Bruno Fernandes scored his first Premier League goal in nearly three months as Manchester United beat Aston Villa 1-0 at Old Trafford on Sunday to take another big step towards securing a top-four finish.
United threw away a two-goal lead in the midweek draw with Spurs that upset their momentum a little, but returned to winning ways against a Villa side who were threatening to enter top-four contention.
One of the Premier League’s form teams since Unai Emery’s October appointment, Villa went close to an opener first, though United were good value for the lead when Fernandes punished questionable goalkeeping from Emiliano Martinez.
Despite putting Villa under intense pressure for much of the second half, additional goals were not forthcoming for United, who were ultimately indebted to Victor Lindelof’s late goal-line clearance as they held on.
United were also fortunate not to concede in the 19th minute when Diogo Dalot nudged Emiliano Buendia’s pass into Alex Moreno’s path, the Spaniard’s powerful drive crucially blocked by David de Gea.
They nearly capitalised on the let-off nine minutes later, Jadon Sancho teeing up Casemiro to hit the crossbar from 16 yards.
But the breakthrough did arrive just before half-time, Fernandes squeezing in from a tight angle when Martinez could only parry Marcus Rashford’s initial effort.
While United continued to dominate after half-time, their final pass was generally dreadful, with Sancho and Christian Eriksen making particularly poor decisions at crucial moments in the attacking third.
Villa almost took full advantage, but Lindelof managed to head Douglas Luiz’s shot clear from under the bar, with United surviving late pressure.
Man Utd player ratings
GK – David de Gea – 5/10 – The Man Utd number one didn’t have a whole lot to do.
RB – Diogo Dalot – 6/10 – Busy on the flank.
CB – Victor Lindelof – 8/10 – Has filled in very well since the first-choice centre-back pair suffered injuries. Made a brilliant goalline clearance to keep his side in the lead.
CB – Luke Shaw – 6/10 – Already an infinitely better centre-back than Harry Maguire.
LB – Tyrell Malacia – 6/10 – A solid outing for the young full-back.
CM – Casemiro – 7/10 – Kept things ticking over in midfield for the home side and hit the crossbar in the first half.
CM – Christian Eriksen – 7/10 – Uses the ball so, so, so well.
RM – Bruno Fernandes – 8/10 – Best player on the pitch. Scored the opener and was at the heart of everything good that Man Utd did.
AM – Marcel Sabitzer – 6/10 – Active on and off the ball throughout. Decent showing from the Austrian.
LM – Jadon Sancho – 4/10 – Saw a lot of the ball but needed to use it quicker than he did in dangerous areas.
ST – Marcus Rashford – 6/10 – Stretched Villa’s defence with runs in behind.
Antony – 5/10.
Fred – 5/10.
Anthony Martial – N/A.
Harry Maguire – N/A.
Erik ten Hag- 6/10 – The decision to move Bruno Fernandes out wide proved to be a good one.
Aston Villa player ratings
GK – Emi Martinez – 4/10 – Was kept busy by Rashford in particular. Probably could’ve pushed the Man Utd’s strike further wide than he did in the lead up to Man Utd’s opener.
RB – Ashley Young – 5/10 – Worked hard up and down the flank.
CB – Ezri Konza – 4/10 – Struggled to deal with Rashford’s pace.
CB – Tyrone Mings – 4/10 – Like his centre-back partner, the runs in behind proved to be an issue for Mings.
LB – Alex Moreno – 4/10 – Struggled to keep track of Fernandes.
RM – John McGinn – 5/10 – As dogged as ever, but lacked a bit of quality on the ball.
CM – Leander Dendoncker – 3/10 – Struggled against the quality in Man Utd’s midfield.
CM – Douglas Luiz – 4/10 – Should’ve equalised late in the game.
LM – Jacob Ramsey – 5/10 – Not quite at his best.
ST – Emi Buendia – 4/10 – A quiet showing from the Argentine.
ST – Ollie Watkins – 5/10 – A willing runner for Villa, but didn’t get enough of the ball.
Calum Chambers – 5/10.
Bertrand Traore – N/A.
Jhon Duran – N/A.
Lucas Digne – N/A.
Unai Emery 5/10 – The 4-4-2 didn’t really work due to the sheer quality Man Utd have in the middle of the park.