Manchester United virtually guaranteed a Premier League top-four finish and ensured rivals Manchester City must wait to be crowned champions as they came from behind to beat Aston Villa at Villa Park.
Having sealed their place in the Europa League final despite a 3-2 second-leg defeat by Roma on Thursday, second-half goals from Bruno Fernandes, Mason Greenwood and substitute Edinson Cavani ensured Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side require a single point from their remaining four games to secure a Champions League place.
A win for Villa would have sealed the title for leaders City – beaten 2-1 by Chelsea on Saturday – and Bertrand Traore’s emphatic finish into the top corner midway through the first half threatened to do just that.
Emiliano Martinez was equal to attempts from Greenwood and Marcus Rashford as United struggled to respond initially, while Dean Henderson kept out Ollie Watkins’ strike to deny Villa a second before half-time.
United levelled shortly after the restart when Fernandes calmly slotted in a penalty after Douglas Luiz needlessly fouled Paul Pogba, and Greenwood completed a four-minute turnaround when his low strike found the bottom corner.
A VAR check for handball against Greenwood was dismissed after Luiz headed the ball onto the arm of the United forward and the visitors successfully resisted late Villa pressure despite the loss of captain Harry Maguire to injury before Cavani confirmed victory in the closing stages.
In a frantic finale, Villa forward Watkins also received a red card for a second booking for simulation when under pressure from goalkeeper Henderson.
United are 10 points behind champions-elect City but will have the chance to move within four points as they face Leicester and Liverpool before the leaders next play.
United fight back – again
With an exhausting short-term schedule to navigate, Solskjaer made four changes from United’s midweek trip to Rome for his side’s second fixture in a run of four in eight days – a situation created after last weekend’s league meeting with Liverpool was postponed due to fan protests.
Henderson, Marcus Rashford, Scott McTominay and Victor Lindelof started at Villa Park, and while Lindelof should have offered greater resistance for Traore’s opener, there was little Henderson could do to keep out his fine strike.
It was the 10th time this season United had conceded the opening goal in an away Premier League game – indeed Solskjaer’s side have gone 1-0 down on more occasions (14) than they have gone ahead (13) in the competition this season – but impressively they remain unbeaten when doing so away from home after this latest fightback.
With poacher Cavani benched after scoring twice on Thursday, United initially struggled to test Martinez despite encouraging build-up play.
But they were rewarded for a much-improved second-half display, with Fernandes’ spot-kick setting the tone for a side totally unfazed by falling behind.
Greenwood made his latest claim to be included in Gareth Southgate’s European Championship plans with his fifth goal in five Premier League games, though Maguire’s early departure following a collision with Anwar El Ghazi will be a concern for both the England boss and Solskjaer.
But Cavani’s accurate header from Rashford’s cross ultimately capped a positive week for United, in which they reached a first final of the Solskjaer era and co-chairman Joel Glazer announced plans for his first meaningful discussions with fans since his family bought the club in 2005.
More to follow.
- 7McGinnBooked at 79mins
- 6Douglas LuizSubstituted forRamseyat 65′minutes
- 20BarkleySubstituted forDavisat 77′minutes
- 21El GhaziSubstituted forWesleyat 77′minutes
- 11WatkinsBooked at 89mins
- 27El Mohamady
- 5MaguireBooked at 67minsSubstituted forBaillyat 78′minutes
- 11GreenwoodSubstituted forCavaniat 65′minutes
- 18Bruno FernandesSubstituted forMaticat 86′minutes
- 1de Gea
- 34van de Beek
- Chris Kavanagh
Match ends, Aston Villa 1, Manchester United 3.
Second Half ends, Aston Villa 1, Manchester United 3.
Foul by Paul Pogba (Manchester United).
Ezri Konsa Ngoyo (Aston Villa) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Second yellow card to Ollie Watkins (Aston Villa).
Ollie Watkins (Aston Villa) has gone down, but the referee deems it simulation.
Goal! Aston Villa 1, Manchester United 3. Edinson Cavani (Manchester United) header from the centre of the box to the bottom left corner. Assisted by Marcus Rashford with a cross.
Attempt blocked. Luke Shaw (Manchester United) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Attempt blocked. Edinson Cavani (Manchester United) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Paul Pogba.
Substitution, Manchester United. Nemanja Matic replaces Bruno Fernandes.
Foul by Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United).
Bertrand Traoré (Aston Villa) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt blocked. Matt Targett (Aston Villa) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Attempt saved. Bertrand Traoré (Aston Villa) left footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Matt Targett.
Foul by Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United).
Jacob Ramsey (Aston Villa) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Attempt blocked. Ollie Watkins (Aston Villa) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Keinan Davis.
Attempt saved. Bertrand Traoré (Aston Villa) header from the right side of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by John McGinn.
John McGinn (Aston Villa) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Luke Shaw (Manchester United) wins a free kick on the left wing.
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