Gary Neville pops open champagne as Manchester United beat in-form Aston Villa to move level on points with Premier League leaders Liverpool

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Manchester United started the New Year the right way as they beat Aston Villa 2-1 to move level on points with Premier League leaders Liverpool.

Bertrand Traore’s 58th-minute goal cancelled out Anthony Martial’s first-half opener, before Bruno Fernandes’ penalty extended the Red Devils’ unbeaten run to 10 games.

Fernandes scored his 15th goal of the season against Aston Villa

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Fernandes scored his 15th goal of the season against Aston Villa

Only goal difference is keeping United away from top spot and Liverpool will have the chance to restore a three-point gap when they travel to Southampton on Monday.

It was an action packed game which had a whopping 33 attempts on goal.

Both goalkeepers were tested early on when Emiliano Martinez and David de Gea saved from Anthony Martial and John McGinn, respectively.

Fred and Fernandes also went close for United, before Martial broke the deadlock.

Marcus Rashford released Aaron Wan-Bissaka down the right wing and crossed for Martial, who headed home from close-range.

Martial scored just his second Premier League goal of the season

AFP

Martial scored just his second Premier League goal of the season

Aston Villa came out firing at the start of the second-half as United had David de Gea to thank for superbly tipping an Ollie Watkins header over the bar.

Villa were level when Villa took a quick free-kick, which saw Jack Grealish’s clever pass turned in by Traore.

But their lead lasted for just three minutes as referee Michael Oliver awarded a penalty to United when Douglas Luiz fouled Paul Pogba in the box.

The decision stood after a VAR review and Fernandes emphatically scored his 15th goal of the season.

Traore gave Villa a deserved equaliser

AFP

Traore gave Villa a deserved equaliser

Both sides had golden opportunities to score the game’s next goal in the remaining 29 minutes.

Martial stung Martinez’s palms as De Gea did well to save an effort from Anwar El Ghazi.

It was then United’s turn to attack once more when Pogba put Luke Shaw’s cutback wide.

Grealish, who was a constant threat for Villa, crossed for Watkins, who failed to direct his header on target.

More opportunities then fell United’s way when Fernandes’ shot was tipped on to the bar by Martinez, before the resulting corner saw Rashford fire just inches over the bar.

Man United are flying under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

AFP

Man United are flying under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

As the game drew to a close, Villa had three excellent chances to equalise, with two coming in injury-time.

Tyrone Mings was guilty of heading a Matty Cash corner wide in the 83rd minute, before the latter had a long-range effort saved by De Gea.

And in the sixth minute of stoppage time, Villa substitute Keinan Davis had a goal-bound shot blocked by Eric Bailly.

Manchester United legend Gary Neville jovially celebrated United’s win by opening a bottle of champagne at full-time.

He tweeted a video of himself with the caption: “Happy New Year (joint top).”

Jamie Carragher could not resist a dig at his Sky Sports colleague by tweeting: “He had the champagne ready!

“No wonder he said Pogba’s was a pen but [Kieran] Tierney’s [against Chelsea on Boxing Day] wasn’t!!”





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