Manchester United went joint top of the Premier League table after a brilliant 2-1 victory at home to Aston Villa.
As a neutral it was a game I was really looking forward to watching, both sides have been in excellent form this season and especially over recent weeks, and the game lived up to the pre match hype.
Both halves were entertaining, and Manchester United nearly scored in the first half after only two minutes with Bruno Fernandes forcing a good save out of Villa keeper Emiliano Martinez. Fernandes then set up Anthony Martial as the Frenchman’s effort brought another good save out of the Villa keeper.
Villa then had a go themselves when John McGinn had an effort well saved by keeper David Gea as the visitors started to come on stronger as the half went on.
But it was Manchester United who took the lead 5 minutes before half-time when Anthony Martial headed in Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s cross to make it 1-0.
The Second-half was a brilliant one that started well when Ollie Watkins forced an Excellent save out of De Gea, the keeper tipping over well after Watkins headed towards goal. El-Ghazi then struck just over the bar as Marcus Rashford went close at the other end for Manchester United.
Villa than equalised when Jack Grealish put an excellent ball into the back post for Traore to tap in with his left foot on 58 minutes.
Less than five minutes later though Manchester United took the lead again through a Bruno Fernandes penalty, after Douglas Luiz made a clumsy challenge on Paul Pogba.
The game then Opened up and both sides were really pressing for a winner, coming close on a number of occasions. Tyrone Mings, Matty Cash and Kiernan Davis nearly bagged for Villa, Rashford and Pogba nearly scored for the home side. Eric Bailey made an unreal block in the dying seconds to keep it at 2-1, he was mobbed at the final whistle by his team mates and rightly so! What a massive win that is for Man Utd who look like they have a real chance of running Liverpool close this season.
MAN UTD 2 VILLA 1
Martial 40 Traore 58
Below I have copied both clubs match reviews incase you want an official report.
MAN UTD REPORT:
Manchester United moved level on points with Liverpool at the top of the Premier League table thanks to a stirring 2-1 win against Aston Villa at Old Trafford.
It was a riveting start to the new year with The Reds' first goal of 2021 going to Anthony Martial when he opened the scoring with a low, guided header five minutes before a breath-taking half came to an end. Villa’s standing as one of the most improved sides in the Premier League this season was obvious as they fought back to level terms on 58 minutes, through Bertrand Traore. However, the equaliser didn’t deflate the buoyant Reds who re-took the lead three minutes later with Bruno Fernandes making it 2-1 from the penalty spot. The manager made four changes from the side that had beaten Wolverhampton Wanderers in added time three days previously, with an eye on energy levels staying high. United certainly started with plenty of vitality with one of the newcomers, Fred, dinking over a superb pass for Bruno Fernandes in the box after just two minutes. The Portuguese midfielder forced a save from Emiliano Martinez and there was some chaos in the box before Villa managed to clear. Fernandes, inevitably, created one for Martial and the Frenchman’s stinger brought out another save from Martinez. Fred was prominent and sent in a rasping shot that flashed just over the bar, while, at the other end, John McGinn saw David De Gea match the early stops of his opposite number. It was a thrilling, breathless start from two of the in-form teams in the Premier League, with Villa enjoying a spell on top before Paul Pogba’s snapshot sent a warning back after 25 minutes of great entertainment. Villa grabbed back the initiative but it was Fernandes who came closest to scoring, with a curling right footer after 37 minutes. Finally a goal came courtesy of an excellent United move. De Gea started it, but it was Pogba's brilliant skill in midfield that caught the eye. He played it to Marcus Rashford and, after the cutest of flicks, Aaron Wan-Bissaka crossed for Martial to stoop and head in on the edge of the six-yard area. Villa came close to an early leveller with a Jack Greaklish cross being met by a header from Ollie Watkins. The striker’s well directed attempt was brilliantly flipped over the bar by De Gea. Then Anwar El Ghazi lashed one just over into the East Stand with Rashford answering with a shot. It was unrelenting action. But it was Villa who cashed in on their upbeat start after the interval, with an equaliser after 58 minutes. A quick free-kick caught the Reds flat-footed and Grealish crossed to the far post where Traore smashed in with his left foot. The Reds were back in front just three minutes later. Douglas Luiz brought down Pogba in the box and after a nervous wait for VAR to confirm Michael Oliver’s decision, Fernandes crashed in the penalty to make it 2-1. Martial almost made it three with a ferocious shot that was stopped by Martinez. There was no let up in this hugely exciting, action-packed new year offering and Pogba was a fraction away from a goal in the 73rd minute that would have brilliantly finished off some excellent Luke Shaw work. Watkins went close for Villa, Fernandes brought out a top-class save from Martinez and Rashford saw a superb drive just flash over the bar. It was a hearts-in-mouths finale as Villa pushed for a late equaliser. Full-back Matty Cash was closest with a shot that was superbly palmed away by De Gea and Eric Bailly pulled off a match-winning block seconds from the end of a dramatic evening.
ASTON VILLA REPORT:
Aston Villa saw their five-match unbeaten run come to an end as they opened 2021 with a narrow 2-1 defeat against Manchester United on New Year’s Day. Anthony Martial’s close-range header handed the hosts the lead just before half-time at Old Trafford. Bertrand Traore’s third goal in four games levelled matters in the 58th minute but Bruno Fernandes’ penalty moments later, after Douglas Luiz was adjudged to have brought down Paul Pogba, proved the difference and settled an evenly-matched encounter. It was only a second Premier League defeat in eight away matches for Dean Smith’s battling side, who pushed United all the way. Defeat extends Villa’s winless record against United to 16 matches since 2009, with just one triumph in their last 44 league meetings, and they’ll now be looking to get back to winning ways in their FA Cup Third-Round tie against Liverpool next Friday.
Tyrone Mings returned to Aston Villa’s starting XI having been suspended for Monday’s draw at Chelsea, with Kortney Hause among the substitutes. It was the hosts who started on the front foot, Emi Martinez denying Fernandes early on before producing a super save to push away Martial’s 10th-minute strike from the edge of the penalty area. John McGinn tested David De Gea at the other end as Villa grew into the encounter and took the game to United, who remained dangerous in attack during an evenly-balanced and entertaining first half. But the home side opened the scoring five minutes before the interval as Martial stooped to head home Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s cross from close range.
Villa started the second period positively and Matty Cash sent an effort narrowly over the crossbar before Ollie Watkins was denied by De Gea and Anwar El Ghazi fired off target. Martinez saved well from Marcus Rashford following his jinking run in the 56th minute and it proved crucial as the Villans levelled almost immediately. McGinn took a quick free-kick and found Jack Grealish in space down the left channel and he surged into the box before crossing for Traore to fire home from six yards.
However, parity lasted just three minutes as Luiz brought down Pogba in the area and Fernandes converted the resulting spot-kick. Martial and Pogba went close for the home side while El Ghazi and Watkins threatened for Villa as both sides continued to go close at either end, Martinez pushing Fernandes’ long-range strike on to the crossbar in the 77th minute. Smith’s side applied pressure for a late leveller, Cash’s effort from distance parried by De Gea, but it was not to be as United stood firm for all three points.