Ross Barkley remains out with a hamstring injury (no conspiracies allowed here) . Mings comes back in after his suspension to join Konsa in the backline.
United got off to a quick start and put pressure on Martinez in the first few minutes. Thankfully, the keeper and defense were able to spare Villa a rough start to the new year. Follow the early chance both teams settled in to battle it out in the midfield with Manchester United the better side early on.
Martinez was forced into another save at the ten minute mark after a giveaway from Targett (after a tough long throw to control from Martinez). Bruno Fernandes picked up the ball and found Marital on their left, he cut it back in and forced a quality save.
A few minutes later John McGinn had Villa’s first chance, Cash overlapped Grealish and fired a ball to the far post. There John McGinn did his best El Ghazi impression by trying to volley it in. De Gea palmed it out for a corner. It was one of the many highlights of the first half for the Scottish Midfielder. He was clearly up for the game an seemed to never stop running even when United dominated possession.
Manchester United counter attack was their biggest forward path. And that was how they broke the deadlock. A Wan-Bissaka cross somehow got passed a diving Mings at the near post and Martial put it home. Even on a few views I’m not sure Mings didn’t head the ball away. The ball must have been perfect or Mings was wrong footed, or a bit of both. But he didn’t and the hosts took the lead 1-0 with about five minutes left in the first half.
Villa could feel a little hard done going to the break down such a soft goal. But that said Manchester United were the better team and they took their one big chance. And Villa had too many turnovers to allow United to break.
Neither side made any changes when the teams flipped sides and began the second half.
Harry Maguire picked up the first yellow card in the match three minutes into the half for shoving over Jack Grealish (drink). Villa couldn’t take advantage of the set piece and United counter attacked right away. So it was a continuation of the first half.
Grealish found himself with possession on the left side of the United box. He picked out a perfect looped cross to the far post, Watkins headed on target but De Gea pushed it over his bar for a corner. A minute later El Ghazi hit a shot off target after a wonderful long pass from Grealish as Villa were trying to push forward.
Eric Bailly picked up a yellow card for a late challenge on McGinn after he had a heavy touch. A card for each of the central defenders.
El Ghazi was fouled down the left a few minutes later. He tried to take it quickly but a United defender prevented it. John McGinn grabbed the ball and fired a pass to Jack Grealish before the defense was set. Jack took the ball into the box and sent a perfect low cross to the the far post. Bertrand Traore took his time, settled it well and made no mistake in making it 1-1.
The scoreline didn’t hold though. Paul Pogba felt a tap in the box, kicked his own leg and went down. No hesitation from the referee in pointing to the spot. Mr. VAR continues to be mystery in things that it rules on.
Player fouled: Paul Pogba— Ty Bracey (@TyBracey) January 1, 2021
Fouled by: Paul Pogba
Penalty to Man Utd pic.twitter.com/xacUFfh0LA
Manchester will always get that call, Bruno Fernandes hit a perfect penalty to make it 2-1.
With 15 minutes left, Paul Pogba should have made it 3-1. He had a clear shot that he put wide after a very nice pull back cross. It was part of them match United were pushing against a tiring Aston Villa. Martinez pushed a Fernandes shot over his bar moments later. After the corner Martial tried the same thing but it was off target (though very close). Villa gave the ball right back and the United pressure continued.
Villa made their first sub with Jacob Ramsey on for Bertrand Traore with 12 minutes to go. The young man is quickly becoming the first option off the bench.
Cash took a free kick after yet another foul with no yellow card shown. It was a great ball in and Mings gets his head to it but pushes it wide. It really was a perfect ball. The announcers here in the U.S. said it would have counted because of a foul on Mings. Keinan Davis came on for El Ghazi after the free kick. Right away Davis won a header from a Cash cross. Davis, who was back peddling at the time, push it wide. Villa continued to push looking for the equalizer.
Luke Shaw got a yellow for an obvious tug to prevent a Villa counter attack. So many fouls.... Matic got one for yet another foul on Grealish.
Five minutes were added to the end of the second half.
Cash forced a wonderful save from De Gea in the 92’. Right after Watkins missed a header at the far post. I’m not saying he put it off target. He just missed the ball. Right before the final whistle the final chance fell to Keinan Davis in the box but a United defender made a crucial block.
Disappointing evening at the end of a disappointing match. But Aston Villa had their chances but they just didn’t take them.