Aston Villa 1
- Cuellar 19
Manchester United 1
- Collins (og) 23
**Ten-man United outplayed Aston Villa for much of Wednesday’s game at Villa Park, but Sir Alex’s men, shorn of Nani’s attacking impetus for 60 minutes after the winger was sent off for a studs-up challenge, struggled to assert their dominance and had to settle for a point.
But the 1-1 draw – achieved courtesy of a James Collins own goal after Carlos Cuellar had put the home side in front – takes the Red Devils to within a point of Chelsea after the Blues lost 2-1 at Goodison Park courtesy of a Louis Saha double.
After that result at Everton, the Reds' draw at Villa may look like an opportunity lost: after all, a win would have sent United top of the league. But to come away from Villa Park with a point having played an hour with 10 men is no mean feat.
On a cold Birmingham night, the boss sent out a strong side to take on an Aston Villa team that had not lost in any competition since 2009. There was still no Nemanja Vidic (injured) or Rio Ferdinand (suspended) at the back, but in Wes Brown and Jonny Evans the manager has a second-choice centre-back pairing that would walk into most other.
In midfield, Darren Fletcher, Michael Carrick and Paul Scholes started together for the third time in four games, while Ryan Giggs and Nani provided the width. The Portuguese winger was involved early on and his 25-yard free-kick drew a smart save from Villa goalkeeper Brad Friedel.
United were level four minutes later. Nani, in a valuable moment during his cameo outing, crossed from the right and a shrewd Giggs held his position towards the back post while others clustered in the middle. The Welshman, who ultimately had to be replaced because of a worrying arm injury, was therefore in space for a shot that deflected off the centre-half James Collins for an unlucky own goal.
Referee Peter Walton was near enough to make a judgment and duly despatched Nani to the dressing rooms and out of the Wembley showpiece between these sides on 28 February.
With the balance of play remaining with the visitors, it was hard to escape a conclusion that Villa would have preferred to be playing against 11 men, whose defences were rather less solid.
For all the plaudits that have been heaped on Martin O'Neill's men in recent times, dictating play is still a problem and the hosts were markedly less of a threat once their opponents were a man down.
This result inhibit United to seize the top of the table and had to fight again on the next action in addition to the focus also on the Champions Cup
Aston Villa: Friedel; Cuellar, Dunne, Collins, L. Young; Milner, Petrov (Sidwell 65), Delph (Carew 59), Downing, A. Young; Agbonlahor
Manchester United: Van Der Sar; Rafael, Evans, Brown, Evra; Nani, Carrick, Scholes (Valencia 46), Fletcher, Giggs (Berbatov 74); Rooney
Source : www.manutd.com