BIRMINGHAM: Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer praised his team’s “resilience” after they put Manchester City’s title celebrations ahead by coming from behind to beat Aston Villa 3-1 on Sunday.
Defeating United in the first of a three-match run in five days would have seen City become champions.
And their local rivals had reason to be optimistic when Villa’s Bertrand Traore opened the scoring midway through the first half.
But United hit two goals back four minutes later, Bruno Fernandes equalized from the penalty spot before Mason Greenwood put them ahead.
United grabbed the win in tank thanks to goal from substitute Edinson Cavani three minutes before time.
Victory left United second 10 points behind leaders City, with 12 still on offer to the Red Devils from their last four league games.
However, United will face Leicester and Liverpool next week and defeat in one of those matches will see City, at home on Saturday beaten 2-1 by Chelsea, crowned champions before Pep Guardiola’s men travel to Newcastle on Friday.
“A great result and it takes a bit of pressure off to get results, because the next two are against very good teams,” Solskjaer told the BBC,
The Norwegian made four changes to the side defeated Roma 3-2 in the second leg of Thursday’s Europa League on Thursday, a result that United still went on to win 8-5, with Dean Henderson, Victor Lindelof, Scott McTominay and Marcus Rashford all come to the side.
And Solskjaer was pleased with the way United had both handled an overloaded schedule and then fallen behind at Villa Park.
“It shows character, resilience, faith, fitness,” he said. “It’s difficult at times, especially if you travel back and only come home until 5:00 Friday and then travel here.”
United started when he had not lost a Premier League game at Villa Park since 1995, a year before current manager Solskjaer joined the club as striker.
Villa’s hopes of ending this run against United were not helped by the continued absence of English international Jack Grealish due to a hamstring injury, with Egypt ahead of Trezeguet also absent for a long time.
Grealish looked down from the stands on Sunday as England manager Gareth Southgate, himself a former Villa defender.
Villa took the lead 24 minutes into the game, making the score 0 – 1 after some elegant movement down the middle.
Fred’s bad pass to McTominay left John McGinn in possession, with Douglas Luiz in Traore.
The international Burkina Faso turned nicely and held off Lindelof’s challenge before hitting United goalkeeper Henderson with a powerful shot into the far corner.
United equalized in the 52nd minute when Fernandes scored from the spot after Paul Pogba was brought in by Luiz.
And they led in the 56th minute after Aaron Wan-Bissaka found Greenwood in the box, with teenager England striking Martinez with a low shot.
Concerns for United limped off defender Harry Maguire 12 minutes before time.
“Obviously we have a final to look forward to – hopefully that will be with Harry Maguire,” Solskjaer said.
“It could be a few weeks, it could be a few days, who knows?”
United will now await the results of a scan, with Solskjaer adding: “It was his ankle, lower leg. I think the boy landed on top of him, so twisted his ankle and got hit. “
Cavani made the game secure with an 87 – minute header from Rashford’s cross.
And there was still time for Villa’s Watts to leave after he received a second yellow card for diving.
Villa manager Dean Smith, who described the United penalty as a “disastrous decision”, was also frustrated by Watkins’ exit.
“Ollie Watkins was sent off for a second yellow, there’s no way the referee can tell me he’s convinced he’s not touched.” – AFP