Wednesday, January 19

Manchester United win at Aston Villa and City await the Premier League title | United manchester


For a moment, Manchester City must have thought that the triumph of the title would be confirmed. Manchester United seemed to be on the wane under the pressure of a hectic schedule. But for the ninth time in this season’s Premier League, Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s side turned upside down in the second half. The city will have to wait; And so will Villa, who has yet to beat United in the league at Villa Park since 1995.

Bertrand Traoré’s beautiful shot brought Dean Smith’s team to the lead, but Bruno Fernandes tied a penalty won by Paul Pogba early in the second half and four minutes later Mason Greenwood shot United ahead. The previously scruffy visitors were left as winners as comfortable as Edinson Cavani came off the bench to make it 3-1.

However, the match ended on a worrying note for United and England, as Harry Maguire limped off in the 72nd minute.

This was the first of three league games in five days for United, or six in a 17-day span that culminated in the Europa League final in Gdansk. Solskjær has a large staff and you will have to manage it carefully; it has no other central Maguire standard.

Things had started off smoothly for United. The way Villa started made one wonder if they believed they could win. Rather than attack the visitors to test his freshness, Villa looked strangely tame, allowing United to enter the game and dominate the first five minutes. Luke Shaw was encouraged to attack down the left several times, and United’s defenders had time to serve him with long diagonal passes. Greenwood and Marcus Rashford each had half chances to open the scoring.

Soon Villa woke up. It didn’t take long for them to make United look tired and run down. Anwar El Ghazi signaled Villa’s growing threat as he unloaded his first shot, drilled from 20 yards. As Villa pressed with new intensity, with Ollie Watkins leading from the front as always, United’s balance crumbled. They made mistakes on countless passes and were frequently caught in possession. John McGinn and Douglas Luiz gained control in midfield, too strong and sharp for Fred and Scott McTominay, while United’s creative players, especially Fernandes, simply strayed from the game.

Still, United could have taken the lead in the 21st minute when Shaw, their most dynamic player, lunged forward again, but Rashford couldn’t adjust his feet fast enough to deflect a Greenwood cross to the net from six yards. . That was nothing compared to the slowness that helped Villa open the scoring moments later.

United lost possession three times in a matter of seconds before Traoré launched a wonderful shot into the net from an acute angle. First Matt Targett charged a Greenwood pass deep into United territory; then McGinn caught the ball as McTominay and Fred moved out of their own area, helping Luiz; and then Victor Lindelöf only managed to push the ball into Traoré’s path after having a chance to clear it. An exemplary show of determination was immediately provided by Traoré, whose shot left Dean Henderson with no chances.

Villa rarely had problems for the rest of the first half. Solskjær knew what to do. After all, his team has been in and out of similar situations many times this season. The manager resisted any temptation to make personnel changes during the interval and instead achieved an improvement in the players who started, who came out for the second period with renewed vitality and intention. Mind you, two fewer goals could have been found if El Ghazi had connected better with a shot from the edge of the area in the 50th minute after a counterattack led by Ross Barkley. That was a disappointment for the visitors. Moments later they received a penalty, when Paul Pogba maneuvered his body between the ball and Luiz, who collided with the Frenchman from behind, leaving the referee with a simple decision. Fernandes sent Emi Martínez backwards from the penalty spot.

Villa needed to stabilize so as not to spur United further. But they were too soft four minutes later when Aaron Wan-Bissaka swallowed down the right and supplied Greenwood on the right side of the area. The 19-year-old became a confused bystander for Tyrone Mings as he swung nimbly past the England defender and fired a low shot at the near post.

Villa tried to reply quickly and United endured a nervous wait on the hour as VAR reviewed a possible Greenwood hand after an El Ghazi cross. Villa continued to stretch the visiting defense, whose tensions ended up taking its toll, with Maguire limping after a clash with El Ghazi in the 72nd minute. That ended an impressive record for Maguire, who until then had not missed a minute of league action for United since joining them in August 2019. That injury could still have repercussions for both United and England. But at least Cavani secured a positive result for United here by heading a Wan-Bissaka cross into the net.


www.theguardian.com

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