Manchester United

Manchester United

Premier League • England

Ronaldo missing as fortunate Man Utd edge past Aston Villa to set up Boro cup clash

Scott McTominay celebrates his goal Man Utd v Villa

Manchester United booked a home clash with Middlesbrough in the FA Cup fourth round after a fortunate 1-0 victory over an impressive Aston Villa at Old Trafford on Monday evening.

Scott McTominay’s early header proved to be the only goal of a feisty encounter against Steven Gerrard’s men in which Cristiano Ronaldo was missing completely from the matchday squad.

Ronaldo was conspicuous by his absence as United again lined up without injured captain Harry Maguire. Interim Red Devils boss Ralf Rangnick claimed that Ronaldo was missing because ‘he’s had some problems for the last couple of days’.

Despite adding some much-needed width to their side, in the form of Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood, it was the central midfield duo who combined for the opening goal in the eighth minute.

Fred cut back onto his left foot and his inswinging cross was met by the head of McTominay, who timed his run perfectly to nod home from eight yards.

Villa almost hit back quickly when Ollie Watkins bundled an effort wide from close range before John McGinn forced David de Gea into an excellent one-handed stop from 25 yards.

The visitors were clearly not deterred by their early setback and continued to look dangerous on the break.

Woodwork denies lively Watkins

A long punt forward by Emi Martinez led to a woeful touch from Victor Lindelof that let Ollie Watkins clear. The Swede recovered but was then turned in the box by the England striker, who fired a rising effort against the bar.

United did improve as they neared the break, with a well-struck Luke Shaw effort tipped over by Martinez while a McTominay volley also tested the Argentine.

Villa thought they had equalised shortly after the break when Danny Ings finished from close range after latching onto Ezri Konsa’s nod down from a free-kick. But after a lengthy VAR check, Jacob Ramsey was adjudged to have blocked Edinson Cavani in the build-up.

A feisty encounter was starting to boil over a little when quickfire fouls from Bruno Fernandes and McGinn went unpunished by referee Michael Oliver.

Villa missing cutting edge

Villa saw another goal ruled for offside on the hour mark when Ings broke clear and his goalbound chip was forced home by a sliding Watkins. Ings was eventually flagged, even though he was clearly off in the first place.

Villa’s dominance forced Rangnick into a defensive change when he brought on Donny van de Beek for Cavani with 20 minutes to go.

United had a great chance to bury the tie in the 74th minute when Fernandes played Greenwood through on goal. However, the England forward’s finish from a tight angle was kept out by Martinez.

A raft of substitutions then followed but Villa failed to muster another clear-cut chance to equalise as a rather fortunate United booked a date with Boro in early February.