Manchester United booked a home clash with Middlesbrough in the FA Cup fourth round after a fortunate 1-0 victory over an impressive Aston Villa at Old Trafford on Monday evening.
Scott McTominay’s early header proved to be the only goal of a feisty encounter against Steven Gerrard’s men in which Cristiano Ronaldo was missing completely from the matchday squad.
Ronaldo was conspicuous by his absence as United again lined up without injured captain Harry Maguire. Interim Red Devils boss Ralf Rangnick claimed that Ronaldo was missing because ‘he’s had some problems for the last couple of days’.
Despite adding some much-needed width to their side, in the form of Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood, it was the central midfield duo who combined for the opening goal in the eighth minute.
Fred cut back onto his left foot and his inswinging cross was met by the head of McTominay, who timed his run perfectly to nod home from eight yards.
Villa almost hit back quickly when Ollie Watkins bundled an effort wide from close range before John McGinn forced David de Gea into an excellent one-handed stop from 25 yards.
The visitors were clearly not deterred by their early setback and continued to look dangerous on the break.
Scott McTominay and Fred combine for Man Utd’s opening goal. 🤝
This game’s off to a flying start!
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Woodwork denies lively Watkins
A long punt forward by Emi Martinez led to a woeful touch from Victor Lindelof that let Ollie Watkins clear. The Swede recovered but was then turned in the box by the England striker, who fired a rising effort against the bar.
United did improve as they neared the break, with a well-struck Luke Shaw effort tipped over by Martinez while a McTominay volley also tested the Argentine.
Villa thought they had equalised shortly after the break when Danny Ings finished from close range after latching onto Ezri Konsa’s nod down from a free-kick. But after a lengthy VAR check, Jacob Ramsey was adjudged to have blocked Edinson Cavani in the build-up.
Here’s the VAR check, on what…