Match report: Hero Javier Hernandez saves Manchester United's bacon against Aston Villa

Aston Villa 2 Manchester United 3

Villa Park

On a favourite ground against a team who have often been their most generous opponents, Manchester United found the going harder than usual – but fought back from two goals down to take this thrilling encounter thanks to Javier Hernandez.

The Mexican striker, a half-time substitute, scored twice and walked off holding the match ball, although the locals were claiming he should give it back as the dubious goals committee is likely to rule that one effort went in off Aston Villa's unfortunate captain, Ron Vlaar.

As the man himself said later, it does not really matter. The important thing was that until Hernandez popped up in the 87th minute for a low header just inside the post, it looked as though United would have to be satisfied with a draw, leaving them only two points head of Chelsea, who play at home to Liverpool today.

In 34 meetings United have lost only once to Villa, back in 2009. Even that game was not at Villa Park, where United remain unbeaten in the League since 1995, and have won numerous FA Cup semi-finals too. Often it is from a recovery like yesterday's; this was the third time in 10 years that Villa have failed to beat them after leading 2-0 here and three years ago United won after trailing 2-1 with 10 minutes left at Old Trafford.

All the statistics were a temptation to complacency and United were guilty of it even before falling behind with almost the last kick of the first half.

Home supporters have remained patient with Paul Lambert as he tries to fashion a younger side and a more attractive style, and they must have appreciated their team's efforts. The latest newcomer was Enda Stevens, the Irish left-back, given a demanding full debut against Antonio Valencia and acquitting himself well, losing out only when Rafael charged forward to create a two-on-one. There was occasionally a recklessness about the way both United's full-backs attacked and the swift counters that sometimes resulted offered some of Villa's best moments, especially when Stephen Ireland was running through the middle.

The Belgian striker Christian Benteke showed why he has been keeping Darren Bent out of the side and it was his combination of power and perception that led to the breakthrough. Chris Smalling, who had only returned for the Champions' League game at Braga in midweek, was simply shouldered off the ball by Benteke, who muscled inside him and laid a perfect ball back to the unmarked Andreas Weimann, scoring smartly from inside the penalty area.

That was Weimann's first goal of the season but five minutes into the second half the Viennese waltzed in again for a second. Gabriel Agbonlahor's pace troubled United, and he sped down the left to cross low for the forward, who could not miss.

To the delight of the home crowd Ashley Young, booed with every touch, made way at half-time for Hernandez, a good switch even by Sir Alex Ferguson's standards. Scholes made the first goal with a shrewd pass from just inside his own half and Hernandez, onside, shook off Ciaran Clark's challenge to finish.

"Attack, attack, attack" the visiting hordes in the Doug Ellis Stand. Scholes missed a header from Van Robin Persie's corner but then fed a pass out to Rafael for a cross that Hernandez drove in off Vlaar.

It had become a classic encounter of all-out attacking. Weimann deserved a hat-trick but was denied it by David de Gea's brilliant save and United came back for an extraordinary sequence in which Van Persie struck the bar twice in as many minutes. They then lost Rooney with an ankle injury, as England may do for Wednesday's friendly in Sweden.

Hernandez had the last word, and there were no doubts about where the goal credit will go this time as he stooped to head Van Persie's free-kick past a despairing Guzan. It left Lambert "absolutely gutted".

Aston Villa (4-2-3-1): Guzan; Lowton, Vlaar, Clark, Stevens; Westwood, Bannan (Delph, 87); Weimann (Holman, 80), Ireland (El Ahmadi, 79), Agbonlahor; Benteke.

Manchester United (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Rafael, Smalling, Ferdinand, Evra; Carrick, Scholes (Cleverley, 71); Valencia, Rooney (Anderson, 79), Young (Hernandez, h-t); Van Persie

Referee: Kevin Friend.

Man of the match: Scholes (Man Utd)

Match rating: 9/10

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
healthMeet the volunteer users helping to see if the banned drug can help cure depression and addiction
Arts and Entertainment
tvDick Clement and Ian La Frenais are back for the first time in a decade
Life and Style
tech
News
i100
News
Foo Fighters lead man Dave Grohl talks about the band's forthcoming HBO documentary series
people
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
Why the cost of parenting has become so expensive

Why the cost of parenting has become so expensive

Today's pre-school child costs £35,000, according to Aviva. And that's but the tip of an iceberg, says DJ Taylor
Fifa corruption: The officials are caught in the web of US legal imperialism - where double standards don't get in the way

Caught in the web of legal imperialism

The Fifa officials ensnared by America's extraterritorial authority are only the latest examples of this fearsome power, says Rupert Cornwell
Bruce Robinson: Creator of Withnail and I on his new book about Jack the Ripper

'Jack the Ripper has accrued a heroic aura. But I'm going after the bastard'

The deaths of London prostitutes are commonly pinned on a toff in a top hat. But Bruce Robinson, creator of Withnail and I, has a new theory about the killer's identity
Fifa presidential election: What is the best way to see off Sepp Blatter and end this farce?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

What is the best way to see off Sepp Blatter and end this farce?
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards