This was a combative, determined performance from a new breed of Aston Villa side. We left with a point, but could have easily taken all three. How many times in the modern era can we honestly have said that walking away from Old Trafford?
In our first season back in the top flight, especially after three years in The Championship, these are the marquee fixtures you look forward to.
Whilst this is no vintage Manchester United side (far from it in fact), nor is Old Trafford the fortress it once was, these are stil the types of games you get out of bed for.
Villa too are different.
We’ve brushed away the cobwebs of Ellis underachievement, cleared out the remnants of the Lerner disaster and firmly closed the door on “Doctor” Tony Xia. New owners, a bright manager in Dean Smith and a competitive squad. As a club we are almost as unrecognisable as our football.
Against United we started well. We looked composed, from Heaton to Wesley.
Konsa, rewarded for a good performance in the win over Newcastle, retained his partnership at the heart of defence with Mings. It was a bold call from Smith with the steady Belgian Bjorn Engel’s fully fit, but the former Brentford man continues to grow in stature.
El Ghazi, in more consistent form of late, soon demonstrated his sometimes hidden capability with a devastating burst down the right.
The Dutchman’s pace carried him beyond the halfway line, skipping a challenge with skill and ease. His ball curled beyond Wesley, but was retrieved by Grealish. Grealish deftly made space to his right before unleashing a wicked bending effort into the top corner beyond the helpless De Gea.
Scenes. Limbs. An absolute worldie of a goal.
It was an outstanding goal in which Grealish had much to do. It also gave Villa a more than deserved lead.
Villa had the ball in the United net just minutes later, with Grealish again at the centre of proceedings, latching onto a loose punt forward. Trezeguet, on following El Ghazi’s injury in the first goals build up, finished, only for the linesman to rule Jack as having been offside in the build up. It was marginal; a calfs width.
United had shown little in the half, so it was annoying to concede a soft goal just before half-time. It served to remind us that despite our hosts diminished power, they still carried a potent threat.
The otherwise poor Andreas was afforded the time to whip in a cross for the dangerous Rashford to head home, the ball cannoning in off the United striker, post and Heaton. The only time Konsa was caught napping and a little good fortune for Solskjær’s men.
The second half saw United regroup and emerge with a greater purpose.
Martial provided a warning, dinking through the Villa defence before forcing a smart stop from Heaton. The England international has quietly and consistently made a number of solid saves in recent weeks, this outing was no exception, with the former Burnley captain making his £8 million fee look a snip.
Grealish then had a real chance to make it 2-1, but was somehow unable to convert with the goal gaping and the ball squared. It was the antithesis of his earlier strike.
Then came another stroke of luck for the hosts.
Fred delivered a ball into the box, Mings was set to clear it, but Wesley, attempting to fulfill defensive duties, could only help the ball on. Lindelof, lurking at the back post, duly nodded a looping header home.
It felt like a hammer blow. It also felt like de ja vu.
So many times Villa had walked this road of dissapointment; just 1 win in 24 at Old Trafford said it all.
However, that was another Aston Villa.
This Villa side has spirit, a determination and a growing self belief. A matter of weeks ago, perhaps this game would have stayed 2-1. Indeed, it might have even become 3-1.
Now though, we are an evolving beast.
Matt Targett, a certain upgrade on his predecessor going forward, delivered a pin-point pass beyond the static United defence.
Mings, in an advanced position, hammered home a fine volley to claim his first Premier League goal and a deserved away point for Villa.
Man Utd 2-2 Aston Villa
United 2-2 Villa
Villa ran United close, competing all over the pitch. Despite a strong first half and leading courtesy of a Jack Grealish worldie strike, Villa found themselves pegged back by a Rashford header at the break. United turned the game on its head having improved after the break and took the lead, but Villa never looked beaten, with Tyrone Mings hammering home a volleyed effort.