Manchester United guaranteed a Champions League spot for next season and ensured rivals Manchester City would have to still wait to be crowned champions as they came from behind to beat Aston Villa 3-1 at Villa Park.
United lacked the cutting edge in the first half even though they were dominant in possession having over 80% of the ball. Burkinabe star Bertrand Traore gave Villa the lead against the run of play as United found themselves trailing once again away from home.
This was a familiar situation that United found themselves in having amassed an incredible 28 points prior to this game after going behind by a goal.
They made sure it was 31 points as second-half goals from Bruno Fernandes, Mason Greenwood and veteran Edinson Cavani sealed a massive win for the Red Devils that sees them secure Champions League qualification with 4 games to still play in the league.
A win for Villa would have clinched the title for leaders City who earlier lost 2-1 to Chelsea on Saturday but the team from Birmingham were outclassed by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side who imposed their will in the second half.
Traore opened the scoring in the 24th minute with a thunderous left-foot shot that United failed to clear off their lines with Scott McTominay, Fred and Victor Lindelof, all failing to clear the danger. However, take nothing away from the winger from Burkina Faso who is having a fantastic season in England.
United levelled shortly after the first half in the 52nd minute after Bruno Fernandes calmly despatched his penalty past Martinez after Douglas Luiz fouled Paul Pogba clumsily. Greenwood continued his goal-scoring form as he scored just 4 minutes later with a low left-footed strike that found the bottom corner, which Martinez will feel he could have kept out.
United seemed to lose a bit of their play but dealt with Villa’s pressure after the loss of captain Harry Maguire to injury. Eventually, Cavani who came on as a substitute, continued his goalscoring run as well as United made sure of victory in the 87th minute.
This win takes United to 70 points as they seem almost certain to confirm 2nd place – 6 points clear of Chelsea – with a game in hand.
United are 10 points behind City with the league leaders having just 3 games left to play. They can close that gap to City by beating Leicester City on Tuesday to just 7 points.
Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to BBC Sport: “A great result and it takes a little bit of pressure away from having to get results because the next two [versus Leicester and Liverpool] are against very good teams.”
On coming from behind again to win: “It shows character, resilience, belief, fitness. It is difficult at times, especially when you travel back and don’t get home until 5am Friday and then travel here. It is a long season and I am delighted for everyone.”
Aston Villa boss Dean Smith to BBC Sport: “I didn’t think we started the game particularly well. We upped it and then I thought we were good first half, we high pressed well and got a good goal. We were quite comfortable at 1-0 at half-time. I think the game turns on the penalty decision.
“There was a touch but was it enough [for Paul Pogba] to go down? I watched Manchester City last night and Sterling had four touches in his back and doesn’t get a penalty and today it is a penalty. This is with Stockley Park watching in slow motion so you tell me what is happening because I don’t think the football world actually understands it anymore.”