Without the injured Cristiano Ronaldo, Manchester United fought for a 1-0 win over Aston Villa in the FA Cup third round thanks to an early goal from Scott McTominay.
- Manchester United advanced to FA Cup fourth round after 1-0 win over Villa
- Cristiano Ronaldo removed from United squad due to hip complaint as Villa was without a new signing Philippe Coutinho
- VAR denied Villa an equalizer just before the hour
McTominay met curling center midfielder Fred to throw a header in the eighth minute, sending the 12 Cup champions into a fourth-round home game against second tier Middlesbrough next month.
But victory won’t do much to instill confidence in United fans that interim coach Ralf Rangnick is making the most of the club’s talented but under-performing squad.
Ronaldo was absent with a “minor” hip injury, according to Rangnick.
“He told me he had this problem the last few days,” Rangnick said.
“Again, in a cup game where you can play 120 minutes, I thought it was best not to take any chances.”
United were lackluster as an attacking force at Old Trafford, especially in the second half as Villa launched a wave of attacks.
The visitors had the ball in the net twice but both times were denied by an offside.
United goalkeeper David De Gea was once again his squad’s most impressive player with a series of great saves.
Villa forward Ollie Watkins had a strain on the crossbar in the first half after United defender Victor Lindelof made a mistake.
It turned out to be a disappointing return to United’s stadium for Steven Gerrard, the Villa manager who received a hostile reception due to his previous ties to Liverpool – United’s big rivals.
Gerrard was unable to select Brazilian playmaker and former Liverpool teammate Philippe Coutinho, who was on loan from Barcelona last week but is currently in France awaiting a work permit.
The game’s most controversial moment came when Villa’s Danny Ings thought he had equalized after returning the ball from close range in the 51st minute.
The preparation for the goal was examined at length by VAR and it was felt that Jacob Ramsey was held in an offside position before becoming active to block Edinson Cavani before Ezri Konsa directed the ball towards Ings.
United will be hopeful Ronaldo will be fit to return for the team’s next game at Villa in the Premier League on Saturday.
AP / ABC