A slice of history for Manchester United, but one with relevance to their immediate future.
They became the first team to win four consecutive Premier League games by three goals. A team on the charge are now a solitary point behind Leicester, their final-day opponents. At this rate, United may not even need to triumph at the King Power to be sure of Champions League football.
Meanwhile, the Championship may beckon for Aston Villa. A side on the slide have only taken two points from a possible 30. Villa had at least competed since lockdown, but defensive difficulties were a constant before then and recurred as they were eviscerated. United scored three, but it might have been six. A group unbeaten in 17 games in all competitions are brimming with confidence.
Sharing the full story, not just the headlines
Many a past United side has featured a winning blend of the expensive and the homegrown. It was Law and Charlton, Keane and Giggs, Van Nistelrooy and Beckham. Their scorers at Villa Park came for a combined cost of £136 million, and one of them was free. January signing Bruno Fernandes and precocious local Mason Greenwood got what now feel their expected goals. Then Paul Pogba capped his renaissance with the third. The record buy has been reintegrated and rehabilitated as a United player. Perhaps this was a microcosm for Pogba’s recent fortunes: He coughed up possession when Trezeguet struck the United post at 0-0; later he bent a shot inside the same upright to score his first goal for 453 days.
Fernandes, meanwhile, took his tally to seven goals, to accompany the five assists he has in 10 league matches. Greenwood became only the second teenager, after Wayne Rooney to score in three successive Premier League games for United.
United’s first goal was the most controversial and, coming straight after Trezeguet struck the upright, the turning point. It was another landmark strike as they equalled the record of 13 Premier League penalties in a season, set by Leicester’s title winners and a relegated Crystal Palace side where Andrew Johnson faced a constant battle to retain his balance.
Jon Moss’ decision did not meet with universal approval. Ezri Konsa was deemed to have fouled a pirouetting Fernandes; the alternative interpretation was that the Portuguese jumped into the defender, who was merely confused by the cleverness of his footwork. Contentious as it was, United could argue a later challenge, by Douglas Luiz on Marcus Rashford, was more of a penalty. Regardless, their No18 converted their 18th spot kick in all competitions, Fernandes sending Pepe Reina the wrong way.
Greenwood lashed in the second, his 16th goal of the season, after a fine move involving Fernandes and Anthony Martial who, belying his image, had won the ball back from Tyrone Mings. Reina was playing for Barcelona before Greenwood was born, but experience proved no defence to a strike of such ferocity and precision. Greenwood has already inspired comparisons with Robin van Persie, but they differ in one notable respect: The newcomer is much more two-footed, as an ability to score from 20 yards with his right indicates.
Thereafter Aaron Wan-Bissaka missed a chance to score his first senior goal, heading wastefully wide from Rashford’s cross. An offside Pogba applied the final touch to a Rashford shot and Martial rattled the woodwork. Reina saved from Rashford after Pogba provided a defence-splitting ball.
The Frenchman, though, did find the net and with nonchalant ease, curling a low shot in from 20 yards. Once again, United had won, and with plenty to spare.