Eric Bailly’s valiant defending saw Manchester United pocket all three points in a 2-1 win over Aston Villa in the Premier League on Friday Night.
Manchester United were quick off the gates and even though, the start was a bit cagey, it was the home side that carried the intent, threat and impetus towards opening the scoring. Both the keepers were tested in the first-half but the Manchester United pressure paid off towards the end of it, with Aaron-Wan Bissaka putting the ball into the box for Anthony Martial to cheekily head it past Emiliano Martinez for the opener.
The second half though, saw David de Gea sprint into action with a wonderful stop to prevent an equalizer. However, a quickly taken freekick saw Jack Grealish put a dangerous cross in the box and Bertrand Traore showed calmness inside the box before applying the finish for the equalizer.
As has been the case for Manchester United, they responded in fantastic fashion, with Paul Pogba’s heroics earning a penalty that Bruno Fernandes converted with aplomb to restore the lead. Bruno could have had another but his long-range screamer was brilliantly parried above the bar by Emiliano Martinez.
Aston Villa seemed set to equalize in stoppage time but Eric Bailly made a last-ditch tackle that blocked the shot and earned three points for Manchester United. Let us now take a look at how the players fared.
David de Gea – 7.5
Seems to be slowly coming back to his best. Made a couple of crucial saves to deny Aston Villa from scoring and was good in his positioning overall. Had good command of the box as well during set-pieces and was unlucky to have not had the time to set his players up during the quickly taken free-kick.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka – 8
Spider Wan weaved his web and this time around, made sure he used it to have an effect in attack as well. Made wonderful runs to complement Marcus Rashford, who seems to be establishing good chemistry with Wan-Bissaka. His tackling was once again superb and his assist for the Martial goal was delightful.
Eric Bailly – 8
The man of the night, Bailly resembles the old-age Manchester United spirit every time he plays. Shows no fear or reluctance to die head in and it was his last-ditch tackle that prevented Keinan Davis from shooting from almost inside the box in stoppage time.
IF Bailly can somehow manage his fitness, he will be a great asset in Manchester United’s potential title ambitions this season.
Harry Maguire – 6
Did his job well but was often found watching the ball and game rather than taking the initiative at times. Paul Pogba had more headers won (5) than Maguire (4) on the night. It is safe to say the English international was overshadowed by his central defensive partner against Aston Villa.
Luke Shaw – 6.5
A well-rounded performance by Shaw, who is repaying the faith being shown in him by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer despite having Alex Telles at his disposal. Continues to do the hard work on the left and is slowly getting to the level he was expected to be when he joined Manchester United.
Scott McTominay – 5
An off day for McTominay, who did put in a great shift on Friday night but found himself coming up a bit short against the Aston Villa midfielders. It would pay for him to shrug this performance off and go again on a new day.
Fred – 6.5
Did his part really well, with 4 interceptions in the game, the most by any player on Friday Night. The Brazilian did try some sloppy and short-handed passes but was ultimately successful in preventing Aston Villa from playing their natural game in midfield.
Marcus Rashford – 6.5
The right doesn’t suit him as well as the left. But, Rashford’s playmaking abilities are really coming to the fore this season. His vision has improved a lot and his ability to create chances for his teammates or find an open Manchester United player shows his maturity. Still much better on the left than the right.
Bruno Fernandes – 7.5
A penalty is the best way for Bruno Fernandes to start 2021. The playmaker could have had assists to his name, with 5 chances created in total. But, a wasteful Manchester United attack scuffed several chances. Bruno almost scored again with a screamer, only for Emiliano Martinez to pull a save out right from the top drawer.
Paul Pogba – 8
The Paul Pogba oomph was on full display against Aston Villa. The Frenchman strut his stuff like nothing else and almost bullied the opponents. Did well to earn the penalty, which turned out to be the winner. Seems to be really enjoying his football on the field, which has silenced the rumours off the field.
Anthony Martial – 8
Without Edinson Cavani to fall back on, Anthony Martial showed he can become Mr. dependable with a sweet and delectable finish with his head for the opener. Ran Aston Villa ragged and confused with his movement and deserved more than just one goal for his performance.
Nemanja Matic – 6
Came on for an underwhelming McTominay, Matic shored up the United boat defensively and allowed them to press on for the winner. A routine performance from the cultured Serbian.
Daniel James – N/A
Brought on to inject some pace and fresh legs to close down players and perhaps get the ball on the other side of the pitch as quickly as possible.
Axel Tuanzebe – N/A
Used as a substitute by Solskjaer to spend some of the remaining time. Didn’t spend longer than a couple of minutes on the pitch before full-time.