Full-time - 90'
3 - 2
15:00 +00:00, April 5, 2009
Old Trafford, England
Referee: Mike Riley
Anyway, that's pretty much that. Again, props to Villa - that was easily one of the best games I've seen this season, and that's a lot to do with Villa. Barry passed the ball intelligently (shading Carrick, who was influential in the last quarter) and Carew and Agbonlahor made United look very silly on more than a few occasions. Right, I'm off for a lie down.
Apologies for going on, but having just seen Macheda's goal again, it really does deserve one more posting. He demands the ball from Giggs and when he receives it, shows wit, dexterity, composure and confidence. Then, in the true spirit of the game, he goes completely insane, running about like a lunatic. Beautiful.
With so many players to come back, United will now think themsleves strong favourites to win yet another title. For long periods this afternoon they were inferior to Villa; dicey at the back, careless in midfield and guileless up front. However Macheda's introduction opened things up, bringing Tevez into the play and giving United a focal point up front. He is justifiably the smuggest person in the world right now.
As the man who found three holes in the ground said, well well well. United have found that little bit extra when they needed it - three goals of individual brilliance hiding defensive uncertainty and a generally sub-par performance. Hard luck on Villa who played well.
FULL TIME: United 3 Villa 2.
Keep-ball now from United.
Old Trafford is rocking. That did not seem likely half an hour ago.
Ronaldo carries the ball deep into Villa's territory and wins a throw.
Macheda actualy looks very calm. No one else does.
GOAL! An utterly brilliant goal from Macheda. Receives Giggs' pass, Cruyff turns his marker and curls a deliciouly delectable goal round Friedel and into the bottom left hand corner.
Evra cuts out a pass that would have left Agbonlahor in on goal.
Villa break but United get back well and attack again.
Evra's cross is turned behind by Davies. Corner.
Five added minutes.
Evans it just unable to reach Carrick's cross.
Great chance for a winner. Welbeck's shot is saved by Fridel following great work from Ronaldo.
Villa have a throw but are trying their best to waste time.
Barry is a relieved man. Loses possession and Macheda - who's made a difference - tees up Ronaldo, who hits it high. Danny Welbeck replaces Tevez, who has improved in the last 20 minutes.
Giggs almost runs onto Tevez's flick after slick interplay, but Villa clear.
Corner comes to nothing.
Great shot from Fletcher after a one-two with Giggs and Friedel tips his volley over the bar. Corner.
O'Shea robs Shorey charging forward and United launch another attack.
United look ready to up the pressure, but Villa will still be dangerous on the break. A great last ten minutes in prospect.
GOAL! United work the ball well between Giggs and Carrick and Ronaldo's superb left foot shot from 20 yards beats Friedel low to his left.
Ashley Young booked for mouthing off to the linesman.
Evra wins a corner. United are trying, but the quality isn't there. Villa have generally been comfortable. Friedel easily saves O'Shea's tame header.
Another cross from Giggs and United have a throw.
Good cross from Giggs, which Villa do well to clear.
The corner creates minor panic but the ball drops to a Villa defender.
Tevez' shot from distance is deflected behind for a corner. Reo-Coker replaces Milner for Villa and is walking off unfeasibly slowly.
Agbonlahor wins a free kick in a dangerous position off the execrable John O'Shea. No need to nmake a tackle there, and give Young a chance to whip one in.
He does, but it's cleared.
Young crosses but Agbonlahor is on his heels and can't reach the ball.
United are mustering some pressure now.
Great break from United via Giggs and Macheda, but the final ball isn't good enough.
Milner bundles his way through some challenges on the right and wins a throw.
Evans' header is just over the bar.
Giggs wins corner off Davies, wide on the left.
Macheda claims a penalty, which isn't given and Barry berates him for diving, although he did no such thing. Davies' arm was over his shoulder, but a penalty would have been harsh.
Ronaldo gets the ball in the area, but wants too long and has no angle or options.
Carew nutmegs Evans but overruns the ball.
Tevez is charging around like a Tasmanian Devil wearing blinkers and treads on Barry who's now limping. Barry has, since I criticised him, played very well.
Tevez's pass almost releases the overlapping Gary Neville, but it's just cut out.
17 year old Federico Macheda is coming on for Nani, making his debut. He scored a hat trick for the reserves midweek and looked very composed in front of goal, but the fact that he's required now evidences United's problems.
Friedel is down injured after colliding with his own player. The Villa fans are singing rubbish generic songs very loudly.
So what have United got? It seems unlikely that the answer is very much, but they have a throw on the left.
GOAL! Carew gets away on the right after Ronaldo loses possession and Agbonlahor is left unchallenged to head easily past Van der Saar. Evra was nowhere, and he should have been.
There's no pace or rhythm to United's passing.
United knock the ball around, but Evra needlessly gives it way. He's as out of form as a mound of melted chocolate.
Another offside, this time Agbonlahor. Very close.
Gay Neville is relieved to see an offside flag after he loses Young. He certainly didn't play for that.
Tevez can't reach Giggs' through ball and United have a throw on the left.
Free kick to Villa after a foul by Fletcher. Young will hit it long into the box, and poor defending from Evra almost creates a chance.
Tevez runs with ball down the United right, but is tackled and United have a throw. Save an occasional late goal, I'm not sure what he does.
Minor histrionics from Ronaldo after he's harshly penalised for a high foot.
Tevez robs Cuellar and United have a throw wide on the right.
O'Shea blocks Young's speculative shot.
Villa look as though they're trying to double-up on Ronaldo when he has the ball, and with good reason - none of the other United players look likely to create much.
Tevez pursues Fletcher's hoof, but looks like he's running in a wind tunnel.
Evra late on Milner, free kick to Villa in centrefield.
Final score in today's other game is Everton 4 Wigan 0.
Evans concedes a throw in unnecessarily.
United kick off.
It's worth noting that United have very little on the bench. They're missing Rooney badly, and although his sending off was childish, had Fergie selected him to start the Fulham game, they'd probably have at least one more point and him in the team today.
This is now the crucial game of this season's Premier League. If United can somehow inveigle a win from somewhere, then with players to come back, they'll fancy themselves. If they can't, then they've got a problem.
Good half of football, that. United were lucky to go ahead and both they and Villa knew it. Villa did well to keep their composure and were easily the better side. If United don't sort out their defending, Villa will score at least once more.
HALF TIME: UNITED 1 VILLA 1.
Ronaldo gets the ball wide on the right after a good tackle and pass from Fletcher that rolled along the left touchline, and United win a corner. Evans' header is off target, but it was from a fair way out.
Is it just me, or does Gareth Barry always look indignant?
Rubbish corner, headed away at the near post.
Milner's shot, which was going well wide, is deflected by Evans, and Villa have a corner on their right.
United break after good work from Fletcher, but Giggs - who has been very poor today - gives the ball away. United win the ball back and Carrick shoots wide.
Great challenge from O'Shea to rob Young but his clearance is careless and plays United into truoble. They manage to regroup and win a free kick in their own area.
Nani belts a shot high and wide from miles out.
Evra wins a free kick after being fouled by Milner. His loss of form is a significant factor in United's recent stumbles, after two close-to-immaculate seasons.
Tevez is trying his little bottom off, but his first touch is not as admirable as his work ethic.
United exert a bit of pressure, but it comes to nothing after Carrick drifts a pass aimlessly out of play for a goal kick.
Nani wins a throw deep into Villa's half wide on the left.
Young turns Neville inside and out but shoots straight at the keeper.
Ronaldo now seems to playing at centre forward.
Free kick to United wide on the left, 35 yards out. Nani will take. Great ball, great jump by Ronaldo, but his header is straight at Friedel. Neville now at right back.
Carew gets the ball in the United area and is only just squeezed out. United look clueless at the back.
Carrick has a shot from distance that's defelcted and United appeal half-heartedly for handball.
United will be feeling the pressure now - that goal was not unexpected. Villa have been the more threatening team, and fully deserve to be level.
GOAL! Carew heads in to the left-hand corner after great work and a great cross from Barry on the right. Neville is nowhere near Carew, although the ball was so good it's unlikely he'd have been able to do much about it.
Tevez falls over rather comically, head first towards the ball. Perhaps he has delayed-reaction altitude sickness after playing for Argentina in Bolivia.
Neville does well to slide in to put the ball out for a corner after Giggs's lame pass conceded possession and put United in trouble.
From one such situation, Carrick gives the ball away, but Villa waste the chance to threaten.
Villa are pressing United well when they're in posession.
Good ball by Young inside Neville, Agbonlahor beats him easily but Van der Saar is down well to collect his cross.
Friedel scuffs his clearance and Nani elects not to shoot at the empty net from 40 yards. This is surprising.
Evrton 4 Wigan 0 now.
The much-hyped (by me) contest between Barry and Carrick has yet to materialise as neither has really had a kick.
Fletcher does well in the middle of the pitch and Nani is fouled after receiving his pass.
Good cross by Nani, which Vlla do well to clear. He could do with a good game, having done very little this season. Expect to see him at Spurs or somewhere in the not-too-distant future.
Everton 3 Wigan 0 now, in today's other game.
Good effort by Young, but too close to Van der Saar. Corner on the left.
Free kick given against Fletcher after a collision with Petrov. Lokked harsh, but Villa have a chance here - right on the edge of the box, right hand side.
Evans bundles Milner off the ball and wins a throw. Good defending.
United suddenly look awake, apart from Nani who is lying on the floor. Perhaps he's tired after a hard week of hair brushing and reflection gazing.
Giggs wastes it by trying to find Carrick on the edge of the box, but it's too floated and Villa clear.
Giggs almost gets through and United have a corner.
GOAL! Ha, don't I look silly. After much prevarication and a yellow card for the hapless Milner, Ronaldo whacks the ball into the top right-hand corner and Shorey helpfully ducks underneath. Cometh the hour cometh the poseur.
Ronaldo into the wall looks the likely outcome...
Error by Milner. Passes back to Friedel, and United have a free kick maybe 12 yards from goal on the left hand side of the box.
United's first decent passage of play, Tevez and Giggs linking up, but the latter's ball to Fletcher is too strong.
Villa toss the ball into Carew, he wins it, but no one there to run onto his flick. United won't be able to compete against him in the air, so it might be wisest for them to concentrate on marking the runners. Agbonlahor then allows the ball to run into touch when he had a chance to run at Neville.
United string a few passes together, but Giggs, on the left hand side of the area, crosses straight into Luke Young's body.
Good touch by Carew sets Agbonlahor fre down the left, but there is no one to meet his low cross.
United have had no decent possession so far, Villa look threatening.
Ronaldo plays headers with himself to neither purpose nor avail.
Agbonlahor looked as though he muscled Neville off the ball - not difficult, I know - but is penalised a foul given.
Fletcher diverts Carew's header onto the post.
United look nervous, and Shorey wins a corner after his low cross is knocked behind.
Great ball from Young inside O'Shea but Agbonlahor wastes possession, before wining a throw in a few seconds later.
Good cross from Young that is just too long for Agbonlahor and Van der Sar punches clear.
For United, Gary Neville is at centre back, Nani is on the left and Giggs appears to be playing behind Tevez.
Villa kick off, attacking the Stretford End.
On that point, is it better to be called Gareth Barry rather than Barry Gareth? Probably, but it's a close thing.
It'll also be interesting to have a look at how Barry and Carrick fare in direct opposition. The two are competing for a single international spot, and I must say, I'm clueless as to why Barry is preferred. Being left footed and Steven Gerrard's mate doesn't do it for me.
Of course to do that they'll need to get the ball, not something Villa have done too much of this season, even in the games they've won - they tend to soak up pressure and hit very quickly on the break.
Villa are in a similar position to United; but a few weeks ago they looked strong, but now find themselves fighting to recover some momentum. Their pace and strength up front might just allow them to do so, especially if United don't start well. If they can get the ball wide and put some crosses into the box, they'll cause problems.
With Berbatov and Rooney unavailable, the onus is very much on Ronaldo to take responsbility for United this afternoon. His unfeasibly brilliant brilliance last season, coupled with a hardy defence allowed United to win two trophies last season despite only playing really well a handful of times, and the drop in his level of performance is a major reason as to why the race for the title is still a race.
Meanwhile at the other end, United will not be excited to see Brad Friedel in the opposing net. The superhumanity (is that a word? If not, I've just invented it, neologian that I am) of his goalkeeping displays whenever he faces United are remembered by their supporters with whatever is the opposite of nostalgia.
United's back four looks dodgy to say the least, with O'Shea and Neville included. Whichever of the two plays at right back, Ashley Young will be maniacally licking his lips. Hell, I'd be licking mine if I was playing in his position.
United subs are: Foster, Park, Welbeck, Gibson, Martin, Macheda, Eckersley.
And for Villa: Guzan, Delfouneso, Knight, Salifou, Reo-Coker, Gardner, Albrighton.
So Villa visit Old Trafford, and having seeing the United team they'll be fancying their chances:
Van der Sar; O'Shea, Neville, Evans, Evra; Carrick, Giggs; Fletcher, Tevez, Nani; Ronaldo.
And Villa: Friedel; L Young, Cuellar, Davies, Shorey; Milner, Petrov, Barry, A Young; Carew, Agbonlahor.
Edwin van der Sar
Carlos Jimenez Cuellar