Manchester United beat Aston Villa 1-0 at Old Trafford today to solidify their chances of finishing in the Premier League top four.
Erik ten Hag made a couple of changes to the side which drew against Tottenham Hotspur in midweek. Tyrell Malacia and Marcel Sabitzer came in for Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Antony.
Aston Villa came to the Theatre of Dreams full of confidence. They were unbeaten in their last ten games, winning eight and drawing two.
Bruno Fernandes broke the deadlock before the break after Emiliano Martinez parried Marcus Rashford’s shot onto the Portuguese’s path.
Unai Emery galvanised Villa and they came out fighting in the second half.
They were vibrant but failed to breach United’s defence. Douglas Luis came closest to scoring for the away side but was denied by a wonderful clearance by Victor Lindelof.
Here are our three talking points from the game.
Ice-cold Bruno Fernandes
Ten Hag selected Fernandes on the right wing to accommodate Sabitzer in the number 10 role.
Even though it is not his position, he played superbly and led the team from the front.
He completed nine final third passes and made two tackles and three ball recoveries.
Fernandes was the first to react after Martinez pushed Rashford’s tame shot away. The deflection helped his strike loop over the goalkeeper, which ultimately proved to be the match-winner.
It was his 100th career league goal, 42 of which have come for Man United.
His celebration after scoring the goal was ice-cold. He stared down the Villa fans who had taunted him during the game.
Maguire-less defence shines again
With Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez injured, Harry Maguire was tipped to play a significant chunk of the remaining games.
However, Ten Hag continued to back Lindelof and Luke Shaw in the heart of the defence. The pair worked seamlessly and nullified the threat possessed by Ollie Watkins.
Tyrell Malacia has not been in the best form recently, but his marvellous last-ditch tackle against John McGinn was as important as scoring a goal.
It won’t be a surprise if Maguire leaves United this summer.
Massive victory for Man United in top-four battle
The Red Devils are close to securing Champions League football for next season.
It was a nervy ending for United, but that was expected considering the form Villa have been in since Emery was appointed.
Today’s win takes them nine points clear of fifth-placed Tottenham Hotspur with a game in hand, increasing the likelihood of them finishing in the top-four spots.
Newcastle United registered a victory today, keeping them two points ahead of the 20-time Premier League champions.
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