 12 yards after Luiz clumsily tripped Paul Pogba in the area.
27 – Bruno Fernandes has scored 27 goals for Manchester United in all competitions this season, the most by a midfield player for a Premier League club in a single campaign since Frank Lampard for Chelsea in 2009-10 (also 27). Machine. pic.twitter.com/YSrLpaO2p2
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) May 9, 2021
Four minutes later, Greenwood had spun Tyrone Mings and beaten Martinez with a drive into the near corner he really ought to have saved.
United lost captain Harry Maguire to an ankle complaint but Cavani’s glancing header from Rashford’s pinpoint cross gave Villa no hope, and Watkins received a second yellow and a subsequent red for a needless dive late on.
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United are now unbeaten in 25 consecutive away Premier League games, while it is now 22 games unbeaten away at Villa for the Red Devils.
Solskjaer’s side have enjoyed doing things the hard way this term. This was the 10th occasion in which they have conceded the first goal in an away league fixture – but United have won nine and drawn one of those.
This was the first of three league matches in the space of five days for United due to the rearranging of their fixture against Liverpool, postponed last week due to fan protests against the Glazer family, and this win will do little but delay the arrival of the trophy in the blue half of Manchester.
Bruno influential again
Fernandes’ goal was his 27th goal in all competitions this term, the most by a Premier League midfielder in a single campaign since Frank Lampard in 2009-10.
The Portuguese was a figure of calm for United, converting his spot-kick with trademark coolness, while he also finished with three key passes.
Greenwood beats Rooney benchmark
Greenwood is a man in form for United, with this his fifth goal in as many Premier League matches. His previous five strikes in the competition came across 29 games.
In total, he now has 16 Premier League goals for United – the most of any teenager for the Red Devils, beating the 15 managed by Wayne Rooney.
United have a quick turnaround with Leicester City visiting Old Trafford on Tuesday. Aston Villa host Everton on Thursday.