MAN UNITED 2, ASTON VILLA 2
Manchester United faltered against a newly-promoted team for the second successive Sunday as they lost out on the chance to leap to fifth place in the Premier League.
After last Sunday’s dramatic draw at Sheffield United, this time they were held at home by Aston Villa in another see-saw battle as they inched back into the top half of the table after the worst start to the season since 1988-89 season having picked up 18 points from 14 league matches.
In the 1988-89 season they finished 11th as a time when Sir Alex Ferguson, early in his reign at United, was feeling the heat.
United, behind to a Jack Grealish worldy goal, hit back through Tom Heaton’s unlucky own goal and header from Victor Lindelof only for Villa central defender Tyrone Mings to make it 2-2.
And it was deserved point for Villa who played with purpose and style going forward, Grealish a marvel in midfield and the type of player United lack in the middle.http://gty.im/1191270485
United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted his side ought to have performed better as they are 22 points off top spot and have kept only two clean sheets in the last 25 league matches.
He said: “These boys will learn and improve. Sometimes inconsistency will happen with young boys.
“We failed to control the game at times, but we can’t do anything about that now. We have to work on us as a team and become a better unit.
“We were exciting going forward but we should have controlled the game more. Aston Villa had too many counter-attacks for my liking.”
Solskjaer added United struggled to get to grips with falling behind and they were lucky to go in 1-1 at the break as the opening period “was not good enough”.
“The second half was good and we put pressure on them and created big chance to win it.
“Overall we didn’t deserve to win after the first half.”
Villa manager Dean Smith described it as a “really good, spirited performance” especially in the opening period.
He added Grealish’s goal was “sublime” but the second-half miss, with the score at 1-1, was “a chance he would have put away 99 times out of 100”.
It was an attack-minded United 4-2-3-1 line up which included Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Daniel James and Juan Mata as the adventurous front four.
There were 11 changes to the side that kicked off their Europa League tie at Astana on Thursday but only one from the side that started at Sheffield United last Sunday as Mata took over from Phil Jones.
United also welcome back former player Heaton who was in goal for Aston Villa.
It was a dream start for Villa who went ahead in the 11th minute through a fabulous solo effort from Grealish.
Anwa El Ghazi’s cross from the right eluded everyone as it found Grealish on the left.
The midfielder cut inside Andreas Pereira and bent an exquisite effort from the left of the box into the far top corner from 12 yards, his fifth goal of the season.
United were lucky not to fall 2-0 behind on the half hour when Villa substitute Trezeguet, replacing the injured El Ghazi, had a goal ruled out for offside as Grealish was caught out in the build-up.
The Reds had created little up to this point, Martial shooting straight at Heaton while Rashford dragged a shot narrowly wide.
United dragged themselves level in the 42nd minute through Rashford’s header from inside the six-yard box which went down as a Heaton own goal as replays showed the ball hit the upright and went in off the unlucky keeper.
A short corner was played out to Pereira whose cross from the right was met by Rashford whose header struck the upright and rebounded in off the keeper.
Villa came close to regaining the lead when Trezeguet’s fierce shot was turned over by David De Gea.
Martial came close to giving Unite the lead after cutting in from the right and seeing an angled shot kept out by Heaton’s chest.
Mata then went down in the box but calls for a penalty were brushed aside by referee Craig Pawson as replays suggested the player went down too easily.
Villa almost regained the lead when Grealish, sliding in unmarked at the far post, sliced his shot wide following a cross from Trezeguet.
United went 2-1 ahead in the 64th minute after Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s piledriver turned behind for a corner by Heaton.
From the resulting short corner, Fred’s cross glanced off the head of Wesley for Lindelof to steer a header across the face of goal into the far corner.
United’s joy was short-lived as Villa levelled within two minutes when Matt Targett’s cross was volleyed home by Mings who looked offside but replays showed he had not transgressed.
Solskjaer made his first change with 16 minutes left when Mata made way for Jesse Lingard soon to be followed by Luke Shaw replacing Brandon Williams and Mason Greenwood on for Martial.
Despite the changes and putting Villa under intense pressure late on, United were unable to conjure a winner as they have now surrendered nine points at Old Trafford after a loss to Crystal Palace and draws against Arsenal, Liverpool and Villa.