It’s exactly a week since Manchester United were disappointedly dominated in a defeat by Wolves in the Premier League and leaves them with a mountain to climb if they are to regain their Champions League place for next season but the attentions turn to the FA Cup.
Ralf Rangnick will be hoping to be successful in the prestige tournament and potentially bring back trophy glory to Old Trafford something that hasn’t been done since 2017. And the German got closer to doing that with a 1-0 win as United progressed into the 4th round.
An unlikely combination in Scott McTominay and Fred lead to the deadlock being broken early to help United progress to the next round.
Story of the game
It was a strong opening at Old Trafford from the Red Devils in what seemed to be a tactical change in the formation from Rangnick as United lined up in a more structured 4-2-3-1 away from the 4-2-2-2 he has implemented since his arrival.
And the good start was rewarded with McTominay equalling his own record this season with the earliest goal of the season as he guide his header in from a phenomenal curling ball from Fred off the right.Embed from Getty Images
As often as United gave the ball away in the first half and that encouraging start was quickly disintegrating as Villa started to swarm the United 18 yard box with shots from close range, long-range, half-chances, and good passages of play.
Emi Buendía came close after skipping past the United left-hand side but his shot flashed wide. The Argentine carved out a couple of shots chances but nothing to trouble a more cohesively structured United than we’ve seen in recent weeks.
John McGinn’s long-range effort forced a great save from David de Gea and that was followed up with Ollie Watkins who capitalize on a poor touch from Victor Lindelöf but his effort struck the bar and was an inch way from equalizing at the half-hour mark.
Jacob Ramsey was the latest of the Villa players to test United’s defence but his shot was deflected wide as it brushes past the post.
Even though Villa went a long stretch of the first half putting United under serious pressure but they ended the first half as the stronger side and looked like the team that was going to score before half-time. With Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes coming close.
The second half didn’t carry as much success as the start of the first and once again Aston Villa took advantage of this and on the 50th-minute mark, Aston Villa equalized from a Danny Ings bundled effort after Ezri Konsa heads back across goal but VAR was there to intervene and after a long and indecisive wait the goal was disallowed for a foul on Edinson Cavani.
The belief was evident from Villa and it started to show who the team in the ascendancy was and once again Villa have the ball in the back of Manchester United but once again it was ruled out for offside on Ings as he combined with Watkins in a good display of football but the initial pass was played too late.
As the saying goes “It started to look like a proper FA Cup game” as the intensity raised the tackles started to fly in and followed with a flurry of yellow cards.
Greenwood had a brilliant chance to probably finish off the game for United as the ball broke to him on the right as he brushes past Targett but his decision-making, once he entered the box, was poor as Rashford who was left unmarked in the middle of the box.
Villa had a late penalty shout as Konsa goes down after being caught by Luke Shaw from the corner but it was nothing more than an accidental brush to the face and minutes later as the game petered out the final whistle blew.
It’s only half-time!
A sufficient win after a tough week full of controversy with all the leaks but United came out and got the job done by progressing into the next round in a competition they should back themselves to go far in this season. Villa showed quality and fought hard for long periods of the game and the reported new signings in Philippe Coutinho and Lucas Digne are only going to raise the quality.
If United are to get 3 points from Villa Park on the weekend they’re going to have to be more focused and be more proactive or it could be another setback in their ambitions of retaining Champions League football.