Aston Villa 1-1 Manchester United - Match Report
Carlos Cuellar gave Aston Villa's marksmen a goalscoring lesson with his second goal of the season to earn a valuable point from a 1-1 draw against high-flying Manchester United.
Cuellar's enthusiastic and outstanding form typifies the high performance rate of the current Villa side as they took their fourth point off United this season.
- Aston Villa 1-1 Manchester United: As it happened
In a dress rehearsal for the Carling Cup Final on February 28, United suffered a massive setback when Nani was sent off after 29 minutes.
The Portugal international, who has been outstanding since coming back into favour, will now miss the Carling Cup Final at Wembley.
Despite being reduced to ten men, United played with a great deal of resolution and earned a draw as a result of a 23rd-minute own goal by James Collins.
Aston Villa, seeking their first double over Manchester United in 55 years, had to be content with sharing the spoils but demonstrated that they are now formidable opposition.
Both teams operated 4-5-1 systems which quickly indicated a midfield battle. There was an emphasis on quick breaks but the early exchanges were generally even.
The best goalscoring attempt predictably came from a free-kick. Nani produced a powerful swirling shot which Brad Friedel pushed out with a diving save to his left.
With Villa mounting most of their attacks down the flanks it was obvious that United were aware of the situation as their four-man back-line was prepared to deal with the inevitable crosses from either Ashley Young or Stewart Downing.
But in the 18th minute United's defence was fooled when Cuellar stepped over Downing's right-wing cross. The ball went into the middle towards Richard Dunne and the loose ball bounced back to Cuellar to score against his old club with a looping header.
It was the first league goal scored at home by Villa since John Carew's winner against Stoke City on December 19.
Villa's joy was short-lived as four minutes later a mis-hit shot from Ryan Giggs clattered against Collins and into his own net for the equaliser.
The game took a dramatic turn in the 29th minute when the industrious Nani produced a full-blooded double tackle on Stiliyan Petrov within yards of referee Peter Walton who had no hesitation in producing a red card.
Antonio Valencia took over from an ineffective Paul Scholes at the start of the second half and after seven minutes blasted a good goalscoring effort over the bar.
United were indebted to Edwin van der Sar when Villa opened up the defence with passes by Luke Young and Gabby Agbonlahor to set up James Milner to crash in a low shot which the United goalkeeper saved.
Wayne Rooney, United's goalscoring machine, failed to add to his spectacular tally of 21 goals. The closest he came to scoring occurred in the 71st minute when he forced Friedel to tip his rising shot over the bar.
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