It looks like a Champions League football for Manchester United following a 1-0 win over fifth-place Aston Villa at Old Trafford on Sunday.
Bruno Fernandes’ first-half goal gave the Red Devils a lead they would not relinquish and the reward is a nine-point lead over fifth-place Tottenham and sixth-place Villa with five matches left on their Premier League docket and matches-in-hand on both.
WATCH MANCHESTER UNITED vs ASTON VILLA FULL MATCH REPLAY – STREAM LINK
United bounced back from its midweek blown lead against Spurs to remain two points back of victorious Newcastle with a match-in-hand on the third-place Magpies.
Villa loses for the first time in 11 Premier League matches and now has to look behind it with more attention, as Liverpool and Brighton can pass the Europe-seeking Villans with points in their matches-in-hand.
[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]
Savvy, serious Manchester United shut down Villa
Unai Emery will see plenty of his former successful sides in the showing Manchester United made Sunday at Old Trafford.
Erik ten Hag partnered Victor Lindelof with Luke Shaw behind Casemiro, and all United needed was a goal to get the job done.
Ten Hag’s four-man midfield, if we can call the lineup a 4-1-4-1, was ready to feed Marcus Rashford as Christian Eriksen and Marcel Sabitzer especially showed nous in fighting for every blade of grass with intent to move the ball forward.
This was very much a sign of how adaptable United’s become, as missing Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez is not enough to fight on in Europe but certainly not the end of hopes for beating a very In-form Premier League visitor.
There were desperation blocks for Lindelof and others, yes, as Villa wasn’t going down without a fight. But the Red Devils were very much at the fore of this match.
Like Villa did to Newcastle a few weeks back, United frustrated a lively in-form opponent with control. It just couldn’t get that second goal to make things comfortable.
Manchester United vs Aston Villa player ratings: Stars of the Show
Manchester United vs Aston Villa as it happened
It was all Man United in the first 15 minutes, with Villa keeper Emiliano Martinez making some key interventions, but the visitors should be up 1-0 on a 20th-minute tap-in but instead it’s fumbled into a mere corner kick.
GOAL! Marcus Rashford is denied by Martinez but Bruno Fernandes will not be denied on the rebound, keeping cool from an acute angle with bodies sliding around him to hit a ball off Alex Moreno. VAR review. Manchester United, 1-0.
HALFTIME: Villa’s missed chance was one of just two attempts for the visitors and Unai Emery’s men have only had 36 percent of the ball. Man United holds a 0.93-0.14 advantage in expected goals and have taken eight shots, forcing three saves and four recoveries out of Martinez.
The second half has been a defensive clinic by Man United, with and without the ball. The second goal did not arrive and it was in the balance deep into stoppage time, when Villa earned a free kick, but Erik ten Hag’s men got the win.
Bruno Fernandes goal video: Red Devils in front
Man United visits Brighton on Thursday before going to West Ham on Sunday.
Villa Is off until a Saturday trip to Wolves.
How to watch Manchester United vs Aston Villa live, stream link and start time
Kick off: 9am ET, Sunday
TV Channel: Peacock
Online: Stream via Peacock Premium
Key storylines & star players
Man United is still alive for a cup double but can’t lose sight of its Premier League goals. The Red Devils have been driven by Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes this year but the focus has been on the back end with Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez out of the equation. Victor Lindelof was a FA Cup semifinal hero and Harry Maguire’s back in the fold as well.
Villa’s only conceded three goals during this 10-match unbeaten Premier League run, and now center back Tyrone Mings has added a game-winning goal to his resume following the 1-0 defeat of Fulham. The towering 30-year-old with 17 England caps is in fine form.
Manchester United team news, injuries, lineup options
OUT: Raphael Varane (foot), Lisandro Martinez (foot – out for season), Donny van de Beek (knee), Mason Greenwood (suspension – MORE), Tom Heaton (ankle), Phil Jones (knee), Alejandro Garnacho (ankle), Scott McTominay (knock)
🔴 U N I T E D 🔴#MUFC || #MUNAVL
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) April 30, 2023
Aston Villa team news, injuries, lineup options
OUT: Philippe Coutinho (thigh), Leon Bailey (hamstring), Matty Cash (calf), Boubacar Kamara (ankle), Jed Steer (calf)
Your Aston Villa today. 👊 #MUNAVL pic.twitter.com/rEcV4no8D2
— Aston Villa (@AVFCOfficial) April 30, 2023