Manchester United aim to start their 2021 with a bang when they take on the Premier League’s giant killers in Aston Villa on New Year’s Day! They were able to do so with a hard-fought 2-1 win, giving an ideal New Year’s gift to fans all around.
The Red Devils started the game in confident fashion and after creating a lot of chances, took the lead in the 40th when Anthony Martial’s powerful header went past Emiliano Martinez.
But Villa started the second half much better and got their equalizer in the 58th when Bertrand Traore scored from close to make it 1-1. United retook their lead almost immediately, with Bruno Fernandes slotting home a penalty perfectly in the 62nd-minute to make it 2-1.
Villa threw in the kitchen sink at United, but the Red Devils were able to scrape through their pressure to get a big one. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side are now level on points with Liverpool at the top of the league, only separated by goal difference. There’s more & more belief in the title charge in the air now!
Manchester United Player Ratings vs Aston Villa
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (7.5) –
Solskjaer made some clever changes, bringing Fred & McTominay to improve the energy levels in his team. His side are high on confidence and played like that today, going toe-to-toe and creating a lot of chances. Ole’s decision to give Pogba & Bruno free reigns was brilliant too, with both putting in great performances.
His subs were also okay, even though Van de Beek would’ve been a better option than James. He’s inscribed an impressive winning mentality into the team and a togetherness which is helping them power out these wins. Perhaps needs to guide his players to finish off games better & still be more clinical going forward.
David de Gea (7.5) –
De Gea seems to have his groove back and starts the game well, denying John McGinn with a terrific save in the 13th minute. Makes another outstanding stop to save Watkins’ header from close in the 52nd. Then makes another clutch diving save to deny Cash’s thunderous attempt in stoppage time. His brilliant saves kept United in the game again and helped them get another narrow win.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka (7.5) –
AWB needs a solid performance, especially going forward to hurt this Villa side. Linked up really well with Rashford to create Fred’s attempt early on. Looked much more intent going forward from the get-go and got rewarded for his hard-work when his great cross was converted by Martial.
But defensively he looked shaky on occasions and slacked off for the equalizer, allowing Grealish too much space to assist the equalizer. Recovered well with some clutch tackles late on to ensure Villa don’t get any points from the game. Better going forward today but has some defensive aspects to improve going forward.
Harry Maguire (7.0) –
Maguire looks much more settled with Bailly at his side and operating with confidence today. Made a few clutch challenges to avert Villa’s threat in the first half. Struggled against the pace of the game on occasions in the second half, but held himself well inside the box – winning everything in the air and making some key interceptions to get the ball forward.
Eric Bailly (8.0) –
Bailly gets his third consecutive start in the league after his recent impressive showings. Looks really solid with his assertive defending but got unluckily booked in the 55th. Makes an absolutely incredible last-ditch block to save a guaranteed equalizer in stoppage time to help his side get the win. Dominated Watkins in the middle, made clutch challenges and stomped his authority with an iron fist. Can’t really be dropped anymore.
Luke Shaw (7.0) –
Shaw is back into the starting XI and looks pumped for the battle. Making some clever forward runs and created Bruno’s late chance in the second half. Put in another great cross for Pogba’s attempt in the second half. Got the better off Traore in his side, making clever tackles and getting into the right positions to keep away Villa’s threat on his side. Another strong performance from Shaw.
Scott McTominay (6.0) –
McTominay’s acting like the dirty player in midfield, making some cynical fouls and aggressive challenges to rattle the Villa midfielders. Did really well to help United retain possession and made clever tackles. Despite driving forward well, his final product was missing on the day. Subbed after the hour mark.
Fred (6.5) –
The Brazilian midfielder is back and looks more creative, making a great pass to send Bruno through for his early chance. Got a big chance to score in the 16th, but his powered attempt soared over the net. After showcasing incredible energy levels to make clutch tackles and being the houndish figure in the first half, he fizzled away in the second half and looked a bit uneasy against Villa’s intensity.
Paul Pogba (8.5) –
Pogba’s operating in that weird left-wing cum midfield position today again. Getting quite involved and moving all over the field to help his side dominate. Got a big chance to score in the 25th but his attempt from close grazed wide. Kicked off the move leading to Martial’s strike by showcasing some lovely skills.
Worked well on the left channel and cleverly won the penalty by lulling Douglas Luiz into fouling him. Sneaked into the box to get a surprising shot from close range in the 73rd, but saw it whisker agonizingly wide of the target. He was absolutely everywhere today! Worked his socks off, got the ball forward brilliantly, did well defensively and created a lot of good things. Ran the show with an irresistible swagger.
Bruno Fernandes (8.0) –
Bruno starts the game strongly by getting behind Villa’s defence in the 2nd, but his shot from a narrow-angle was easily saved. Picked out Martial well for his chance. Then finds Pogba superbly inside the box for his attempt. Create a great chance for himself in the 37th after a wonderful turn inside the box, but sees his attempt move just wide.
But finally gets his goal via the penalty, which he thumped into the bottom corner with utmost conviction. Then nearly scored a worldie int he 77th, stealing the ball from Grealish before taking a brilliant shot from long-range that forced a top save. Created a load of scoring chances today and acted as United’s engine, driving them forward and pressing Villa’s midfielders extremely well.
Anthony Martial (7.5) –
With Cavani out, Martial is under pressure to bring the goals. Went close to scoring in the 10th but saw his attempted curler saved superbly. Finally breaks his goal drought at Old Trafford with a clever header to put his side ahead. Nearly gets another after a driving run into the box in the 69th, but his powerful attempt was saved really well.
Martial’s hold-up and link-up play were both solid and he continuously troubled Villa’s defenders with his impressive movement.
Marcus Rashford (6.5) –
Rashford should be buzzing after the Wolves winner and seems confident with his movement through the right. Linking up well with Wan-Bissaka and sent him through on goal superbly for Martial’s strike. Almost scores a cheeky goal in the 50th after an attempt from an extremely narrow-angle.
Moved past the defenders with ease and tested Martinez with two shots on target early in the second half. Tried an ambitious fizzed shot in the 77th only to see it power over the net. Caused a lot of chaos with his movement, but his final product could’ve been much better.
Nemanja Matic (6.0) –
Brought on after the hour-mark to help United see off the game and did that. While he looked a bit shaky against Villa’s pace on occasions, he managed things well in the backline and helped his side get the win.
Dan James (5.0) –
Did nothing but run around the field after coming on. His poor decision-making ruined some late counter-attacks too.
Axel Tuanzebe (N/R) –
Came on very late on to help United get the job done.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Pogba, Bruno & Bailly were all immense. But I’ll give this one to Pogba for running the show from midfield and putting in an all-round, near-flawless performance today.