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United 'resilience' puts City's champagne on ice

China Daily | Updated: 2021-05-11 09:06
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Manchester United's Mason Greenwood celebrates scoring, after finishing off an Aaron-Wan Bissaka (left) cross, during the visitor's 3-1 English Premier League victory at Aston Villa on Sunday. REUTERS

Solskjaer hails his comeback kings as Villa win delays neighbor's title party

BIRMINGHAM, England-Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer praised his team's "resilience" after it put Manchester City's Premier League title celebrations on hold by coming from behind to win 3-1 away to Aston Villa on Sunday.

Defeat for United in the first of a run of three games in five days would have seen City crowned champion.

And its local rival had reason to be optimistic when Villa's Bertrand Traore opening the scoring midway through the first half.

But United hit back with two goals in four minutes after the break, Bruno Fernandes equalizing from the penalty spot before Mason Greenwood put it ahead. A late goal from substitute Edinson Cavani wrapped up the points.

Victory left second-place United 10 points behind leader City, with 12 still on offer to the Red Devils from their final four league games.

United, however, faces Leicester and Liverpool this week and defeat in either of those matches will see City, beaten 2-1 at home by Chelsea on Saturday, crowned champion before Pep Guardiola's men travel to Newcastle on Friday.

"A great result and it takes a little bit of pressure away from having to get results because the next two are against very good teams," Solskjaer told the BBC.

The Norwegian made four changes to the side beaten 3-2 by Roma in Thursday's Europa League semifinal second leg, a result that still saw United advance 8-5 on aggregate. Dean Henderson, Victor Lindelof, Scott McTominay and Marcus Rashford were all recalled to the starting XI.

And Solskjaer was pleased by the way United coped with both a congested schedule and then falling behind at Villa Park.

"It shows character, resilience, belief, fitness," he said. "It is difficult at times, especially when you travel back and don't get home until 5 am Friday and then travel here."

United kicked off having not lost a Premier League match at Villa Park since 1995, a year before current manager Solskjaer joined the club as a striker.

Villa's hopes of ending that run against United were not helped by England international Jack Grealish's ongoing absence due to a shin injury, with Egypt forward Trezeguet a long-term absentee too.

Grealish looked on from the stands on Sunday as did England manager Gareth Southgate, himself a former Villa defender.

Villa went ahead against the run of play in the 24th minute.

Fred's poor pass to McTominay allowed John McGinn to intercept, with Douglas Luiz playing in Traore.

The Burkina Faso international turned neatly and held off the challenge of Lindelof before beating United goalkeeper Henderson with a powerful shot into the far corner.

United was level in the 52nd minute when Fernandes scored from the spot after Paul Pogba was brought down in the box by Luiz.

The visitor led in the 56th minute after Aaron Wan-Bissaka found Greenwood inside the box, with the teenage England forward beating Martinez with a low shot.

United captain Harry Maguire limped off 12 minutes from time, and is now a doubt for the Europa League final against Villarreal in Gdansk, Poland on May 26.

"Of course we've got a final to look forward to-hopefully that will be with Harry Maguire," said Solskjaer.

"It might be a few weeks, might be a couple of days, who knows?"

United will now await the results of a scan, with Solskjaer adding: "It was his ankle, lower leg. I think the boy landed on top of him, so twisted his ankle and got a knock."

Cavani made the game safe with an 87th-minute glancing header from a Rashford cross.

And there was still time for Villa's Ollie Watkins to be sent off after he was shown a second yellow card for diving.

Villa manager Dean Smith, who branded United's penalty a "pathetic decision", was also frustrated by Watkins' exit.

"Ollie Watkins has got sent off for a second yellow, there is no way the referee can tell me he is convinced he hasn't been touched."

AFP

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