Manchester United produced another unerring attacking display to sweep struggling Aston Villa aside 3-0, but only after a contentious penalty unlocked the door at Villa Park.
Relegation-threatened Villa struck the post through Trezeguet in an encouraging opening quarter but unravelled after Ezri Konsa was harshly adjudged to have fouled Bruno Fernandes by referee Jon Moss.
Fernandes converted his seventh Premier League goal of the season from the spot to rouse United from their slumber before Mason Greenwood’s thunderbolt put them in control on the stroke of half-time.
Paul Pogba ended the game as a contest with his first goal since April 2019 early in the second half, and United could have had more as demoralised Villa heads fell.
The victory extends United unbeaten run to 17 games in all competitions and moves them to within a point of fourth-placed Leicester in the race for Champions League qualification. Villa remain 19th, four points from safety with four games remaining to save their Premier League status.
Aston Villa: Reina (6), Konsa (5), Hause (6), Mings (5), Taylor (6), Grealish (5), Luiz (6), McGinn (6), El Ghazi (6), Trezeguet (6), Samatta (5).
Subs: Nakamba (5), Hourihane (5), Davis (5), Vassilev (n/a).
Man Utd: De Gea (7), Wan-Bissaka (7), Lindelof (7), Maguire (7), Shaw (7), Matic (6), Pogba (8), Greenwood (8), Fernandes (8), Rashford (7), Martial (7).
Subs: Williams (6), McTominay (6), Fred (6), James (6), Ighalo (5).
Man of the Match: Mason Greenwood
How United continued European pursuit
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer named the same team that thrashed Sheffield United, Brighton and Bournemouth but Manchester United were off the pace early on.
Aston Villa had numerous chances to seize the initiative but captain Jack Grealish blazed over from Konsa’s deep cross before Trezeguet clipped the outside of the post, as United’s hesitant defending went unpunished.
- Mbwana Samatta replaced Keinan Davis in Aston Villa’s only change from the defeat at Liverpool.
- Man Utd were unchanged for the fourth Premier League game running for the first time since 2006.
Fernandes, anonymous until that point, burst into life with a pirouette just inside the Villa area that saw him collide with Konsa and win United their 13th Premier League penalty of the season, despite appearing to initiate contact.
VAR confirmed the on-field decision and Fernandes made no mistake from 12 yards, sending Pepe Reina the wrong way, and from there United didn’t look back.
Anthony Martial and Greenwood drew saves from Reina in the Villa goal but just as it seemed the hosts had reached the interval without sustaining further damage, United doubled their tally.
Martial brilliantly initiated a counter in first-half stoppage-time, exchanging passes with Greenwood who punished hesitant Villa defending with an emphatic drive that saw him hit the target for the third successive game.
Villa needed to respond early in the second half but outclassed as United found their groove. Aaron Wan-Bissaka headed a glorious chance wide from four yards within minutes of the restart and the killer third soon followed.
Fernandes found Pogba in acres of space on the edge of the area from a corner and, with Villa reluctant to engage the Frenchman, he stroked his first goal of the season past the unsighted Reina from 20 yards.
Martial rattled the crossbar as a chastening Villa defeat threatened to take a turn for the worse, but the damage was already inflicted as United cruised to a victory that leave Champions League qualification in their hands and Villa’s survival hopes hanging by a thread.
Opta stats: Man Utd on the march
- Manchester United are the first side in Premier League history to win four consecutive games by a margin of 3+ goals, with the last team to do so in the English top-flight being Liverpool in October 1987.
- Manchester United are the first team to beat an opponent on every day of the week in the Premier League, with this match against Aston Villa making it the sixth fixture to be played on all seven days of the week in the competition.
- Aston Villa have conceded 65 goals in the Premier League this season; the same number they had after 34 games when they were last relegated in 2015-16 (finishing 20th).
- Manchester United are unbeaten in their last 21 Premier League away games against Aston Villa (W14 D7) – the longest unbeaten away run one team has had against another in English top-flight history.
What the managers said…
Aston Villa manager Dean Smith: “It unravelled with the first goal. We made a bright start, had some chances, they are always a threat on the counter, but it all changed round on the penalty decision.
“I can understand Jon [Moss] getting it wrong but I don’t know what VAR are looking at – it’s a disgraceful decision. They have a screen they can go and look at it, but they don’t seem to be bothered.”
Man Utd manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer: “I thought it was a penalty. The boy sticks out his leg, Fernandes does a fantastic Zidane or Maradona pirouette and he lands on him. I think it’s a penalty.
“But to go in 2-0 up at half-time was fortunate. From there we were in control and there was some excellent stuff in the second half. Even at 1-0 I think our defenders would have kept a clean sheet. They defenders took the criticism from last game and performed well.”
Keane: Defending like that gets you relegated
Sky Sports pundit Roy Keane on Aston Villa defending:
“Tyrone Mings gives the ball away for the second goal. He’s an experienced international defender. Mings has got to close down Greenwood, he doesn’t and that is why Villa will probably get relegated.
“When your central defenders are not brave enough to close the ball down and don’t do the basics, that is when teams get relegated. I cannot understand it, I’m scratching my head, and that is why Reina was shouting like a mad man. When you defend like that, you deserve everything you get.”
Man of the Match – Mason Greenwood
Mason Greenwood’s fourth goal in three games saw him become only the second teenager to score in three consecutive Premier League appearances for Manchester United after Wayne Rooney.
Greenwood also became the fourth player aged 18 or younger to score in three consecutive Premier League appearances, after Danny Cadamarteri, Michael Owen and Francis Jeffers.
Aston Villa host Crystal Palace on Super Sunday at 2.15pm – live on Sky Sports Premier League – before Manchester United entertain Southampton at 8pm on Monday Night Football – live on Sky Sports Premier League.