Manchester United faced off against Dean Smith’s relegation-threatened Aston Villa as they looked to tighten their grip on a place in the league’s top-four.
Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer opted to name an unchanged side from the one which convincingly thumped Bournemouth 5-2 last weekend.
OFFICIAL #MUFC line-up
— StrettyNews.com (@StrettyNews) July 9, 2020
United number-one David De Gea made his 399th appearance for the club which saw him go above legend Peter Schmeichel’s club apperanances.
Elsewhere, midfield trio Nemanja Matic, Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes lined-up together once again.
The Red’s attacking front line saw Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial line-up alongside teenage sensation Mason Greenwood – the trio hopeful they could extend their impressive goal scoring form.
As referee Jon Moss kicked the game off Villa’s hopes of causing an upset were raised – the Villains looked the sharper of the two sides in the opening 10-minutes.
Midfield star Jack Grealish looked keen to get on the ball in what many believed to be his last opportunity to impress the United board, amid speculation he could swap claret and blue for red next season.
As the first-half went on, Grealish’s presence in the game became more absent as United began to take control.
It was not an electric start from the Reds by any means, however, seemingly only in third-gear, United were clearly the better side.
Shortly after the rather annoying drinks break Fernandes broke free of Villa’s defence and attempted to pivot on the ball which saw him collide, just inside the box, with defender Ezri Konsa.
Moss was quick to point to the spot and after much deliberation from VAR, the decision was upheld. Fernandes stepped up and cooly converted the spot-kick he had just won. 1-0 United. A much-needed lead.
The match continued after Fernandes’ opener in much the same way the first half-hour had started, United were controlling the game in the middle of the pitch and Villa looking to spring attacks whenever they felt they could nick the ball.
With half-time approaching the Reds looked set to go in at the break with a slender 1-0 lead, however, would a United game be a United game at the moment without a stunning Greenwood moment?
On the stroke of the interval, the teenage superstar reminded the footballing world just why he is one of Europe’s hottest prospects. The young Englishman drove at the Villa backline before laying the ball off to Martial, who returned the favour by cushioning it back into Greenwood’s path before the youngster unleashed a rocket of a strike into the right-hand side of the net. 2-0 United. Flying.
The two sides came out after the break with Smith’s Villa already looking beaten men, if the dejected Midlands side faced an uphill climb before kick-off, with 45-minutes left to go, they were staring at a mountain of a task.
Once again, United started on the front foot with full-backs Luke Shaw and Aaron Wan-Bissaka opting to get forward at every opportunity.
Pogba sat at the heart of the United midfield and was a constant presence among what is a typically physical Villa side.
The Frenchman was able to turn it on whenever he fancied – driving runs through the heart of the Villa formation or defence-splitting passes, the World Cup winner was in the mood.
The 27-year old decided that his wonderful performance would not be complete until he had netted himself, so what better time to do so than in the 58th minute?
The commanding midfielder found himself on the edge of Villa’s box as team-mate Fernandes picked him out from a corner. Pogba picked the ball up, rolled it half a yard in front of himself and executed a superbly placed strike past ex-Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina. 3-0 United with Villa’s hopes fading.
United were on-course to break a rather staggering record which would see them become the first side in English top-flight history to score three or more goals in four consecutive league games.
Manchester United are the first team in Premier League history to win four consecutive matches by a margin of 3+ goals:
🔴 3-0 vs. Sheffield United
🔴 3-0 vs. Brighton
🔴 5-2 vs. Bournemouth
🔴 3-0 vs. Aston Villa
Ole’s relentless reds. 🙌🙌🙌 pic.twitter.com/6daMK22jyg
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) July 9, 2020
That wasn’t the only record that was set to be smashed tonight though, midfield maestro Fernandes successfully managed to make Premier League history by becoming the first player to boast 13 goal contributions in their first 10 games. Superb.
No player in Premier League history has a better G+A return in their first 10 games than Bruno Fernandes (13).
Ridiculous. 🇵🇹🎩 pic.twitter.com/WioEEqEFnk
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) July 9, 2020
As the game was entering the final third, Solskjaer decided to make some changes and give certain members of the starting line-up a well-deserved rest.
Matic, Wan-Bissaka and Fernandes all made way for Scott McTominay, Brandon Williams and Fred, respectively.
Despite their manager’s calls for positivity, Grealish’s Villa looked dejected and like they just wanted the final whistle to come.
United perhaps eased their foot off the gas despite operating at a canter from the first minute.
The 79th minute saw Daniel James replace Mason Greenwood and Odion Ighalo come on in place of a gutted Martial.
As the fourth official raised the board indicating four-minutes injury time were to be added on, United retained the ball well in an attempt to see the game out as they now look ahead to their next key fixture.
After the game, both Pogba and Solskjaer gave their post-match thoughts. Pogba highlighted the squad’s title ambitions ahead of next season, whereas Solskjaer took the opportunity to remind fans not to get too far ahead of themselves.
Overall, another thoroughly competent display from United’s young, developing and flourishing side. Pogba summed up exactly what a world-class complete midfielder looks like as Greenwood continued his charge to become Europe’s best young star.
Keeper De Gea marked his special day with a clean sheet which will do the Spaniard’s confidence a world of good.
Solskjaer’s starlets will now be fully focused on their next fixture, as the games continue to come thick and fast.
The Reds will welcome south coast outfit and in-form Southampton to Old Trafford on Monday (kick-off 20:00 BST) where they will be hoping to continue in their charge for Champions League qualification.