Birmingham: Mason Greenwood’s rise to stardom continued with another thunderous finish as Manchester United extended their winning run with a 3-0 victory at Aston Villa to move within one point of the Premier League’s top four.
Bruno Fernandes’s controversial penalty won by the Portuguese midfielder opened the scoring after a slow start from the in-form visitors.
Greenwood then took centre stage with his fourth goal in three games as he drilled home on his supposedly weaker right foot just before half-time.
Fernandes then teed up Paul Pogba to score his first goal for over a year as United became the first team in Premier League history to win four consecutive games by a three-goal margin.
Villa’s winless run stretches to 10 games as Dean Smith’s men remain rooted in the bottom three, four points adrift of safety with just four games to go.
United now have a return to the Champions League next season in their own hands as they face fourth-placed Leicester on the final day of the season and will fancy their chances to chasing down Chelsea for third.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men are now 17 games unbeaten in all competitions and showed their firepower once more with Fernandes and Pogba supplying the ammunition for Greenwood, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial in attack.
Villa were made to regret not making the most of a sloppy start from United as Trezeguet hit the post with just David de Gea to beat.
Fernandes has been the catalyst for United’s turnaround since his arrival in January and he was at the centre of a hugely contentious call that spark the Red Devils into life.
The former Sporting Lisbon midfielder appeared to initiate the contact with Villa right-back Ezri Konsa as he spun just inside the area.
Jon Moss had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and much to Smith’s ire on sidelines VAR did not intervene to overturn the decision.
Fernandes has shared responsibilities from the spot with Rashford since the restart, but the former took responsibility this time to send Pepe Reina the wrong way for his eighth goal for the club.
Greenwood scored powerfully off both feet against Bournemouth at the weekend and sent Villa a warning shot with a low left-foot drive that Reina parried to safety.
Fernandes then headed over United’s best move of the half from Luke Shaw’s cross.
But Villa could not hold out without conceding again before half-time as they gave Greenwood far too much room on the edge of the area to smash home his 16th goal of the season.
United have now scored 14 goals in winning their last four league games and turned on the style after the break.
The impact of the coronavirus outbreak could turn Pogba’s United career around. Prior to the pandemic, the French World Cup winner seemed set to leave the club for the second time in his career.
But with interest from Real Madrid now unlikely to materialise this summer given the economic impact of the crisis, Solskjaer is hoping to extend Pogba’s contract beyond 2022.
The impact of having both Fernandes and a fit-again Pogba has transformed the creativity of the United midfield and they combined for United’s third with the help of some more slack Villa defending.
Pogba was given time to control and measure his show from Fernandes’s cut-back to arrow the ball into the bottom corner for his first goal since April 2019.
Fernandes then teed up Martial to crash a shot off the underside of the bar and Reina denied Rashford from Pogba’s sumptuous pass in stoppage time as United had to settle for three.