Premier League
Man UtdManchester United2Aston VillaAston Villa1

Manchester United 2-1 Aston Villa: Bruno Fernandes penalty puts Red Devils joint top

By Michael BeardmoreBBC Sport
Bruno Fernandes.
Bruno Fernandes' only penalty miss since joining Manchester United 12 months ago came at Newcastle in October

Manchester United moved level on points with Premier League leaders Liverpool as a Bruno Fernandes penalty saw off stubborn Aston Villa.

Fernandes drilled his 11th league goal this season - and his fifth from the spot - into the bottom corner to punish Douglas Luiz's clip on Paul Pogba and hand United an eighth win in 10 games.

Bertrand Traore's calm finish underneath David de Gea had deservedly drawn Villa level, cancelling out Anthony Martial's stooping first-half header for the hosts.

But Fernandes' penalty extended United's hold over Villa - they have now won 32 and lost just one of the past 44 league meetings between the sides - and leaves Liverpool top only by virtue of goal difference.

The spot-kick award angered Aston Villa boss Dean Smith who claimed Pogba "tripped himself" and that the video assistant referee should have asked on-pitch official Michael Oliver to review his decision.

"I don't see why Michael couldn't have looked at it. That's what VAR is for isn't it?" Smith told BBC Sport.

"I thought it was a penalty at the time, but I looked at it after the game and saw he tripped himself. I don't think it's a penalty.

"I think there's enough doubt there to send the referee over to the screen."

Smith's side were perhaps unfortunate not to have left Old Trafford with at least a point from a thoroughly entertaining game but they also needed several fine saves from Emiliano Martinez to keep them in it.

After Fernandes' spot-kick put United back in front, Martinez superbly tipped a stinging 25-yarder from the Portuguese on to the crossbar as well as denying Martial a second.

Martinez's counterpart David de Gea was just as busy, with a late save from Matty Cash's long-range strike preserving the points, not long after Tyrone Mings had headed wide a glorious chance to level.

United proving they mean business

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side have displayed their ability to grind out points at Old Trafford in recent weeks, as evidenced in 1-0 home wins over both West Bromwich Albion and Wolves.

But they have also shown a willingness to go toe-to-toe with teams who are happy to open up the game and, while this was not quite the shootout of the 6-2 win over Leeds, it was just as easy on the eye.

A number of fluid first-half moves produced chances before Martial's opener as the France forward saw a curler tipped over by Martinez, while Fernandes and Wan-Bissaka were narrowly off target with similar efforts.

Anthony Martial.
Anthony Martial's only other Premier League goal this season came in a 3-2 win at Sheffield United

Martial stole between Mings and Ezri Konsa to nod the Red Devils ahead from Wan-Bissaka's inviting cross for only his second league goal of the season on his return to Solskjaer's starting line-up.

While Luiz was unfortunate to be penalised for what might have been an accidental clip on Pogba, there was enough contact for the penalty to be given and Fernandes continued his excellent record from the spot.

United were nine points behind Liverpool after a 1-0 defeat by Arsenal at Old Trafford on 1 November but have made up that gap in just two months to set an intriguing title race into motion.

A minute's silence before the game paid tribute to former boss Tommy Docherty, who famously prevented Liverpool claiming the treble by leading United to an FA Cup win over the Reds in 1977.

And while talk of foiling a second successive Liverpool title might be premature, moving alongside them at the Premier League's summit will give Solskjaer's side even more confidence as they eye up a trip to Anfield on 17 January.

Villa impressive even in defeat

While Villa were ultimately outgunned by their hosts, their brave display was further evidence of the progress Smith's side have made this season.

They held their own in the first half, causing United a number of problems down the flanks, with playmaker Jack Grealish prompting and probing to show why the hosts have long considered a move for the Villa captain.

But they were even more impressive in the early stages of the second period, Grealish crossing for an Ollie Watkins header that was saved by De Gea before collecting a quick free-kick and finding Traore to tuck home the equaliser.

Luiz's foul on Pogba came with Villa very much in the ascendancy and while they then had to ride a storm the visitors still came close to pinching a point as Mings beat fellow England centre-half Harry Maguire to a free-kick only to nod wide.

With Ross Barkley's return from a hamstring injury imminent, this performance should keep Villa optimistic even if defeat halted a five-game unbeaten run and saw them slip a place to sixth, behind Chelsea on goal difference.

And while their rotten record at Old Trafford continues - just one win in 34 visits since 1983, which came courtesy of a Gabriel Agbonlahor header in 2009 - they have still only conceded five times in eight away games this campaign.

'We have improved a lot in a year' - what they said

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer told BBC Sport: "You are always delighted with three points. The performance was good and we created chances.

"It was maybe a little too open and we wasted chances. We tried to play the Hollywood pass instead of securing the first one and using the space that was there.

"We are happy with what we are doing. We have shown we have improved a lot in a year. We lost to Arsenal away last New Year's Day. We have improved immensely."

Man Utd have improved immensely in a year - Solskjaer

Aston Villa boss Dean Smith told BBC Sport: "I wasn't happy with the first half. We were miles off the levels where we have been. It felt like a testimonial pace then they deservedly had the lead at half-time. I told the players we needed to be upping our levels.

"We competed a lot better [in the second half], showed more quality and created chances. I'd take the second-half performance all day long. A dubious penalty has lost us the game.

"When you look at our performances and results, it shows we are very competitive in this league now, which is what we wanted it to be."

Smith has 'a lot of doubt' about Man Utd penalty

United's hold over Villa goes on - the stats

  • Manchester United are unbeaten in their past 16 Premier League matches against Aston Villa (W12 D4).
  • Aston Villa have lost 13 of their past 15 away Premier League games against Manchester United at Old Trafford (W1 D1).
  • In Premier League history, the only player to be directly involved in more goals in their first 30 appearances in the competition than Bruno Fernandes (33 - 19 goals, 14 assists) is Andrew Cole (37 - 28 goals, nine assists).
  • Anthony Martial has now scored on all seven days of the week in the Premier League for Manchester United, becoming the fifth player to do so, after Ryan Giggs, Andrew Cole, David Beckham and Wayne Rooney.
  • Only Tottenham's Harry Kane (10) has assisted more Premier League goals this season than Jack Grealish (7), while the last Aston Villa player to assist more than seven Premier League goals in a season was Ashley Young in 2010-11 (10).
  • Since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's first Premier League match in charge of Manchester United in December 2018, the Red Devils have taken (27) and scored (21) the most Premier League penalties.

What's next?

Manchester United host local rivals Manchester City in the Carabao Cup semi-finals on Wednesday (19:45 GMT) and welcome Watford in the FA Cup on Saturday 9 January (20:00 GMT). Their next Premier League game is away at Burnley on Tuesday 12 January (20:15 GMT).

Aston Villa host Liverpool in the FA Cup next Friday (19:45 GMT) before returning to Premier League action at home to Tottenham on Wednesday 13 January (20:15 GMT).

Player of the match

Bruno FernandesBruno Fernandes

with an average of 7.58

Manchester United

  1. Squad number18Player nameBruno Fernandes
    Average rating


  2. Squad number3Player nameBailly
    Average rating


  3. Squad number1Player namede Gea
    Average rating


  4. Squad number6Player namePogba
    Average rating


  5. Squad number5Player nameMaguire
    Average rating


  6. Squad number9Player nameMartial
    Average rating


  7. Squad number29Player nameWan-Bissaka
    Average rating


  8. Squad number23Player nameShaw
    Average rating


  9. Squad number10Player nameRashford
    Average rating


  10. Squad number17Player nameFred
    Average rating


  11. Squad number31Player nameMatic
    Average rating


  12. Squad number39Player nameMcTominay
    Average rating


  13. Squad number38Player nameTuanzebe
    Average rating


  14. Squad number21Player nameJames
    Average rating


Aston Villa

  1. Squad number10Player nameGrealish
    Average rating


  2. Squad number26Player nameMartínez
    Average rating


  3. Squad number2Player nameCash
    Average rating


  4. Squad number7Player nameMcGinn
    Average rating


  5. Squad number15Player nameTraoré
    Average rating


  6. Squad number21Player nameEl Ghazi
    Average rating


  7. Squad number4Player nameKonsa
    Average rating


  8. Squad number5Player nameMings
    Average rating


  9. Squad number6Player nameDouglas Luiz
    Average rating


  10. Squad number11Player nameWatkins
    Average rating


  11. Squad number18Player nameTargett
    Average rating


  12. Squad number39Player nameDavis
    Average rating


  13. Squad number41Player nameRamsey
    Average rating



Man Utd

Formation 4-2-3-1

  • 1de Gea
  • 29Wan-Bissaka
  • 3BaillyBooked at 55mins
  • 5MaguireBooked at 49mins
  • 23ShawBooked at 89mins
  • 39McTominaySubstituted forMaticat 65'minutesBooked at 90mins
  • 17FredSubstituted forTuanzebeat 90+4'minutes
  • 10Rashford
  • 18Bruno FernandesSubstituted forJamesat 87'minutes
  • 6Pogba
  • 9Martial


  • 8Mata
  • 11Greenwood
  • 14Lingard
  • 21James
  • 26Henderson
  • 27Telles
  • 31Matic
  • 34van de Beek
  • 38Tuanzebe

Aston Villa

Formation 4-2-3-1

  • 26Martínez
  • 2Cash
  • 4Konsa
  • 5Mings
  • 18Targett
  • 6Douglas Luiz
  • 7McGinn
  • 15TraoréSubstituted forRamseyat 79'minutes
  • 10Grealish
  • 21El GhaziSubstituted forDavisat 84'minutes
  • 11Watkins


  • 1Heaton
  • 3Taylor
  • 14Hourihane
  • 19Nakamba
  • 24Guilbert
  • 27El Mohamady
  • 30Hause
  • 39Davis
  • 41Ramsey
Michael Oliver

Match Stats

Home TeamMan UtdAway TeamAston Villa
Shots on Target

Live Text

  1. Post update

    Match ends, Manchester United 2, Aston Villa 1.

  2. Full Time

    Second Half ends, Manchester United 2, Aston Villa 1.

  3. Post update

    Attempt blocked. Keinan Davis (Aston Villa) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.

  4. Post update

    Attempt blocked. Keinan Davis (Aston Villa) header from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Ollie Watkins with a cross.

  5. Post update

    Offside, Manchester United. Paul Pogba tries a through ball, but Marcus Rashford is caught offside.

  6. Substitution

    Substitution, Manchester United. Axel Tuanzebe replaces Fred.

  7. Post update

    Corner, Aston Villa. Conceded by David de Gea.

  8. Post update

    Attempt saved. Matthew Cash (Aston Villa) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Jack Grealish.

  9. Post update

    Corner, Aston Villa. Conceded by Daniel James.

  10. Post update

    Corner, Aston Villa. Conceded by Eric Bailly.

  11. Post update

    Foul by Paul Pogba (Manchester United).

  12. Post update

    Douglas Luiz (Aston Villa) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  13. Booking

    Nemanja Matic (Manchester United) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

  14. Post update

    Foul by Nemanja Matic (Manchester United).

  15. Post update

    Jack Grealish (Aston Villa) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

  16. Booking

    Luke Shaw (Manchester United) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

  17. Post update

    Foul by Luke Shaw (Manchester United).

  18. Post update

    Douglas Luiz (Aston Villa) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  19. Post update

    Daniel James (Manchester United) wins a free kick on the left wing.

  20. Post update

    Foul by Matthew Cash (Aston Villa).

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