The stars aligned to put the Red Devils and Villans level at Villa Park.
Christian Benteke toyed with Johnny Evans and Manchester United to put the home side up 1-0, but Radamel Falcao’s header made sure Aston Villa only gained one point in a 1-1 draw.
United loses ground to No. 2 Manchester City, which trounced Crystal Palace, while Villa grabs its 20th point of the season.
[ RELATED: Watch full match replays ]
Benteke picked up the ball just inside the 18, near the right corner. He touched once around Johnny Evans then shook him with another body feint before curling a left-footed shot into the upper left corner.
That aside, United carried the lion’s share of possession and outshot Villa 5-2 in the first half. Yet the score remained 1-0 into the break, and Louis van Gaal opted to sub in Tyler Blackett for Darren Fletcher.
The second half saw Brad Guzan make a big two-handed parry of Robin van Persie as United opened fast. After clearing the ensuing corner, Villa’s defense watched as Mata unleashed a low shot that Guzan fortunately corralled.
Guzan was beaten, though, moments later. Ashley Young made a strong run down the left side before crossing into the box, and Falcao leapt high to head a missile into the corner. It was 1-1 in the 53rd minute.
[ RELATED: Latest Premier League standings ]
Gabby Agbonlahor tilted things in United’s favor when he picked up a red card in the 65th minute, mistiming his challenge on Ashley Young and kicking the Red Devil in the ankle.
Leandro Bacuna belted a bouncing ball over the bar with about 10 minutes to go, as a pair of Paul Lambert substitutions seemed to inspire the 10-man Villans.
Aston Villa: Guzan, Lowton, Vlaar (c), Okore, Clark, Cissokho (Bacuna, 80′), Sanchez, Delph, Weimann (N’Zogbia, 80′), Agbonlahor (RC, 65′), Benteke
Goal: Benteke (18′)
Manchester United: De Gea, Jones, Carrick, Evans, Valencia (Wilson, 74′), Fletcher (Blackett, 45′), Mata, Rooney, Young, van Persie (Di Maria, 61′), Falcao
Goal: Falcao (53′)