Aston Villa vs. Manchester United: Final score 2-3, United come from behind once more

Michael Regan

Is anybody surprised at this point? Staring at a 2-0 deficit against Aston Villa, Manchester United came back with three goals in the second half to extend their lead at the top of the table to four points. Chicharito was the hero this time, scoring two and a half goals in the final 35 minutes as the Red Devils... well, did what they always do.

As expected, United started the match in complete control. Thanks to sensible, confident distribution from Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick, the visitors had the vast majority of the ball, and Villa were forced into a defensive shell that was continually tested by crosses from Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young. Despite that, there were few clear-cut chances on Brad Guzan's goal, and it was actually the hosts who offered the great threat on the rare occasions they were allowed to burst forward.

Paul Scholes was perhaps lucky not to be punished for an awful backpass straight to Christian Benteke, being bailed out by Kevin Friend when the referee decided to punish Steven Ireland for a niggling foul. But Villa managed to grab the lead anyway thanks to an absolutely sublime piece of play at the stroke of halftime.

When Andreas Weimann latched onto possession deep in his own half with 30 seconds to go until the break, it looked like all the hosts wanted was to clear their lines. That reckoned without the sheer strength and determination of Christian Benteke who, after being picked out by the Austrian, managed to keep the ball in under heavy pressure from Chris Smalling, eventually leaving the centre back sprawled on the Villa Park turf.

All of that effort could have been for nothing had he not picked out the perfect pass. But the 21-year-old did just that, setting up Weimann for an unstoppable shot from the top of the box. The ball was past David de Gea in an instant, and Villa had a surprise lead.

They'd add to that in similar fashion just after the break. A swift counterattack released Gabby Agbonlahor down the left, and Weimann's run went untracked by Patrice Evra. The finish this time was much simpler -- a tap-in at the back post and Villa were suddenly up 2-0.

At this point everyone knew that United would score three goals to win. That's what they do. But it didn't look particularly likely until substitute Javier Hernandez got involved. A long pass over the top from Paul Scholes picked the striker out in space, and despite a poor first and second touch and pressure from Ciaran Clark, Chicharito managed to to dig the ball out from under his feet and nutmeg Guzan to draw the visitors back into the game.

And then, minutes later, Chicharito struck again, volleying a seemingly over-hit cross from Valencia in off Ron Vlaar for an own goal. The comeback was well and truly on, and United's magical ability to recover from setbacks (they've now conceded first in seven of 11 Premier League games, winning five of them) was making an appearance once more.

That wasn't to say Aston Villas were totally done -- Weimann came extraordinarily close to his hattrick when Barry Bannan swung in an excellent cross and Rio Ferdinand failed to track his run, only for David de Gea to beat the Austian's powerful header away -- but the momentum was clearly with the visitors, and Guzan's goal was now more or less under siege.

Robin van Persie managed to hit the crossbar twice in a matter of minutes, first from a corner and then from a long-range piledriver, the bemused centre forward probably regretting that he hadn't aimed at Vlaar. Paul Lambert made a slew of defensive substitutions, but they weren't quite enough. In the 87th minute free kick was won, a cross swung in, and Hernandez squirmed free to complete another routine, implausible Manchester United win.

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