It is great tidings for Manchester United and their fans as they started 2021 with a hard-fought 2-1 win over Aston Villa on New Year’s Day at Old Trafford. It took a heroic block from Eric Bailly in the 94th minute to ensure all the three points that took United to the summit of the English Premier League, level on points with Liverpool on 33 points after 16 matches of the 2020/21 season.
The first half was an even contest until the 40th minute when Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s cross was deftly headed in by Anthony Martial – his first league goal of the season in his 12th EPL appearance. United took that lead into the interval.
The second half started with the same tempo with Jack Grealish getting more on the ball and prodding his team forward. On 56 minutes, United suffered a rare lack of concentration as a quick free kick, taken by John McGinn freed Grealish to cross into the box. The ball missed some legs and fell kindly to Bertrand Traore, who calmly slotted past David de Gea.
But United were up in arms almost immediately and got the winner through Bruno Fernandes, from the penalty spot. Paul Pogba, who played brilliantly was inadvertently clipped by Douglas Luiz. The penalty could be adjudged soft, but Pogba was definitely unjustly stopped in a goal-scoring position. Fernandes, with his 10th league goal of the season, has now been involved in 33 goals since he joined united in January 2020.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has now led United on a 10-game undefeated run in the league that has seen the Red Devils claim 26 points out of a possible 30. At the post-match interview, Solskjaer admitted he did not enjoy the last 10 minutes of the game because he believed his team should have been more comfortable.
United and their many fans start 2021 dreaming of a title chase – a goal that should lift their spirits. Their next game is a semi-final clash against neighbours, Manchester City on January 6 at Old Trafford.
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