Five things we learned as Manchester United beat Aston Villa 2-1

Manchester United have beaten Aston Villa 2-1 at Old Trafford. Anthony Martial and Bruno Fernandes scored the goals.

Here is a look at five things we learned from the game…

Photo by Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images

Martial steps up

Manchester United need a big 2021 from Anthony Martial. The urgency increased after Edinson Cavani was handed a three game suspension.

He began this game brightly as part of a front two with Marcus Rashford and stepped up as required.


Martial scored United’s opening goal from close range with a well taken header from a cross, despite being surrounded by Villa defenders.

This was Martial’s fifth goal of the season and his first header since last February in a win over Chelsea.

Photo by Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images

Wan-Bissaka proves a point

There has been a lot of discussion over the past fortnight about the blunt instrument which is Aaron Wan-Bissaka as an attacking force.

In this match he was more decisive, with a good final ball. It was Wan-Bissaka’s perfectly judged cross which presented Martial with a simple finish.

This was not just a one-off. Wan-Bissaka linked up well with Marcus Rashford on the right and was a help in attack rather than a weak link.

His task now is to try and replicate this on a more consistent basis.

Unfortunately he would go on to let himself down in the second half when he protested a free-kick instead of defending it. Villa took advantage, crossed down his side and scored an equaliser.

After that he redeemed himself by clearing a dangerous cross when it looked like Anwar El-Ghazi would score. This has been a weakness to Wan-Bissaka’s game and he showed great alertness to deny a goalscoring chance.

Photo by Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images

Bailly and Maguire build partnership

This was the first time since 2017 Eric Bailly had started four consecutive matches.

The consistency in selection is sharpening his performances too. He was outstanding again tonight and is so good at anticipating danger.

His partnership with Harry Maguire is developing strongly too. Victor Lindelof will have to work his way back into the line-up, a return should not be automatic.

Bailly produced an injury time block to save the win. It was a vital moment.

When he plays like he has been over the past fortnight, there is a case to even say Bailly is United’s best defender.

Photo by Carl Recine – Pool/Getty Images

Lively Pogba display

United gave Paul Pogba license to get forward with the way the team set up. In the first half he had a couple of sights on goal and needed to be more ruthless.

He was involved in the build-up to Anthony Martial’s opener, and a lot of United’s attacks went through him.

Pogba won United a penalty right after Villa had equalised, with a run into the box which drew a foul.

Playing Fred and Scott McTominay alongside Pogba gives the Frenchman more opportunity to get forward and be creative, and in this game he made Villa pay.

The one negative was a close range miss with the score at 2-1 in the 71st minute from which Pogba really should have found the back of the net.

Photo by Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images

United move joint top

Goal difference means United are in second in the table, but we’ll call it ‘joint top’.

With the same number of games played, United are level on points with Liverpool.

The second half of the season is set up nicely and the Premier League match at Anfield on January 17 feels huge.

For the second successive game, United have capitalised on other teams dropping points. Last season we frequently faltered in this position and never got near to a title race.

This was a hard fought win and the type you have to grind out. United can look back favourably on a good night’s work.

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