FIRST HALF – FRUSTRATION FOR THE REDS
The Reds certainly started the brighter in the West Midlands, with Greenwood registering the first shot after five minutes, which he placed just wide with his right foot. But it was Villa keeper Emiliano Martinez who was busiest man in the ground during the early proceedings, as he faced a barrage of shots from United players.
The former Arsenal stopper pulled off a great reaction save to deny Luke Shaw’s powerful strike, before dealing with efforts on target from Paul Pogba and then Fred.
A rare Villa foray into the opposition half resulted in a deflected Traore shot, before United were back on the attack, with Fernandes poking wide from a half-chance inside the box.
Marcus Rashford was then inches away from converting when he connected with a ball that was smashed into the six-yard by Greenwood. However, the United no.10 couldn’t quite react in time, and the the opportunity went begging.
After all United’s early dominance, it was the lively Traore who grabbed the game’s opening goal. The winger’s smart turn inside the box was cut out by Victor Lindelof, although, when the ball deflected back to him, Traore unleashed a powerful strike that gave Dean Henderson no hope, and put the Villans in front.
That goal seemed to spur Villa into life and Dean Smith’s men looked much more effective from the midpoint of the first period, with Traore and Anwar El Ghazi seeing plenty of the ball in the wide areas.
Despite that, United were still producing opportunities to score – Fernandes fired over from distance, before Martinez was called into action to hold Rashford’s effort from the edge of the box.
Greenwood was perhaps the Reds’ best performer in the opening period and, on 40 minutes, he again stung the palms of the Villa keeper, with the Argentine at full stretch to push the youngster’s powerful shot wide.
It was the hosts who registered the final shot of the half, when Ollie Watkins’s drilled effort was kept out by Henderson.