Another VAR mistake has left Aston Villa starting the New Year with a loss.
Words: Regan Foy | @findfoy
Aston Villa travelled to the Theatre of Dreams, Old Trafford, to face a Manchester United side three places, and four points above them – hoping to pick up another three points and take themselves up to third.
Manchester United started the more active of the two sides, with Paul Pogba forcing Emiliano Martinez into an early save before the midfielder was crowded out of taking a shot with the rebound.
A poor pass from Matt Targett allowed Bruno Fernandes to find Martial on the edge of the box, who curled an effort towards the top right corner – but Emiliano Martinez palmed it high and wide for a corner.
John McGinn forced David De Gea into a fine save with Aston Villa’s first real attack of the evening, latching onto Matty Cash’s cross at the back post on the volley.
Aston Villa found their way into the game after sixteen or so minutes and were putting Manchester United under pressure, but the hosts were still able to get forward and carve out opportunities.
Manchester United opened the scoring five minutes from time – but in a soft manner. Aaron Wan-Bissaka curled a ball into the box, which Tyrone Mings couldn’t get a head to – allowing Martial to sneak inbetween him and Konsa and head past a rooted Emiliano Martinez.
Dean Smith’s side went in behind at the break, despite a relatively even first half.
The start of the second half signalled more intent from Aston Villa, and Harry Maguire was booked as a result of this as he fouled Jack Grealish after just three minutes.
Matty Cash came close to equalising as a backheel from Bertrand Traore found the full-back marauding into the box – but the strike came whilst he was off-balance and ended up being fired over the bar. Just a minute later and Ollie Watkins forced David De Gea into a prime clawed save to deny the dinked header.
Aston Villa’s counter-attacking play seemed to be bearing fruit in terms of chances, and in the 54th minute Anwar El Ghazi curled an effort narrowly over the bar on the volley with the outside of his boot.
Eric Bailly was booked for a harsh, late challenge on John McGinn after the whistle has already been blown shortly after.
In the 58th minute, Aston Villa were right back in it. A quick-free kick from McGinn found Jack Grealish, who worked a ball across goal to the far post where Bertrand Traoré was waiting. The winger took a touch on his weaker right, before setting himself onto his left and firing past David De Gea.
Just after the hour mark and Manchester United were back ahead. They were awarded a penalty as Paul Pogba was ‘fouled’ in the box by Douglas Luiz, but a closer look from VAR seemed to show Pogba tripping himself over by kicking his own leg.
With fifteen minutes remaining, Bruno Fernandes almost scored a ‘screamer’ from outside of the box – but Emi was wise to it and got enough of a hand to the ball to push it over for a corner.
The 78th minute saw Aston Villa’s first change of the evening; with scorer Bertrand Traoré being replaced by Jacob Ramsey.
Keinan Davis replaced Anwar El Ghazi with six minutes remaining.
Matty Cash forced David De Gea into a save from range in the third minute of extra-time as a corner was headed out to the waiting full-back.