MANCHESTER: A goal from Bruno Fernandes secured Manchester United a 1-0 victory over Aston Villa today, increasing their chances of finishing in the top four in the Premier League and continuing their dominant form at Old Trafford.
Erik ten Hag’s side are fourth in the standings with 63 points from 32 matches and have a game in hand on fifth-placed Tottenham Hotspur who are on 54 points.
United are unbeaten at home in 15 straight Premier League games, with just three draws. They have not lost at Old Trafford since the opening weekend of the season against Brighton & Hove Albion.
United put Villa goalkeeper Emi Martinez to work early with several great chances before they were finally rewarded in the 39th minute.
Martinez dove to push away Marcus Rashford’s shot after the United striker’s well-timed run, and Fernandes sprinted in for a one-touch shot from a tight angle.
Unai Emery’s Villa, whose defeat was their first in 11 games, are sixth in the standings, with 54 points from 33 matches. They also failed to score for the first time in their 21 games since Emery took charge.
The victory comes three days after ten Hag chastised his players for not giving 100% in a 2-2 draw at Spurs.
They responded well today, with several early chances including Marcel Sabitzer’s volley that sailed just over the goal, and Casemiro’s curling shot a few minutes later that came back out off the crossbar.
While Villa were better after the break, United still had more chances, including a couple from Rashford alone. In the 59th minute, he split two Villa defenders before Martinez raced off his line to snatch the ball away.
Some excellent defending kept the visitors from drawing level in the dying minutes, including a couple of rapid-fire clearances from Sabitzer, with his foot, and Victor Lindelof, with his head.
“A good three points but I think an impressive performance from Manchester United. We were magnificent on the ball, had good possession and pressed well,” ten Hag told the BBC.
“In the second half you want to go 2-0 ahead but we didn’t so it’s always going to be a tough finish.
“(Lindelof) played brilliant. He was totally in control in the area around (Villa striker Ollie) Watkins.”
Hundreds of fans, burning flares and hoisting a big banner that read “Full sale only” marched to Old Trafford before the game to protest the Glazer family’s ownership of the team.