With Everton dropping points at home to West Ham and the fixture of the weekend being between Chelsea and Manchester City in gameweek 17, it allows Manchester United to take the advantage of the current situation should they beat Aston Villa, who have one of the best away records in the league. Dean Smith’s men have had quite the turnaround in the last six months of football, from finishing one point above the relegation zone last year, to sitting in seventh place at the moment.
Looking at the match as a whole, the visitors had edged out the hosts with the control of the game and the possession of the ball, especially in the last 10 to 15 minutes of the match, as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side intended on defending deep and holding onto the lead whilst the Villains were piling on the pressure and were showing good moments through Jack Grealish and Matthew Cash.
The Red Devils were the better and stronger team in the first half of the match, showing good composure on and off the ball, but were lacking the cutting edge in the final third of the pitch. However, the moment that the home side came in the 40th minute of the game, as Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s cross from the right flank was met by the head Anthony Martial, which was guided into the back of the net, with the questions being raised of how quickly Aston Villa were caught off guard.
The intensity continued after the half-time break and the attacking moves by both teams were much better, with two big chances being created for each team. Villa were able to pick up the equaliser in the 55th minute, as the side took a quick free kick out onto the left side into Jack Grealish, and his low driven cross was perfectly met by Bertrand Traore, who slotted the ball past David De Gea.
Manchester United regained their lead as Paul Pogba was brought down by Douglas Luiz in the penalty box, leading to Bruno Fernandes stepping up to take the penalty and scoring his 11th league goal of the season. With this result, it allows the Red Devils to remain in second place and level on points with league leaders Liverpool, and Dean Smith’s Aston Villa have now drop to seventh place.
Here are the three things we learnt from United’s latest league fixture…
The French duo are slowly returning back to their best
It’s not been the perfect of starts to the season so far, for both Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba, with the former lacking in confidence and failing to show his consistency in front of goal, and the latter is finally in a healthy state and is distanced away from any defensive duties. If the Frenchman can perform to the highest level and on a regular basis for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team, it could be the difference of finishing strongly in the top four positions to pushing for a crucial title challenge.
As Edinson Cavani is unavailable due to a three-game suspension, it was important for Martial to take this opportunity and get back into goal-scoring form, which he did when he gave his side the much needed lead in the 40th minute of the game. Now, focusing more on Pogba, who played in a preferred position of his on the left-wing, where he went on to win a penalty, completed two key passes, created one big chance as well as completed 37 accurate passes out of an attempted 48.
Eric Bailly continues to perform with back-to-back dominant performances
With Victor Lindelof currently on the sidelines with an ongoing back injury, a lot of doubts and questions were raised on how the partnership between Eric Bailly and Harry Maguire would turn out to be, especially since the last time they partnered together, it led to a 6-1 defeat at home to Tottenham Hotspur. However, the pair in the heart of defence have been top notch and are complimenting each other well, keeping two clean sheets in their last four games in all competition.
The Ivory Coast international’s presence and composure in the backline has proven to be very influential to the manager and most importantly to his team-mates, as the team does not show any nerve-wrecking or inconsistent moments when he is in the starting line-up. Due to his burst of pace, passing ability on the ball and his intelligence to read the game, it allows the side’s full-backs and the midfielders to play higher up the pitch, with the solid protection that Eric Bailly kindly provides.
Manchester United are finally looking to be heading into the right direction
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United are now level on points with league leaders Liverpool, showing the incredible turnaround they have had to their 2020/21 season, following the poor start that they had as well as being eliminated from the Champions League group stages. Since then, the Red Devils have gone a good run in the league and have not lost a league game since November.
If each player can continue to contribute effectively in the right areas of the pitch, like they are currently doing so, from Eric Bailly and Luke Shaw to Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford, then the only way is up for Manchester United. As long as the board and Ed Woodward can deliver one or two players to Solskjaer this month, the football club can finish the season in high flying colours.