Manchester United closed the gap to Manchester City at the top of the Premier League table to ten points with a 3-1 victory over Aston Villa on Sunday afternoon.
The Villans survived some early pressure to take the lead on 24 minutes, when Bertrand Traore received the ball on the left of the penalty area, rolled Victor Lindelof and fired superbly across goal and into the top corner of the net.
Man Utd came out with a point to prove in the second half and Paul Pogba’s deflected shot left Emiliano Martinez wrong-footed, but it missed the post and went wide. Pogba was involved again on 52 minutes, drawing a foul from Douglas Luiz in the penalty area, and Bruno Fernandes did the rest, sending Martinez the wrong way.
Villa were rocked by this calamitous mistake, and four minutes later it was 2-1 to the visitors. Aaron Wan-Bissaka laid the ball into Mason Greenwood and the young forward dummied and fooled his marker, firing low into Martinez’s near post.
Substitute Edinson Cavani wrapped up the three points on 88 minutes when he darted in front of his marker to head home a Marcus Rashford cross, while Ollie Watkins was handed a red card for simulation late on.
That victory means Manchester City will have to wait a little longer to be mathematically crowned champions of England.
Let’s have a gander at the player ratings.
Emiliano Martinez (GK) – 5/10 – Tested early on by Shaw, but rose to the challenge. Repelled plenty of long-range shots, although was more troubled by a Greenwood drive from an angle. Sent the wrong way by Fernandes for the spot-kick. Should have done a lot better with Greenwood’s strike. Caught off guard, perhaps.
Matty Cash (RB) – 6/10 – Never shied away from the battle with Pogba, keeping a close eye on the ball and not the mesmerising footwork. Didn’t have a bad game at all.
Ezri Konsa (CB) – 6/10 – Tasked with stopping the free roaming Pogba and cut off the Frenchman’s supply whenever he stepped foot inside the penalty area. Rescued Martinez by hammering the ball away from the line. Was furious with Luiz for his role in the penalty – rightly so. The others crumbled around him.
Tyrone Mings (CB) – 5/10 – Typically uncompromising first half, but misread Greenwood’s movement terribly for the forward’s strike, allowing him to cut in onto his left foot. Game over.
Matt Targett (LB) – 6/10 – Beaten a couple of times by the lightning movement of Greenwood, but stuck to his task well. Stopped Wan-Bissaka from making any progress on that flank.
Douglas Luiz (CM) – 5/10 – Wasted a great breakaway opportunity with a sloppy pass out wide. Can’t give up chances like that. Such a stupid challenge to let all his teammates down and concede a penalty. Dumb.
John McGinn (CM) – 6/10 – So good at the basics, reading the game well and positioning himself expertly to break up any attacks. Intercepted Lindelof’s poor ball to supply Watkins, but he couldn’t apply the finish. Overwhelmed in the second half.
Ross Barkley (AM) – 5/10 – A bit of a passenger in the first half. Couldn’t get on the ball, and his work off it has never been his true strength. Not much better in the second half. Produced a woeful free-kick.
Bertrand Traore (RW) – 7/10 – What a finish! Rolled Lindelof with a shimmy and fired into the top corner. A proper menace. Took a whack on the leg when tracking back to stop Pogba.
Ollie Watkins (ST) – 5/10 – Pressed the life out of the Man Utd defence in the first half and almost got his reward with a low strike which was well saved. Let himself down with a dive at the end, which saw him receive a second yellow.
Anwar El-Ghazi (LW) – 6/10 – Very disciplined in his defensive work, even if he was unable to make much impact in the final third. Missed connecting with a dangerous cross at the far post by a whisker.
Jacob Ramsey (CM) – 6/10
Wesley (ST) – 6/10
Keinan Davis (ST) – 7/10
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Dean Henderson (GK) – 7/10 – Caught off guard by Traore’s strike and couldn’t get near it. Got down low to stop Watkins’ effort just before half-time. Solid again.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka (RB) – 7/10 – Wasted some good crossing positions with deliveries into unoccupied areas. Rolled the ball into Greenwood for Man Utd’s second.
Victor Lindelof (CB) – 6/10 – Sold completely by Traore’s dummy and turn, allowing Villa to take the lead. Not ‘Man Utd quality’ defending. Misplaced a pass out from the the back and almost gifted a second.
Harry Maguire (CB) – 8/10 – Headed away brilliantly from a corner which curled under the goalposts under pressure. The best of the backline, regularly matching Traore’s pace with surprising speed across the ground. Off injured at the end, fingers crossed it’s nothing serious.
Luke Shaw (LB) – 7/10 – Stung Martinez’s palms with a shot from an acute angle. A bit sloppier in possession than usual, putting teammates under pressure with short passes. Recovered his form in the second half.
Scott McTominay (CM) – 7/10 – Caught on the ball for Traore’s strike, although hard to blame him for Fred’s decision that put him under pressure. Recovered to control the midfield battle.
Fred (CM) – 6/10 – Had a crack from range, but little danger of beating Martinez. Played McTominay into trouble and caused his side to lose possession for the opener. The Scotsman won’t have thanked him for that.
Bruno Fernandes (AM) – 7/10 – A quiet and frustrating first half, summed up by his attempts to find the net from 40 yards. Handed the opportunity to score from the spot, and obviously didn’t miss. Much better in the second period.
Mason Greenwood (RW) – 8/10 – Dragged a shot well wide which almost turned into an assist for Rashford. Spun brilliantly to make space in the box, and his low shot just had enough on it to sneak past Martinez. Clinical.
Marcus Rashford (ST) – 7/10 – Cheeky back-heel to free Shaw for a shot on goal. Got his feet tangled a couple of yards from the net. A missed chance. Great cross to feed Cavani for the third.
Paul Pogba (LW) – 8/10 – Drew players in and popped the ball off with style. Those magic feet drew the penalty to pull Man Utd level, too. Another marvellous display by the Frenchman.
Edinson Cavani (ST) – 7/10 – SUPER SUB! Came on and killed the game, running across his marker and heading home. Classic movement from a top predator.
Eric Bailly (CB) – 6/10
Nemanja Matic (CM) – N/A