Manchester United began 2021 in the same fashion in which they ended the previous year, as a 2-1 win over Aston Villa on Friday made it back-to-back wins in the 2020-21 Premier League at Old Trafford for Ole Gunner Solskjaer's men.
However, as has often been the case since his move to the Premier League in January, Bruno Fernandes proved to be Manchester United’s match-winner; the Portuguese nervelessly dispatched a penalty to help his side regain the advantage just three minutes after being pegged back by the visitors.
To their credit though, Villa kept pushing to get back into the game until the final whistle but were unable to find a way past a resolute Manchester United defence; with the defeat, the visitors saw their five-game unbeaten run in the league come to an end.
On the other hand, Manchester United’s win sees them draw level on points with Liverpool atop the Premier League table, with both sides having amassed 33 points from 16 games.
On that note, let us have a look at the Red Devils' player ratings from their clash with Aston Villa.
David de Gea: 7/10
While there was little David de Gea could do about Traore’s equaliser, the Manchester United custodian played his part in his side's win by effecting a series of excellent saves.
The Spaniard got down well to deny John McGinn at his near post in the first half before making two excellent reflex saves to keep out Ollie Watkins and Matty Cash in the second. De Gea commanded his penalty area expertly and dealt with Villa’s considerable aerial threat well.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka: 8/10
Aaron Wan-Bissaka was extremely effective at both ends of the pitch, and his excellent run and probing cross for Martial’s first-half goal was one of several exciting forays forward from the Manchester United full-back.
He made a number of trademark sliding tackles and clearances in an extremely accomplished performance.
Eric Bailly: 8/10
Eric Bailly's match-up against the pacy Watkins was one that the Ivorian had the best of. That was because Bailly used his pace and physicality to effectively man-mark the Villa striker while making a number of important tackles.
His most telling contribution came when he put his body on the line to deny Keinan Davis right at the death with a superb sliding challenge for which he was congratulated by his teammates after the final whistle.
Harry Maguire: 6/10
Manchester United skipper Harry Maguire seems to be forming a formidable central defensive duo with Bailly, as the pair combined well to deal with Aston Villa’s near-constant pressure.
Maguire won several aerial battles and was always quick and accurate with his passes out from the back.
Luke Shaw: 7/10
The Manchester United left-back seems to have benefitted greatly from the competition for his place in the club's starting lineup following the summer signing of Alex Telles.
While he was solid in defence, it was in attack that Shaw shone on the night, making several probing runs down Manchester United’s left flank and troubling the Villa defence with some inviting crosses.
It was a typical all-energy display from the Brazilian Fred, who put himself about with great vigour and made a series of vital tackles to thwart Villa’s attacks. However, he did lose possession a couple of times in his eagerness to launch attacks but brought the ball out from the back well for most of the game.
Scott McTominay: 6/10
In a battling display in midfield, Manchester United’s Scotsman Scot McTominay was on hand to make several defensive interceptions while also being quick to turn defence into attack with some accurate passing.
Marcus Rashford: 6/10
Deployed on the right wing in a reshuffled Manchester United lineup, Marcus Rashford grew into the game gradually and used his ingenuity and skill to fashion a number of shooting opportunities for himself.
Rashford's pace and trickery gave the Villa defence a number of problems throughout the match.
Bruno Fernandes: 8/10
Bruno Fernandes hot involved with Manchester United’s attacking play virtually from the first whistle, linking up well with his fellow attackers to create a number of promising chances for his team.
Fernandes showed great desire to win the ball back in midfield on a number of occasions and dispatched the winning penalty with great poise and calmness, considering the high-pressure situation.
Paul Pogba: 9/10
When he wasn’t winning the ball back and making crucial tackles in his own half, Paul Pogba was finding teammates and creating chances with a delightful range of long and short passes.
It was the Frenchman who won the decisive penalty for Manchester United. All that he lacked from his stellar showing was a goal, one which he came close to bagging on a few occasions.
Anthony Martial: 7/10
While his role as Manchester United’s number 9 saw Anthony Martial drift out wide to the left as often as it saw him play through the middle, the Frenchman was in the right place at the right time to nod home the opener.
Given Edinson Cavani’s three-match suspension, this is a timely return to scoring form for Martial, whose start to the season has been less than ideal.
Rating of Manchester United Substitutes:
Nemanja Matic: 6/10
Nemanja Matic replaced McTominay midway through the second half just after Manchester United took the lead, adding more solidity to the side’s midfield.
The experienced midfielder played his role to perfection, breaking up a number of Villa attacks and even picking up a booking for his troubles, as he formed an effective shield in front of his defence.
Daniel James: N.A.
With the game stretched and open after Daniel James came on in the 87th minute, the player showcased his pace and ability to carry the ball a fair distance up the pitch but was given little time or support to create anything too meaningful.
Axel Tuanzebe: N.A.
Axel Tuanzebe came on in the dying seconds in place of Fred to run down the clock and barely touched the ball.Published 02 Jan 2021, 10:21 IST