Aston Villa 2 United 3
A stunning hat-trick from Javier Hernandez was enough to give Manchester United all three points at Villa Park last night.
However, Javier`s hat-trick doesn`t tell the full story as United had to come back from 2-0 down to take the three points on offer and open up, ahead of City and Chelsea`s fixtures this afternoon, a four point gap at the summit of the Premier League.
For the fixture, Sir Alex Ferguson had to do without, as we suspected pre-match, the services of Jonny Evans with Chris Smalling stepping into the centre-back slot. Ashley Young, formerly a Villa player was, as we expected, given a hot reception by the Villa Park faithful.
The first forty-five minutes was, to be perfectly honest, a touch boring. Both keepers had very little to do with much of the action confined to the middle of the pitch. Continuing along the honesty thread, we have to admit that it was the home side that were stringing some of the best moves together, but the final ball was often lacking, evading onrushing attacker, or when a half chance presented itself indecision was the key.
But, on the stroke of half-time all that changes when a United attack broke down and when the ball was fed to Benteke out wide, he slipped past Smalling before holding off a robust challenge, from the defender, that left Smalling flat on his back. Taking time to look up, Benteke played the perfect ball to the onrushing Weimann who unleashed a shot of such power that it gave De Gea no chance to get anywhere near it. Not the ideal way to finish the half.
Half Time - Villa 1 United 0
If Sir Alex Ferguson unleashed his famous hairdryer at half time, it didn`t seem to work with immediate effect when, five minutes into the half Villa doubled their lead. United were caught out when a Benteke dummy allowed Ireland to free Agbonlahor and hi slow cross was turned into the net by Weimann for his second goal of the game.
United were now staring down the barrel of a defeat but cometh the hour cometh the man. Hernandez, on for Young, gave United hope of a comeback when he latched onto a ball from Scholes and used his pace to loosen his shackles and fire past Guzan.
With the deficit reduced it was the United support that were now making the noise and just five minutes after his first goal, and in the 63rd minute, Hernandez was to pull United level. The goal came after Hernandez, lurking beyond the far post, hit a cross from Rafael towards goal, Vlaar inadvertently deflected it past Guzan and Villa Park was silenced.
Hernandez wheeled away in triumph but will the dubious goals committee rob him of his moment and decree it as an own goal, we shall see.
United were now well on top and Van Persie could have edged us in front with a header that smacked against the cross bar and then a shot, from outside the area, that also hit the bar.
But United were not to be denied that crucial winner and once again Hernandez was the man. The Mexican hit his third (or was it second?) goal of the evening when Van Persie sent over a free kick and the striker lost his marker to head past Guzan.
Game, set and match to United.