Manchester United had to take their pound of flesh against Aston Villa by thrashing them 4-2 in a breath-taking high intense game at Old Trafford.
Erik Ten Hag side was eager to have their revenge after suffering a 3-1 defeat at Villa Park over the weekend. The Red Devils are through to the fourth round of the EFL Cup.
One Manchester United player stood out during the game bringing inspiration to team who came twice from behind to equalize and eventually took the lead.
Enacting revenge for their dismal 3-1 defeat at Villa Park on Sunday, Erik ten Hag’s men powered themselves through to the fourth round after a sluggish first 45 minutes from both teams. Ollie Watkins and a Diogo Dalot own goal twice put Villa ahead in the second half, but the Red Devils showed character to respond.
Anthony Martial only needed 19 seconds to reply to Watkins’ opener, as Marcus Rashford then leveled things up after Dalot’s howler. Fernandes got the glory by scoring the decisive goal, and Scott McTominay wrapped things up in the dying embers to make the scoreline look much more convincing that it truly was.
Here are seven talking points from Old Trafford.
1. Dubravka’s debut
The most eye-raising aspect of the team news – barring Cristiano Ronaldo’s absence due to illness – was Erik ten Hag’s decision to end David De Gea’s run of starting every game this season. In his place, Martin Dubravka stepped up to finally make his Manchester United debut after sealing a season-long loan move from Newcastle on transfer deadline day in September.
The 33-year-old Slovakian showed a keenness to get on the ball in the opening exchanges, helping his Red Devils teammates evade Aston Villa’s early press. Dubravka isn’t renowned for his ability with his feet, but he impressed in the glimpses afforded to him on Thursday and even managed more passes in the first half than the anonymous Donny van de Beek.
2. Missing Martinez
You wouldn’t have thought it three months ago when Lisandro Martinez was enduring a nightmare start to life in English football, but the Red Devils already look lost without him by November. The Argentine centre-back was serenaded by the crowd when he went out to warm up midway through the first half, illustrating just how much he was missed while on the bench.
But it wasn’t Martinez’s defensive qualities which the United faithful missed most, it was his passes from the back which have quickly become integral to how Ten Hag’s side build up play. With Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof forcing audacious long balls, and Scott McTominay and Fred struggling to turn in midfield, it’s obvious that Martinez is a must-start man for Ten Hag.
It doesn’t bode well for when he’s suspended for first leg of the Red Devils’ Europa League play-off tie against Barcelona in February.
3. Blow-for-blow restart
After nothing short of a sleep-inducing first half, both sides decided to inject some much-needed life in the game at the beginning of the second period. First it was Aston Villa’s Ollie Watkins, who found space in his favourite left channel to receive a well-timed Jacob Ramsey pass before dinking over Dubravka.
But only 19 seconds after the restart, Anthony Martial leveled the scores with a tap-in. From kick-off, Diogo Dalot’s searching ball found Bruno Fernandes down the right flank, allowing the Portuguese midfielder to square the ball across goal find his onrushing French teammate.
4. Donny’s dismal showing
Fortunate to get a third successive start due to Ten Hag’s lack of attacking options, Donny van de Beek well and truly flopped in what might prove to be his final start at Old Trafford. The Dutch midfielder failed to have any significant influence on the game, managing just 21 touches before hauled off in the 62nd minute.
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5. Manchester’s nemesis strikes again
Mohamed Salah? Harry Kane? Gabriel Jesus? Those are the sort of names you’d more expect to have played a major part in three goals against Mancunian clubs this season than Leon Bailey. But Villa’s brilliant Jamaican now boasts that feat, having netted at home to Manchester City in early September, doing the same against United on Sunday and being the perpetrator behind Diogo Dalot’s own goal here.
A slick Villa move allowed Ashley Young to loop in a cross towards the back post, which Bailey patiently waited for and fired back across goal to deflect off Dalot and in. Villa had the lead once more – but it again wouldn’t last long.
6. Rashford’s honesty rewarded
It’s not often a top-level striker stays on his feet after being tackled into the penalty area, but the tenacious Marcus Rashford was his own man to drag the Red Devils back on level terms yet again. Another long ball troubled Villa, with substitute Christian Eriksen this time making an instant impact and winning the initial header.
Rashford, fresh from his England recall this morning ahead of the World Cup, picked up the pieces and drove towards goal with only one aim in his mind: score. The 25-year-old danced through the scrambling Tyrone Mings and Calum Chambers – who put in the challenge which warranted a penalty – before emphatically firing below Robin Olsen, sparking an enthralling finish at Old Trafford.
7. Fernandes’ emphatic finish
After pegging Villa back for the second time, Bruno Fernandes made the momentum count and blasted United through to the fourth round. His thumping game-winning strike deflected off Mings, but all the work for the goal was done before that by their respective teammates – both good and bad.
Olsen’s naive decision to try and ball out from the back was snuffed out by Rashford and Eriksen, whose pressing forced the ball straight to Alejandro Garnacho. The Red Devils wonderkid smoothly played it into Fernandes’ path and the Portuguese slammed home. And there was still time for Scott McTominay to get on the scoresheet, reaching Garnacho’s excellent cross in added time.