Enterprise, ambition and speed on the break - Aston Villa show everything Manchester United lack

United had a week to prepare, with all 11 starters spared the midweek trip to Kazakhstan, but Villa looked the more cohesive in 2-2 draw at Old Trafford

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Manchester United 2 (Heaton (og) 42', Lindelof 64')

Aston Villa 2 (Grealish 11', Mings 66')

History can repeat itself, but rarely this quickly. For the second successive week, Manchester United shared an eventful draw with a promoted club, both coming from behind and losing a lead. The worrying element for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer should be that, in each of the last two Sundays, his team were inferior for swathes of the game and struggled against players who were in the Championship last season.

Solskjaer’s side were better than they had been against Sheffield United, though that is not saying much. This time their meaningful attacking efforts were not confined to an eight-minute burst and they contributed to an end-to-end affair. Yet it was not a game to suggest they can gatecrash the top four and not just because, for the second consecutive league match, they missed the chance to go fifth. Not when the classiest player on show was Villa’s Jack Grealish, scorer of a wonderful opener.

Grealish was outstanding and if Villa’s defensive record threatens to be their undoing, their attacking incision means they ought to stay up. They have a pleasing boldness which is to manager Dean Smith’s credit. There was a time when few visitors to Old Trafford played with such confidence but those days are long gone. Villa had the audacity to take the lead and the wherewithal to respond after going behind.

United had a week to prepare, with all 11 starters spared the midweek trip to Kazakhstan, but Villa looked the more cohesive. They had enterprise, ambition and speed on the break. However, it ranked as another disjointed display from United. Daniel James’ eviscerating speed presented a threat and each of their turbo-charged front three were sporadically menacing but while Andreas Pereira and Fred each set up a goal, this underlined the impression that Villa have a superior midfield to a United side still shorn of the injured Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay.

Epitomised by the fearless Grealish, Villa have shown a refusal to be intimidated. They had already taken the taken the lead against Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham. This time, at least, they claimed a point, albeit from a losing position.

They led courtesy of a special goal. Grealish jinked inside Pereira and bent a shot into the top corner. David de Gea scarcely moved, though diving would have been futile, such was Grealish’s precision. It was justification for Smith’s decision to move his captain, a midfielder by preference, into the front three earlier this season and another indication that Grealish is a wonderful talent. He has been sufficiently hard to halt that he is the most fouled player in the division this season and Fred and Luke Shaw were both cautioned for fouling him.

If his opener damaged United, it came at a cost to Villa. Anwar El Ghazi was injured delivering the deep cross that Grealish eventually met and soon limped off. Villa were undeterred, with Trezeguet a fine replacement, and had a second goal disallowed. Trezeguet was denied when Grealish, the instigator of a move, was ruled offside. They combined again when the Egyptian found the Englishman with an outside-of-the-foot pass and the sliding skipper angled his shot just wide.

Villa could have scored several but clean sheets have been too infrequent and they erred by leaving Marcus Rashford unmarked for the equaliser. The striker thought he had an 11th goal in 12 games for club and country. Instead, it was debited to Tom Heaton, another graduate of United’s youth system. Rashford met Pereira’s enticing cross with a header that went in off the post and the Villa goalkeeper.

The drama continued. Heaton saved well from Anthony Martial when the striker surged past a series of defenders. He also parried a drive from Aaron Wan-Bissaka before, after the two sides traded goals, Martial scooped a shot over the bar.

United had gone ahead when Fred’s cross flicked off the head of the Villa forward Wesley. Victor Lindelof met it with a perfectly-judged header that looped over Heaton.

Villa hit back two minutes later. Tyrone Mings swivelled to volley in Matt Targett’s cross, with United’s teenage left-back Brandon Williams playing the scorer onside. It counts as a prestigious point for them. It has to rank as two dropped by United.


Manchester United 2 (Heaton (og) 42', Lindelof 64')

Aston Villa 2 (Grealish 11', Mings 66')