Manchester United consolidated their place in the Premier League (PL) top-four as a narrow 1-0 victory over European-chasing Aston Villa extended the Red Devils’ unbeaten home streak in the league to 15 matches – the longest of any side in the division.
Having squandered a two-goal lead to draw with Tottenham on Thursday, the hosts knew a positive response was needed against their in-form opponents. Roared on by the fervent home support, United looked to stamp their authority on proceedings during the early exchanges, with Marcus Rashford and Casemiro both going close to breaking the deadlock inside the opening half-hour.
Grateful to still be level, Villa – unbeaten in their last 10 PL matches, searched for a foothold in the contest before HT, however it was United who finally made their pressure count with the breakthrough six minutes before the interval.
Rashford, a constant threat to the visitors’ rearguard, saw a low effort parried away by Emiliano Martínez and the loose ball fell to Bruno Fernandes who lifted a clever finish into the net for his 100th career league goal.
Armed with the momentum, United looked to press home their advantage in the early stages of the second half.
However, despite plenty of possession inside the Villa half, a lack of cutting edge in the final third continued to frustrate the home faithful, as Rashford saw another effort thwarted by Martínez.
This gave the visitors encouragement heading into the final 20 minutes, with Unai Emery introducing Bertrand Traoré in the hope of injecting some late impetus into Villa’s attack.
Intent on finding a late equaliser, Villa came agonisingly close to levelling the scores when Douglas Luiz’s strike was cleared off the line by Sabitzer, however the United rearguard held firm under pressure to secure a hard-earned three points.
The result sees the hosts consolidate their place in the top-four with a nine-point cushion over Tottenham and Villa, while the West Midlands side suffer a first defeat in 11 PL matches to dent their European hopes.