Manchester United and Aston Villa faced off at Old Trafford on Friday afternoon looking to start the year in the right direction.
Manchester United vs Aston Villa
The Red Devils went into the match off the back of a scrappy 1-0 win over Wolves. BBC Sports Personality of the Year Marcus Rashford"s late winner sealed the win for United, and the home side entered the night in 2nd place, three points behind defending champions Liverpool.
The Villans visited Old Trafford just three days after holding Chelsea to a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge. Despite barely staying up last season, Villa went into the match in 5th place, with their superb run of form drawing them close to a midtable finish.
Before the match, both teams held a moment of silence to honor the life of Scottish footballing icon Tommy Docherty. Docherty famously denied Liverpool the treble by leading United to the FA Cup in 1977, nine years after enjoying a short spell in charge of Villa.
Here are three big moments that defined Manchester United vs Aston Villa.
Martial breaks the deadlock
Despite starting on the front foot, Manchester United were guilty of squandering many chances throughout the match. Paul Pogba found himself at the heart of United’s attacks, but it took until the 40th minute for the home side to grab the lead.
The first of the three big moments came after an intricate piece of build-up play between Pogba and Rashford freed Aaron Wan-Bissaka into space. The full back’s cross was then headed in by Martial, as the Frenchman scored just his second goal of the season to give United a slim advantage into the half.
Traore slots it home
Villa looked a much better side in the second half, and they found a reward for their efforts in the 57th minute. John McGinn’s quickly taken free-kick found Wan-Bissaka out of position, while talisman Jack Grealish had the freedom of the Stretford End in front of him. United vs Aston Villa
Grealish’s low cross found Bertrand Traore, and the former Chelsea man took a touch before slotting home past a sliding Harry Maguire and the helpless David De Gea in goal. This was the second of the three big moments, as it woke United up. The home side went on to regain the lead just four minutes later thanks to a controversial penalty.
Bailly saves the day
This was THE big moment of the match. Deep inside injury time, Villa forced United to drop and defend as they searched for a point. Minutes after Matty Cash’s strike stung De Gea’s palms, Eric Bailly bravely put his body on the line to block Keinan Davis’ late leveler. United manager Ole-Gunnar Solksjaer described the last ten minutes as a "cup final" and Bailly’s great piece of awareness sealed the win for the Reds.
United vs Aston Villa was a tense match, filled with crunching tackles, flying elbows, and wasteful finishing. Despite putting up a brave fight, Villa missed the chance to jump into fourth place, while United find themselves joint-top until Monday.
Bruno Fernandes picked up his 11th goal of the season for United, while Villa"s Jack Grealish grabbed his 7th assist to go level with the Portuguese.
Mark your calendars for January 17th. Liverpool vs United may turn out to be the biggest game of the season.
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