Manchester United 1-0 Aston Villa: United through in FA Cup thanks to McTominay header
Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Scott McTominay’s first-half header sent Manchester United into the fourth round of the Emirates FA Cup with a 1-0 victory over Aston Villa at Old Trafford.

It was a bright start for the hosts as McTominay glanced the Red Devils into the lead, but they allowed the Villains back into the game, who thought they had equalised through Danny Ings until VAR bailed United out.

United's victory sets up a fourth-round tie at Old Trafford against Chris Wilder’s Middlesbrough in February.

Story of the match

The game’s first major opportunity fell to McTominay on six minutes, but the Scot’s rifled long-range opportunity was held by Emiliano Martinez at his midriff.

The midfielder, however, gave his side the lead just two minutes later.

A United corner pinballed in the area before it found its way to Mason Greenwood on the right, who checked back onto his left and passed it to Fred. The Brazilian delivered a tremendous ball towards the six-yard area where McTominay glanced past Martinez.

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The opening quarter of the game saw United bring a good intensity to their play, but it was old habits that almost cost them their lead on 20 minutes.

Fred was cheaply dispossessed in the middle of the park and Villa countered. John McGinn picked up possession and carried it towards the centre of the pitch before being allowed the time and space to hit a measured effort that was palmed away from the target by a fully stretched David De Gea.

De Gea was called into action again, moments later, as he held from Emi Buendia’s effort from the edge before the Red Devils instigated a quick counterattack that saw Martinez make a great save from Edinson Cavani’s deflected strike.

Ollie Watkins almost took advantage of a poor mistake from Victor Lindelof, as the Swedish centre-half miss-controlled a high ball, putting the Villa forward through on goal. Watkins sharply cut across Lindelof, but his effort cannoned against the bar before being cleared.

United had a couple of chances before the break, including a thunderous 25-yard strike from Luke Shaw that was tipped over the bar, but they were unable to add to their one-goal lead.

The away side started the second period the brighter in search of an equaliser, but it was United who would go close first as Greenwood’s scuffed left-footed shot was held by Martinez.

Villa thought they had found a leveller when forward Ings converted from Ezri Konsa’s knockdown, but VAR disallowed it for a foul on Cavani by Jacob Ramsey in the build-up.

United survived another scare on the hour. Ings was threaded into the area, and he lifted the ball over an outrushing De Gea and, with the ball going wide, in came Watkins who poked the ball into the back of the net. But his celebrations were instantly put to a halt as the linesman raised his flag.

Villa used that frustration to up the ante on United. They went close again on 67 minutes, as Matty Cash’s snapshot was needed to be pushed behind by De Gea.

Moments later, Watkins sent a curling effort inches wide of the far post from the edge.

However, Villa ran out of steam towards the end of the game, which allowed United to see out the win and hand former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard his 21st defeat against the Red Devils.