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Dublin: 7 °C Thursday 26 April, 2018


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Manchester United 4-0 Aston Villa

Welcome to our coverage of the only Premier League game today, where Manchester United are under a bit more pressure after their defeat to Wigan on Wednesday and City’s victory yesterday. The gap is now only two points. Can they extend it back to five?

The teams

Man Utd: De Gea, Rafael Da Silva, Evans, Ferdinand, Evra, Valencia, Carrick, Scholes, Young, Rooney, Welbeck. Subs: Amos, Jones, Berbatov, Giggs, Hernandez, Nani, Cleverley.

Aston Villa: Given, Hutton, Collins, Baker, Lichaj, Bannan, Ireland, Clark, Gardner, Weimann, Agbonlahor. Subs: Guzan, N’Zogbia, Delfouneso, Heskey, Cuellar, Johnson, Carruthers.

Referee: Mark Halsey (Lancashire)

Bright, open start here, with Villa also going at United. Andreas Weimann went through on goal but his shot was weak.

PENALTY! Just like last week, Young goes down and, just like last week, he makes the most of it. There is contact but he exaggerates so much! And that after a brilliant run.

GOAL! Manchester United 1-0 Aston Villa

Wayne Rooney tucks it into the corner. No mistake.

There was definite contact there but is it because it’s a foul or because Young goes looking for it?

United now look relaxed and rampant after that. Finding a lot of space with Young, admittedly, playing well when he’s not diving. He does look up for it. Despite going down.

Great work from Rooney. Rafael does well to get down the right and feed the forward. He shapes away from the defender before shooting ferociously at goal, but Given just touches it away.

Bit of a scare for United. Herd gets his head onto a set-piece and it flies just wide of the United post.

According to Sky, United have now scored in 47 home games in a row: a Premier League record.

Rooney heads just wide after a set-piece. Probably should have been 2-0!

Collins now with a brilliant block after another flowing move ends with Danny Welbeck taking the ball down and rifling at goal, only to see it deflected away. While the dive has obviously skewed things, it has to be said United have been superb since the start. Some superb interchanges and all at devastating speed.

At the other end Stephen Ireland curls an effort just wide. A reminder for United that they need to kill this game.

Scholes smashes an effort wide now on the volley. This is such an open game.

Irony: Paul Scholes injures himself in a tackle. Hobbling at the moment.Doesn’t look like he’ll have to come off. Probably no more than a dead leg.

Carrick shows surprising fleetness of feet to evade a few challenges in the box but, also ironically, his pass inside is then poor. Moments later, Welbeck forces another fine save from Given. United have started like a whirlwind. Villa hanging on by their fingertips.

GOAL! Manchester United 2-0 Aston Villa

United get the goal their football deserves. Carrick releases Evra on the left who flashes the ball across the box.Given can’t get to it and Baker steps over it, but that allows Welbeck to dive in and finish.

HALF-TIME: Manchester United 2-0 Aston Villa

Yes, it was a disgraceful dive. But United were looking promising before then and have exhilarating since. The penalty might not have been deserved, but the scoreline is. An exceptional performance. Villa had been creating a few nagging doubts with occasional pot-shots but Welbeck now looks to have killed that off.

The second half is under way…

United immediately pick where they left off, as Danny Welbeck tries to feed the ball through to Rooney but it just evades the forward.

Alex McLeish have had words with referee Mark Halsey, letting him no in very forthright terms that was “never a penalty”.

There’s perhaps a few wry smiles among the non-United supporting parts of these islands as Young writhes in pain after Hutton clatters into him. Young did do very well, though, to initially beat him to the ball. Booking for the Scot.

United spraying it about now. Much more relaxed pace to the game as they just play this out. There is half an hour left mind!

Young goes off for the returning Nani.

There has been much talk about refereeing in general over the past few weeks. For me, Jock Stein’s words from half-time in the 1967 European Cup final are apt:

“You might have a grievance, but there’s only one bunch of people who can do anything about it: you. Go and right it yourselves.”

Emile Heskey has come on for the bandaged Herd. He’s got one goal in 22 games.

We almost spoke too soon! Heskey tests De Gea with an excellent effort, the goalkeeper just about tipping over the bar.

Not really been Rooney’s day despite his early penalty and some generally good build-up play. Valencia puts it on a plate for the striker, as he waits on the penalty spot, but he scuffs it wide.

Spell of pressure for Villa here. With only two goals in it, a Villa strike would make things quite interesting.

This is a great piece from Georgina Turner on the whole “entitled to go down” argument. Well worth a read.

GOAL! Manchester United 3-0 Aston Villa

And that finishes it! After fine build-up from Welbeck, Valencia and Rooney, the number-10 takes the Ecuadorian’s pass and drives it into the bottom corner via a deflection for his second of the game.He immediately goes off for Berbatov.Nice way to closeit.

Tom Cleverley comes on for Scholes, who is naturally applauded off. This is a training exercise now for United.

Valencia forcing another great save from Given, just after Welbock goes close. He’s had some game the keeper.

Evans heads just over from the corner. It’s the 89th minute now. Last time United payed Villa at this point of the season with this kind of pressure, a 17-year-old Italian had just been brought on as they desperately searched for a winner. No need for extremes today.

GOAL! Manchester United 4-0 Aston Villa

Easy as you like. A quick exchange between Welbeck and Evans at the edge of the box, before the centre-half cushions a pass for Nani who slides it past Given.

FULL-TIME: United ease to victory in the end. Young was deceptive, they occasionally dropped off but, all in all, it was a devastating and well-deserved victory. The gap is back to five points. United motor on. And, under Ferguson, they’ve never squandered this big a lead at this point of the season.