Man United Forced To Dig Deep Against Villa To Book Place In FA Cup Fourth Round

Ralf Rangnick's Red Devils will meet Middlesbrough in the next round
22:22, 10 Jan 2022

Manchester United booked their place in the fourth round of the FA Cup after edging out Aston Villa in a feisty encounter at Old Trafford. 

Ralf Rangnick’s side sealed a showdown with Middlesbrough after their 1-0 win, courtesy of a sole Scott McTominay strike, but the Red Devils were forced to ride their luck. Steven Gerrard’s Villa, who have now lost their last seven FA Cup matches, were the better side on the overall balance of tonight but spurned a number of chances in the final third and suffered two disallowed goals in the process.

United are now unbeaten in their last 12 at Old Trafford in the competition, going back to a 2-1 quarter-final defeat to Arsenal in 2014/15.

McTominay put the home side in front inside just ten minutes. The unmarked Scot latched onto a deft ball into the middle of the box from fellow central midfielder Fred to nod home. McTominay now has two goals in his last three games - as many as in his previous 58 outings.

Villa almost equalised immediately after when Douglas Luiz’s corner found itself at the feet of Ollie Watkins, but his effort was disrupted by the faintest of touches from Victor Lindelof to send it wide. On the half hour mark, Watkins then took advantage of some sloppy defending from the Swede, whose woeful touch allowed the forward through on goal but his attempt could only rattle the bar.

United were the second-best side for most of the first-half despite their lead, but they could also have found themselves further ahead in an entertaining opening 45 minutes. Matty Cash, who was brilliant for the away side tonight, was all that stood between Bruno Fernandes doubling the lead, producing a well-timed block to deny the Portuguese star. Cash came to the rescue again just before the break, clearing a Marcus Rashford effort from off the line. 

Villa thought that their dominance had finally paid off when, five minutes into the second half, McGinn's deep free-kick from the right was nodded in by an unmarked Ezri Konsa. However, after a long VAR check, the goal was chalked off by referee Michael Oliver with Jacob Ramsey being penalised for a block on Edinson Cavani in the build-up. It took nearly four minutes for Oliver and Darren England to overturn the decision and it's unlikely one we'll hear the last of any time soon. 

The visitor’s had the ball in the back of the net again shortly after through Ollie Watkins, who latched onto a neat dink from Danny Ings over David DeGea, but the linesman’s flag was up this time. 

Marcus Rashford is a man desperately struggling form right now, and tonight's shift was not a great one for the 24-year-old. United had the chance to wrap up the match when Mason Greenwood broke down the right. His shot from inside the box was blocked by Emi Martinez but Rashford wasn't quick enough to react to the loose ball.

Speaking to BBC Sport after the match, United boss Rangnick said: "I think we showed a reaction after the Wolves game, that is what everyone expected from us. We knew it would be very difficult against Villa. In the first half I thought we did well. It could have been 3-2 or 4-3 to us at half time.

"In the second half we were on the counter attack and we could have made more of those situations. We took the wrong decisions at times but when we changed to a diamond in midfield we had more control.

"In the last 20 minutes we had more control. We fought well as a team together when it was important. In the end it was a good win. That was our goal, to proceed to the next round."

Gerrarrd, whose last appearance against United as a player saw him sent off just 38 seconds after coming on as a half-time substitute, will have the perfect opportunity for revenge this weekend. These two sides meet again on Saturday in the Premier League at Villa Park.

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