Five things learned as Manchester United beat Aston Villa 1-0

Manchester United advanced to the fourth-round of the FA Cup after beating Aston Villa 1-0 at Old Trafford.

A Scott McTominay header in the eighth minute from a Fred cross proved enough for Ralf Rangnick’s side.

Here five things we learned from the clash at the Theatre of Dreams…

Van de Beek gets rare minutes

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Rangnick may have made five changes to the starting line-up that lost a week ago against Wolves, but it seems it’s going to have to take a lot for van de Beek to get a start.

United’s interim manager reverted back to the Fred and McTominay partnership as his midfield duo after Nemanja Matic had played the last two Premier League matches instead of the Brazilian.

But since a very rare start in the Champions League dead rubber against Young Boys last month, the former Ajax man had played just two minutes of football.

Rangnick has already declared that the Dutch international won’t be able to leave in the January window, but van de Beek’s confidence must be at an all-time low.

He came on for Edinson Cavani for the final 20 minutes and produced an energetic pressing display with some important tackles and neat touches.

His most realistic chance of a start is probably next month’s fourth-round clash against Middlesbrough.

VAR comes to United’s rescue

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It seemed that Danny Ings had equalised for the visitors early in the second half, but after a long VAR check, referee Michael Oliver was advised to go and look at the on-field monitor.

Oliver rightly disallowed the goal after spotting Jacob Ramsey had blocked off Edinson Cavani in the build up.

Minutes later Ollie Watkins had another goal chalked off for a clear cut offside.

Dumping Gerrard out the cup

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Steven Gerrard looked like he was doing a ring walk as he came out from the Old Trafford tunnel, the former Liverpool midfielder was more than pumped up as he rekindled his heated rivalry with Manchester United.

Having the former Rangers man in the dugout meant the cup tie had that extra bit of needle which at times looked like it was going to spill over into a mass brawl.

It felt good dumping the former England international out of the cup and the best thing is the two sides will get to do it all over again on Saturday.

But the Reds will be heading to Villa Park who could give a debut to Gerrard’s former Liverpool teammate Philippe Coutinho.

Favourable draw on paper

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Seeing off Gerrard’s Villa means that United will face Championship side Middlesbrough for a place in the FA Cup last-16.

Rangnick may use the clash to rotate his bloated squad but United will have to be wary of the side now being managed by former Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder.

In the nine games Wilder has managed for Boro so far he has won six, drawn two and lost once.

However, Wilder won his most recent clash at Old Trafford when the Blades beat Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s 2-1.

Difficult night for Marcus Rashford

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After taking to Twitter to explain he hasn’t been sulking and that he has endless respect for Manchester United’s current coaches, Rashford once again cut a frustrated and at times isolated figure.

There were moments of quality where he drove at Matty Cash and put the defender on the back foot before skipping inside and firing a dipping cross into Cavani.

But there were also times where he looked disinterested and reluctant to bust a gut when he could have had a tap in if he showed that burning desire to score a scrappy goal.

An increasingly restless Old Trafford started to lose patience with our number 10 before he was replaced in the dying stages.

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Passionate Football fan that completed a NCTJ-accredited Diploma in Multimedia Sports Journalism in 2016.