Aston Villa 0, Manchester United 3
Bruno Fernandes earned and converted a controversial penalty before Mason Greenwood and Paul Pogba fired in two missiles as Manchester United beat Aston Villa to close within a point of 4th place Leicester with four games to go.Embed from Getty Images
Both Trezeguet and Anthony Martial hit the woodwork but in reality United should have won by a greater margin in a one sided affair which saw Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side become the first in Premier League history to win four successive games by a three or more goal margin as they notched up a 17th unbeaten game in all competitions.
The Reds are also 6 points with a vastly superior goal difference – having netted their 100th goal of the season through Pogba – ahead of sixth place Wolves in the race for next season’s Champions League with four games to go while Aston Villa looked increasingly adrift in the relegation zone.
United were unchanged for the fourth game in a row when they lined up against Aston Villa at Villa Park.
Villa posed questions early on with a couple of free kicks and a wasteful volley over the bar by Jack Grealish while Trezeguet clipped the post with a shot as United started slowly.
But United hit back after 26 minutes when Ezri Konsa was unlucky to have been adjudged to have brought down Bruno Fernandes in the box after the Portuguese had stopped the ball but couldn’t stop colliding with the Villa man.
After a brief VAR check didn’t overrule referee Jon Moss’ decision Fernandes stepped up and converted United’s 13th spot kick of the season, drilling the ball in low to the left, and sending Pepe Reina the wrong way for his 7th goal of the season.
Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood forced Reina into low saves in the first half as United tried to get a second – and Fernandes’ header just before hald time after Luke Shaw’s pull back should have been on target.
The counter attack was productive for United, though, as Villa tried to get back into the game and on the stroke of half time on the end of another turn around Greenwood exchanged passes with Martial before arrowing a low shot past Reina from 20 yards out to make it 2-0.
It was Greenwood’s 16th goal of the season and his fourth strike in his last three games since the restart.
With the youngster in such hot form at the moment, Solskjaer agreed that, despite his age, “you can’t leave players out of the side when they score goals”.
John McGinn’s long range effort kept David De Gea honest while Marcus Rashford’s 20 yard missile was immediately ruled out for offside because Paul Pogba was stood in front of Reina while Neil Taylor slid in to dispossess Martial who was shaping to shoot from close range.
Fernandes’ subsequent corner fell to Pogba 25 yards out, and Grealish allowed him to step into space on the edge of the D and launch a missile which went past the unsighted Reina in the Villa goal to open his United account for the season.
It was Pogba’s first goal since April 2019 after an injury hit spell for the Frenchman when he scored twice against West Ham.
It was surely game over at that point, and Martial was denied by the crossbar as United attacked at will and Jack Grealish aggravated an injury.
Scott McTominay and Brandon Williams came on after 66 minutes to give Nemanja Matic and Aaron Wan-Bissaka a rest as United took a breather against a demoralised Villa side with Fred coming on for Fernandes soon after.
Martial and Greenwood were also given a rest with 11 minutes to go, with the Frenchman fuming at not being given a chance to net against the hapless home side.
Marvellous Nakamba bought down Dan James shortly after he came on but Rashford blazed the free kick over the bar.
Villa had precious few chances to threaten De Gea’s clean sheet – Connor Hourihane blazed over under close attention from Williams – but Rashford was denied by Reina as United eased themselves to victory.
GOALS – Aston Villa 0, Manchester United 3
Aston Villa 0, Man Utd 1: 27. Bruno Fernandes won a penalty after stopping the ball in the box and inviting the challenge from Ezri Konsa. He converted the spot kick himself – sending Pepe Reina the wrong way.
Aston Villa 0, Man Utd 2: 45+5. Mason Greenwood finished off a lightning United counter attack, exchanging passes with Anthony Martial before finishing ruthlessly with a low shot past Pepe Reina.
Aston Villa 0, Man Utd 3: 58. Bruno Fernandes’ corner fell to Paul Pogba, and Jack Grealish stopped short of tackling the Frenchman who simply took a step forward before burying a 20 yard strike past an unsighted Pepe Reina.
MATCH STATS – Aston Villa 0, Manchester United 3
Aston Villa: Reina, Konsa, Hause, Mings, Taylor, El Ghazi (Hourihane 59), Luiz (Vassilev 84), McGinn (Nakamba 59), Trezeguet, Grealish, Samatta (Davis 59)
Aston Villa Subs not used: Nyland, Lansbury, Jota, Guilbert, El Mohamady
Booked: Kona 53 (foul on Marcus Rashford), Nakamba (foul on Daniel James 81)
Man Utd: De Gea, Wan-Bissaka (Williams 66), Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw, Pogba, Matic (McTominay 66), Greenwood (James 79), Fernandes (Fred 71), Rashford, Martial (Ighalo 79)
Man Utd Subs not used: Romero, Bailly, Mata, Pereira
Booked: Wan-Bissaka 40, Matic 45+3 (foul on Jack Grealish), Fred (foul on Jack Grealish)
Goals: Fernandes pen 27; Greenwood 45+5; Pogba 58
Referee: Jonathan Moss