United collect valuable point against Villa

Aston Villa 1 Manchester United 1

Manchester United collected a valuable point in the Barclays Premier League title race at Aston Villa despite losing Nani to a red card that will rule him out of the Carling Cup final.

Nani was deservedly sent off for a poor first-half challenge on Stiliyan Petrov but it made little difference to the visitors, who dominated for long periods.

United might have been fortunate to survive a late Villa penalty appeal when John Carew went down under Jonny Evans' tackle, but it would have been harsh luck on Sir Alex Ferguson's men, who will regard it as a point gained rather than two lost after James Collins scored another own goal for United to cancel out Carlos Cuellar's opener.

In the build-up, Nani had spoken about how down he felt at times during his first two and a half years at Old Trafford, when it appeared his destiny was only to leave.

The past fortnight offered the hope of redemption as finally the pace and balance was accompanied by a bit of thought and composure.

But thought and composure were both lacking when the Portuguese launched himself at Petrov on halfway.

The former Sporting Lisbon wide-man is not a dirty player and the claim that he won the ball was true.

Yet anyone who is not aware that leaving the ground to make a tackle brings an instant red card has not been paying enough attention over the last few years.

Referee Peter Walton was near enough to make a judgment and duly despatched Nani to the dressing rooms and out of the Wembley showpiece between these sides on February 28.

It brought to an end a tactical opening half-hour which Villa led for precisely nine minutes.

After wasting a corner, Stewart Downing was offered a second chance to cross into the United box. Rafael stuck out a boot to make the initial clearance but the ball looped up handily for Cuellar, who got an impressive amount of power into his header and, from 15 yards, sent it arcing over Edwin van der Sar.

Following their first Old Trafford win since 1981 two months ago, Villa were now in position to end another long-running sequence against the Red Devils.

Yet this is not Ferguson's favourite away ground for nothing.

Even though their fans now twirl green and gold scarves above their heads as a continuing protest against the Glazer family, the United travelling support still makes an impressive noise.

And they were soon celebrating an equaliser as Ryan Giggs' cross-shot from the left was turned into his own net by Collins.

It took into double figures a quite staggering number of own goals for United this term - a clear second on the club's scoring chart and nearly half as many as Wayne Rooney.

The England star had been having one of his less effective days, yet he still managed to threaten the home goal with shots from both angles that fizzed over Brad Friedel, who had already saved well to deny Michael Carrick.

With the balance of play remaining with the visitors, it was hard to escape a conclusion that Villa would have preferred to be playing against 11 men, whose defences were rather less solid.

For all the plaudits that have been heaped on Martin O'Neill's men in recent times, dictating play is still a problem and the hosts were markedly less of a threat once their opponents were a man down.

The loss of Giggs to what appeared to be a pretty severe elbow injury could have dire consequences for next Tuesday's Champions League trip to AC Milan.

Rooney's shot shortly afterwards would have had dire consequences for Villa if Friedel had not acrobatically turned it over.

Villa finally shrugged off their lethargy for a concerted assault on the United goal in the final 10 minutes.

But apart from an untimely Van der Sar juggle and Carew's late penalty claim, the hosts were bereft of ideas, and United were probably irritated they did not head back up the M6 with more than a point.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...