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Match Report: Aston Villa 1-2 Manchester United

by Mathew Cohen

Manchester United etched out a valuable 2-1 away win at Aston Villa to earn a long-awaited victory away against top nine opposition.

Man United kicked off the match at Villa Park, hoping to extend their three-game winning streak in all competitions. While the home side looked to be away on goal after a minute of play, Diogo Dalot put in an impressive sliding tackle to dispossess Jacob Ramsey.

Bruno Fernandes threaded an ingenious through ball to Rasmus Hojlund, but he was ruled offside, putting an end to United’s first real goalscoring opportunity after just five minutes of football.

Just as Villa seemed to be away on goal, Casemiro jumped in to hand United the ball, with Marcus Rashford, Alejandro Garnacho and Hojlund bursting forward. Although Rashford’s pass to Garnacho on the right was deflected out for a corner, United were unable to pose any danger. Clearly, Erik ten Hag’s men have more work to do if they hope to become more threatening from set pieces.

11 minutes in, Hojlund and Fernandes shared a one-two, cutting into the box with Villa’s defence narrowly closing down Hojlund to send the ball out for a corner. United certainly appeared to be the more threatening side early on.

Yet again, Villa attempted a quick counter, however, Dalot dispossessed Leon Bailey on the edge of the box with another impressive sliding tackle. There was great awareness from Dalot during the opening minutes of play.

16 minutes in, Rasmus Hojlund struck again. Harry Maguire got a header on an incoming corner, sending the ball in Hojlund’s direction. All that the Danish striker had to do was guide the ball into the back of the net to secure his fourth Premier League goal in his last four appearances.

Seven minutes later, Ollie Watkins passed the ball to John McGinn, who fired a venomous shot on goal that Andre Onana did well to tip around the post for a corner. Moments after the corner, Watkins got in a close-range shot with Onana heroically putting his body on the line to maintain United’s lead.

Half an hour in, Watkins appeared to be through on goal as he began to outpace Raphael Varane, who was the last United defender. Fortunately, Onana was quick to leave his box, clearing the ball from danger.

Casemiro was shown a yellow card after a tackle on Matty Cash, who was brought down sprinting at high speed. Upon closer inspection, however, it appeared that Cash dived, with Casemiro making minimal contact. Still, the discussion was not up for debate with the referee, who refused to hear Casemiro’s protests.

On the stroke of half-time, Onana was forced into saving a long-range effort by McGinn, but while he caught the ball, his body went out of touch, handing the home side a corner. Ultimately, United were able to quash the danger, with four minutes of added time being announced.

Two minutes into stoppage time, United applied pressure to the Villa backline, earning themselves a corner. While the corner was ultimately wasted, Kobbie Mainoo was shown a yellow card under suspicious circumstances as he appeared to gingerly bring down a Villa player on the counter-attack.

Ahead of the restart, Victor Lindelof came on for Luke Shaw. Shaw was probably forced off through injury as Harry Maguire had been seen signalling for a substitution for someone just before the end of the first half.

Two minutes into the half, Watkins surged into the centre of the box, taking a snapshot that Onana was able to push away from danger. United would need to tighten up at the back in order to prevent the home side from levelling the scoreline.

Following a United corner kick that was punted out of the danger zone, Mainoo sent in a threatening long ball to Fernandes, who appeared to be away on the counter. Villa keeper Martinez caught the ball just in time to prevent a clear opportunity for the United skipper to double his team’s lead.

Villa began to reapply pressure ten minutes into the half, with Lindelof being forced into action to clear a cross from Bailley for a corner. While United attempted to counter, Garnacho’s ball to Rashford was easily dealt with after Rashford took too long to respond. The left-winger has appeared to lack pace for much of the match. Still, Rashford made up for this failure by bringing the ball into the box in the subsequent attack, earning United a corner.

Yet again, the corner was easily dealt with by the Villa defence. Clearly, Ten Hag has plenty to do in training to make his team more effective from corners.

With 25 minutes to play, Villa piled on the pressure, earning back-to-back corners. Following a series of volleyball-like deflections, the ball fell to Douglas Luiz, who blasted the ball into the net from close range to equalise for Villa.

In the 73rd minute, Scott McTominay came on for Marcus Rashford, who produced a disappointing performance on the night.

Just three minutes later, Villa came close to grabbing the lead when Luiz took a shot that Dalot managed to block. While the loose ball fell to Moussa Diaby, his shot was well saved by Onana.

With nine minutes to play, Garnacho managed to get on the end of a Fernandes through ball and carried the ball into the penalty area. His grounded shot was easily saved, however, bringing an end to a prime opportunity to grab a late winner.

Five minutes from the end, super sub Scott McTominay struck again, getting on the end of a Dalot cross to head the ball into the net and restore United’s lead.

Two minutes into the six minutes of stoppage time, Hojlund and Mainoo made way for Jonny Evans and Sofyan Amrabat in a move to bolster United’s defence and hold onto their slender lead.

While United’s concentration lapsed during many stages of the match, Ten Hag’s team ultimately showed the determination late on to secure a long-overdue win against top nine opposition away from home.

Starting XI: Onana, Maguire, Fernandes, Rashford, Hojlund, Garnacho, Casemiro, Varane, Dalot, Shaw, Mainoo

Subs: Lindelof, McTominay, Amrabat, Evans

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