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    ‘If Lionel Messi wins the Ballon d’Or, I’ll quit football’ – Cristiano Ronaldo’s shock statement on arch rival revealed

    CRISTIANO RONALDO shockingly claimed he would “quit football” if rival Lionel Messi won the 2019 Ballon d’Or, it has been revealed.A biography of the Portuguese superstar, 37, was released on Wednesday.
    Ronaldo sensationally claimed he would quit football if Messi won the 2019 Ballon d’OrCredit: Getty
    Messi did end up winning his sixth Ballon d’Or in 2019Credit: AFP or licensors
    And when the author, Thierry Marchand, sat down with Ronaldo in 2019 to formulate ideas for the book, he was mainly concerned with the five-time Ballon d’Or winner’s childhood, his family and his friends.
    But Ronaldo ended up letting slip some words referencing Messi, slamming him for spending his entire career at Barcelona shortly after he had left Real Madrid for Juventus.
    The biography, reported by L’Equipe, sees Ronaldo say: “It’s easy to stay in your bubble when you’re successful.
    “I took a risk coming to Turin. I changed clubs, championships, football culture, I took a risk and it was that risk that, I’m sure, made me not win the Ballon d’Or in 2018.”
    He then went on to add: “If Messi wins the Ballon d’Or this year, I’m leaving football.”
    Messi did win the Ballon d’Or in 2019, narrowly edging out Liverpool centre-back Virgil van Dijk.
    Ronaldo finished third as his Argentine rival claimed a sixth Ballon d’Or.
    Two years after Ronaldo’s criticism, Messi would then leave the Nou Camp in 2021 to join Paris Saint-Germain.
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    And a few months later, Messi would scoop a seventh Ballon d’Or following a superb final season with Barcelona and Copa America triumph with Argentina.
    Meanwhile, Ronaldo has not won the award since he was a Real Madrid player back in 2017.
    But he did not end up hanging up his boots as he claimed he would if Messi won the 2019 Ballon d’Or.
    Instead, he departed Juventus for a return to Manchester United last year.
    And he scored 24 goals in his first season back in England, compared with Messi’s 11 for PSG.
    However, roles have reversed in the current campaign, with Messi contributing 12 goals and 14 assists, compared with Ronaldo’s three goals and two assists.
    Last season, Messi was asked about criticism Ronaldo was receiving, but the South American refused to attack his old foe.
    He said: “Manchester United are a very strong team with great players.
    “Cristiano already knew the club, but that was in another stage and now he has adapted in an impressive way.
    “From the beginning, he has always scored goals and had no problems adapting.
    “In the Premier League, Manchester United are not as good as we all thought, but it is a very difficult and even competition in which things take a lot of turns.
    “After December it changes a lot and anything can happen.
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    “It’s been a long time since we stopped competing in the same league. We competed individually and as a team for the same goals.
    “It was a very beautiful period for us and also for the fans because they enjoyed it very much. It is a beautiful memory that will remain in the history of football.”
    Ronaldo won his fifth Ballon d’Or back in 2017Credit: AFP or licensors
    Ronaldo and Messi have been rivals for well over a decadeCredit: Getty More

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    Ole Gunnar Solskjaer ‘rejected offer from Premier League club after Man Utd sacking but now wants return to dugout’

    OLE GUNNAR SOLSKJAER reportedly rejected an offer from a Premier League club after his Manchester United sacking.But the tactician is now ready for a return to the dugout.
    Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is ready for a dugout return after snubbing a Premier League side this seasonCredit: Getty – Pool
    Norwegian outlet VG claims Solskjaer was approached by the unnamed top flight side following his Old Trafford exit in November 2021.
    A dismal run saw United lose at home to rivals Liverpool and Manchester City.
    But a 4-1 defeat away to relegation-bound Watford sealed Solskjaer’s fate, paving the way for Ralf Rangnick to take charge.
    It’s reckoned in the weeks and months that followed, Solskjaer was approached by several clubs from across Europe.
    And one of those was a Premier League side looking to secure its top flight status.
    Despite the barren run at the end of his United managerial career, Solskjaer still walked away with a fairly impressive record.
    Of 168 games, he won 92 and lost 41, with the remaining 35 draws.
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    Solskjaer is the only United boss post-Sir Alex Ferguson to secure consecutive top four finishes.
    And he narrowly missed out on a trophy after losing the 2021 Europa League final to Villarreal on penalties. More

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    Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal are mentally strong and could be World Cup dark horses – predicted line-up and stats

    FERNANDO Santos has developed a mentally strong squad with belief and the ability to win everything since his arrival in 2014.The team has been living through a tough present where ideas are not connecting in the best way, but the quality of the team is always there, and of course, the legendary Cristiano Ronaldo is still present.

    Predicted starting XI
    Portugal often play with a 4-2-3-1 with different types of wingers on each side, a single striker and, behind, a ‘10’.
    Deeper, they use a double-pivot with one of them as a box-to-box and a rough back-four that possess the technical ability to find attacking players in dangerous positions while locking down their own box, as well as quick players to defend rapid transitions.
    Diogo Costa, Porto’s young goalkeeper, has earned his rightful spot in the national team lately, thanks to his incredible performances domestically and at international level.
    Here’s how Portugal might line-up
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    Pepe, at 38 years of age, is still one of the regular starters for Fernando Santos thanks to his defensive solidity as well as his underrated passing abilities, always accompanied by Rúben Dias. 
    Nuno Mendes and João Cancelo, without any doubt, are going to be Santos’ full-backs, each offering a very different profile, similar to the wingers Rafael Leão and Bernardo Silva.
    Rúben Neves and William Carvalho have settled in perfectly, combining balance and intelligent roles on the ball.
    The team is completed by Bruno Fernandes as a ‘10’ and Cristiano Ronaldo up front.
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    Attacking phase
    Santos’ tactics vary from a direct team that likes to build up attacks from the back and arrive in the final third in three-to-five touches, to a pragmatic one that likes to sit in a solid and rigid mid-block.
    Players like Bernardo Silva and William Carvalho play pivotal functions inside the team system, thanks to their off-the-ball movements.
    Portugal likes to serve the ball from Diogo Costa to the centre-backs with a great capacity to find teammates between the lines.
    Normally, the right-back plays inverted and joins the back-three or the midfield to free up Carvalho (box-to-box) to move to more advanced areas and open space on the wing for Bernardo or Bruno to pin that zone.
    This is one of the first impressions the ‘Lusos’ give when on the ball.
    The Portugal right-back will move into a more advanced area
    In the first stage of the build-up, the movements of the box-to-box, usually William Carvalho, are vital to open spaces for Rúben Neves or centre-backs to break lines.
    Portugal likes to be very rapid from the back and not stay too long with the ball in their own third or between the back-four, as they want to create chaos in the opposition area. Carvalho, then, with his mobility, keeps helping the team to find spaces off the ball.
    Portugal likes to play out from the back fast as Carvalho’s mobility helps his team find spaces off the ball
    Another method used by Portugal to skip steps to get into an attacking phase is the great long distribution Diogo Costa possesses. 
    On the left side, Cristiano Ronaldo and his winger usually change positions, looking to free one of them between the middle or outside.
    In this example, we can see Bruno almost hugging the line, and Bernardo acting as the free man through the middle.
    The No10 and wideman swap positions – with Bernardo Silva the free man in the middle
    These overloads and exchanges of channels on the right are seen also in the final third,
    The first goal was scored because of Bernardo getting deep and passing it to Dalot who can then carry the ball forward before playing to Bruno who crosses it immediately after receiving.
    Crosses are a constant way Portugal look to score
    Fernando Santos’ team tries to score goals in many ways — one of them being a reliance on the goalscoring ability of Cristiano Ronaldo inside the box, so crosses can be a constant way of breaking the deadlock.
    Movements off the ball are also very important in this goalscoring tactic, as sometimes the ‘10’ is the one that goes in or Cristiano might leave his zone to make space for others.
    In the figure below, we can see Bruno is the one taking Ronaldo’s spot to score a tap-in.
    Fernandes rotates with Ronaldo as centre forward to provide a threat in the box
    Portugal like to rely also on the long shooting ability that most of the players in the squad have.
    Players like Bernardo Silva, Bruno Fernandes, João Cancelo or Rúben Neves often try to score from outside the box.

    Defensive phase
    Fernando Santos’ team like to sit in a rigid mid-block against highly possession-based sides, looking to frustrate them as they would dominate the ball but create very few chances.
    They also like to go a bit higher if the opposition is trying to attract them, where they aggressively go to tightly mark the player on the ball.
    Bruno Fernandes man-marks the rival ‘6’ to close down that circuit of passes between centre-backs and pivot; William Carvalho occasionally jumps off his line and wingers mark zonally, leading to a pressing trap in the wide areas, where full-backs make themselves very important, especially Nuno Mendes and his big ball-winning attributes.
    A pressing tap is set with wingers marking zonally
    When they are attracted by the rival, Carvalho’s defensive ability to suffocate players becomes crucial.
    As we can see in the figure below us, Portugal likes to be very aggressive if the opponents try to stay for a long time with the ball in their own third.
    Without the ball for some time, Portugal try to be aggressive to win it back in the opposition final third
    Another good example is this one against Spain, where goalkeeper Unai Simón has stayed a long time with the ball, and Cristiano Ronaldo goes to mark him tightly and even manages to earn a corner for his team. 
    Portugal like to put emphasis on attacking transitions, as players like Rafael Leão and Cristiano Ronaldo are very threatening players running into space.
    This picture shows us how they usually like to execute transitions: A run on the left and a long pass through the middle, mainly struck by Neves or Bruno Fernandes.
    Transitions are executed with a long pass from deep to the front two
    Cristiano Ronaldo or Diogo Jota are the predominant players who are targeted in these situations.
    This transition started on the left, and the winger is asked to carry the ball forward rapidly and directly.
    In defensive transitions, Portugal make really good exchanges of blocks between the high and the mid-low ones, with the great work of Neves and Carvalho to protect the central areas.
    The goalkeeper position is fantastically covered as Diogo Costa will surely start but José Sá and experienced Rui Patrício could wait for their chance on the bench.
    In the centre of the defence, Santos has difficult choices to make, as Pepe and José Fonte, at 39 and 38 years of age, respectively, are still good options, especially the Porto defender. 
    However, young players such as Tiago Djaló or David Carmo deserve a chance to be there too alongside Rúben Dias. The full-backs are well covered with players like Diogo Dalot and Cancelo on the right, and Nuno Mendes on the left. 
    Portugal has developed some serious midfield talents over the years since their setbacks in major tournaments.
    In João Palhinha and the trusted Rúben Neves, they have two amazing players to play deep as a pivot but experienced William Carvalho or Vitinha and Matheus Nunes show up as the young starlets that could bring even more to the box-to-box role.
    Bruno Fernandes, João Mario and João Félix are three great names to play in the ‘10’ role.
    Portugal have marvellous options up front to play in an attacking trio that looks incredible with Cristiano Ronaldo alongside wingers Bernardo Silva, Ricardo Horta or Rafael Leão.
    Key player
    In his last World Cup, Cristiano Ronaldo has a big mission to fulfil in his career: to try and win the most important trophy any player could have in his cabinet.
    He’s not living his best moment at Manchester United right now, but in the National Team, all can change radically in a context in which he’s the leader, captain and a vital player in the attacking phase, commanded by him with young gems at his back. 
    His weaknesses are well-documented, with Ronaldo offering his side very little without the ball.
    However, if Portugal can successfully set up plenty of goalscoring opportunities for the 37-year-old in high-value shooting positions, Ronaldo could still be an extremely valuable asset in Qatar. 
    Tournament prediction
    Though not playing the most entertaining football, Portugal has a brilliant and talented squad all around the pitch.
    Teams like theirs often go under the radar because they have been lacking dynamic and intensity during the qualifiers or the Nations League.
    Read More on The Sun
    However, the presence of great players in each line is always a boost for them and concerning for rivals.
    Portugal can’t be ruled out of going all the way in this tournament, though they’ll undoubtedly need to up their recent performance levels.
    Their group is not that hard and they are expected to qualify and possibly end as winners, which may be important to avoid Brazil in the last 16 if they top their group.
    For even more detailed analysis of all 32 teams in the FIFA World Cup 2022, download your copy of the November Total Football Analysis magazine here More

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    England’s World Cup 2022 squad incredibly has more players from Coventry’s academy than Man Utd’s famous production line

    ENGLAND’s 2022 World Cup squad incredibly has more players from Coventry City’s academy than Manchester United’s. The Red Devils’ famous production line has provided players for the national team for generations.
    James Maddison said he was living his dream by going to the World CupCredit: PA:Empics Sport
    Callum Wilson has come a long way since his youth days at Coventry CityCredit: PA:Press Association
    But after Gareth Southgate’s squad announcement today, it appeared the club’s youth power is receding.
    Marcus Rashford is the only United product who has landed himself a place in Qatar out of the 26 chosen.
    Rashford successfully came through the club’s academy and then memorably burst onto the scene in 2016.
    He has since gone on to become a regular first-teamer and even a social campaigner in his spare time.
    But he is the only United success story who has made this year’s squad with some of his former youth team-mates, such as Jesse Lingard and Danny Welbeck, failing to impress in the later years of their careers.
    And it means that Coventry can take more credit for the Qatar-bound team than Manchester United, with the Sky Blues developing two players.
    James Maddison and Callum Wilson both made the squad after laying their football roots with the Midlands club.
    The pair – whose inclusion in the 26 was on a knife-edge right until Southgate made the announcement – have both had to fight their way to the summit of English football.
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    After leaving the Ricoh Arena in 2016, Maddison arrived at Norwich where he began to make a name for himself.
    His attacking guile and quick feet saw Leicester City swoop for him in 2016 and Maddison goes into the tournament as arguably England’s most in-form player.
    Meanwhile Wilson spent time on loan at non-league minnows such as Kettering Town before permanently moving to Bournemouth in 2014.
    He made himself a deadly striker for the club before leaving for Newcastle in 2020.
    His hot form this season despite some injury issues saw him leapfrog the likes of Tammy Abraham and Ivan Toney to play the role of Harry Kane’s deputy. More

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    Man Utd verdict: Erik ten Hag must address Red Devils’ defensive fragility in January to stay in top-four hunt

    MANCHESTER UNITED’s 4-2 fightback win over Aston Villa in the Carabao Cup papered over the cracks in what was a poor defensive display.Erik ten Hag’s men fell behind early on in the second half courtesy of an Ollie Watkins strike.
    Ten Hag must address United’s defensive fragility in JanuaryCredit: AFP
    The defence, particularly Harry Maguire, failed to pick up the striker and before they could make up for being caught sleeping, the ball was in the back of the net.
    Such napping from Maguire will be a cause for concern for England, who will undoubtedly hope the defender is up to speed for this month’s World Cup.
    Anthony Martial drew United level but again the defence were caught out shortly after.
    Second half Villa substitute Leon Bailey forced Diogo Dalot into an error with the Portugal international turning the ball into the back of his own net, seeing United concede their fifth goal in a week to the Villans.
    A much-needed injection of pace in the attacking areas helped United over the line, with Marcus Rashford, Bruno Fernandes and Scott McTominay all netting to book the Old Trafford club’s place in the Carabao Cup fourth round draw.
    But if it wasn’t clear already; Ten Hag needs to dip into the transfer market in January and address United’s defensive fragilities.
    When Raphael Varane and/or Lisandro Martinez are missing, centre-back coverers Maguire and Victor Lindelof have proven unreliable.
    They have a tendency of switching off at the key moments, which could cost United ground in the League Cup, FA Cup, Europa League and the Premier League.
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    And with Newcastle not slowing down in their top-four surge, as well as Brighton, Chelsea and Liverpool breathing down their necks, United can’t afford for anymore costly individual errors.
    Ten Hag has spoken glowingly of wanting to get United back to their glory days.
    Well, he might want to take a leaf out of the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson’s book: “Attack wins you games, defence wins you titles.” More

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    Man Utd 4 Aston Villa 2: Hosts twice fight from goal down in frantic second half to keep Carabao Cup hopes alive

    MARCUS RASHFORD celebrated his World Cup call up by leading Manchester United’s stirring fight-back.Gareth Southgate’s number two Steve Holland was in the stands at Old Trafford just hours after the Three Lions party for Qatar had been confirmed.
    Marcus Rashford enjoyed a great evening for United on the day he got an England call-upCredit: Rex
    It took until the second-half for the game to get going but six goals followedCredit: Reuters
    The Red Devils forward is part of it for the first time since his Euro 2020 heartache – in recognition of his recent return to form.
    And he vindicated Southgate’s decision by pulling his team level with a well taken goal – before goals from Bruno Fernandes and Scott McTominay completed the turnaround late on.
    It capped a breath-taking second half which was in stark contrast to a desperately poor opening 45 minutes.
    And United claimed their revenge over Villa just four days after Unai Emery’s men had beaten them at Villa Park in the Prem.
    Both managers made seven changes from that game and among those dropping out was Cristiano Ronaldo – who was not in the United squad due to illness.
    Goalkeeper Martin Dubravka, who arrived at Old Trafford from Newcastle in August – was handed his Red Devils debut.
    Meanwhile England’s Harry Maguire was handed only his second start since early September – and was desperately in need of minutes.
    Maybe the teams knew each other too well after meeting only four days earlier because there was little of note in the opening exchanges.
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    Tyrell Malacia scooped a cross over which Diogo Dalot met with a header on the bounce but it was deflected narrowly over the bar.
    There was no great urgency from either side to win this tie in the opening half hour. 
    A trademark Douglas Luiz corner needed a clearance off the line by Scott McTominay – although Dubravka will feel he had it covered anyway.
    Minutes later, another one was only half cleared and former United man Ashley Young whistled a volley over the bar.
    Yet after a thoroughly forgettable first half, the game sprang into life after the break.
    Jacob Ramsey found space in the middle and played a perfect pass in to Ollie Watkins who had drifted off the shoulder of Maguire.
    He showed the class which once put him in the England frame to race clear and lift the ball brilliantly over Dubravka. 
    Yet the home side were furious claiming there had been a handball by Boubacar Kamara in the build up.
    Only hours after being named in Portugal’s World Cup squad, Bruno Fernandes gave everyone a reminder of his qualityCredit: Getty
    With no VAR in operation, the goal stood and United showed their frustration by hitting back within a minute.
    The smoke from the flares set off in the away end had still not cleared when Dalot played a lovely pass to find Fernandes who had drifted into space.
    He rolled the ball across the box for Anthony Martial to slot home a simple equaliser.
    The French ace was left out of his nation’s World Cup squad this week – maybe this will have put a smile back on his face.
    After such a dismal first half – suddenly the game was alive and the visitors were back in front just after the hour. 
    Leon Bailey had only just replaced Ramsey when he was picked out at the back post by Young’s cross.
    His header back across goal was not going in before Dalot stuck out a leg and diverted it into his own net. 
    That was three goals in 17 minutes – and there was almost another one soon afterwards.
    Scott McTominay got in on the scoring act right at the end of this ding-dong encounterCredit: AP
    Malacia picked out Rashford with a long ball and he took it past Tyrone Mings before blasting his effort just wide. 
    The England hopeful was not to be denied though – as he flicked on another pass from the full-back into the path of sub Christian Eriksen.
    When Villa failed to clear he pounced on the loose ball and took advantage of a slip by Mings before stabbing a shot low into the corner.
    Fernandes forced a low save from Robin Olsen as United chased a winner while the Swedish keeper also kept out Maguire’s thumping header.  
    But when Olsen fluffed his clearance sub Alejandro Garnacho pounced and played it into Fernandes.
    The Portuguese shot was on target but a deflection off the hapless Mings sent it flying into the corner.
    McTominay rattled a shot against the bar but wrapped up the scoring late on when he touched home Garnacho’s cross. More

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    Man City vs Liverpool headlines Carabao Cup fourth-round draw as Man Utd get Vincent Kompany’s Burnley after Villa win

    MANCHESTER CITY will face Liverpool in a tantalising Carabao Cup fourth-round clash.The Premier League rivals were drawn against one another shortly after the third round of the EFL cup wrapped up on Thursday night.
    The draw for the fourth round of the Carabao Cup took place on Thursday eveningCredit: Rex
    The draw threw up a tasty clash between Premier League big boys Manchester City and LiverpoolCredit: The Times
    Manchester United have been drawn at home against Championship table-toppers BurnleyCredit: GETTY
    16 teams were involved in the draw, including the ten top-flight clubs.
    Manchester United – who closed out the round with a 4-2 win over Aston Villa at Old Trafford – were drawn against Burnley.
    In-form Newcastle were pitted against manager Eddie Howe’s former club Bournemouth.
    New Wolves boss Julen Lopetegui was handed a home clash with League Two side Gillingham. It’ll be the former Spain gaffer’s first match in charge.
    Southampton also drew League Two opposite in a St Mary’s clash with Lincoln City.
    Nottingham Forest, who dumped Tottenham out of the cup on Wednesday, will face Championship high fliers Blackburn at Ewood Park.
    Leicester City, meanwhile, will travel to Milton Keynes to take on MK Dons.
    And Brighton – who dumped out Premier League table toppers Arsenal – will travel to the Valley to take on League Two outfit Charlton.
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    The fourth-round fixtures are expected to take place on the week commencing December 19 – just days after the World Cup final in Qatar.
    Manchester City – who have won the league cup in four of the last five seasons – will have home advantage for their clash with Liverpool.
    Pundit Dion Dublin said of the tasty cup clash: “It’s the tie of the round.
    “I don’t think either side would’ve wanted that tie.
    “But, you know, big game. If you wanna things, you’ve got to beat the best.”
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    Burnley’s visit to Old Trafford to take on the inconsistent Manchester United will see a familiar face try to put the Red Devils to the sword.
    The Clarets are currently managed by former Man City skipper Vicent Kompany, who has shone in his debut season at Turf Moor.
    Carabao Cup Fourth Round Draw in full
    Wolves vs Gillingham
    Southampton vs Lincoln
    Blackburn vs Nottingham Forest
    Newcastle United vs Bournemouth
    Manchester City vs Liverpool
    Manchester United vs Burnley
    MK Dons vs Leicester City
    Charlton Athletic vs Brighton
    Erling Haaland and Virgil van Dijk will once again do battle this yearCredit: Reuters More

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    Man Utd ratings: Maguire sluggish with World Cup around the corner while Fernandes shows why he’s Red Devils’ main man

    MANCHESTER UNITED came from behind TWICE to beat Aston Villa 4-2 in the Carabao Cup.Ollie Watkins opened the scoring for the visitors, ghosting in behind Man Utd captain Harry Maguire.
    Fernandes scored the winner for UnitedCredit: Getty
    United came from behind twice to beat Aston VillaCredit: AP
    The striker, who missed out on England’s World Cup squad, lifted the ball over Martin Dubravka finishing off a well-worked move.
    However, it didn’t take United long to draw level.
    Diogo Dalot found Bruno Fernandes in behind Villa’s backline with a searching ball.
    The Red Devils No8 then squared it to Anthony Martial, who tapped home from close range.
    The equaliser didn’t deter Villa, who continued to press for a winner.
    And the restoration of their lead came through some good work by Leon Bailey, who forced Dalot to steer the ball into the back of his own net.
    Marcus Rashford then grabbed United’s second equaliser of the night before Bruno Fernandes’ deflected effort and Scott McTominay’s added time goal sealed the win.
    Here’s how SunSport’s Joshua Mbu rated the Red Devils.
    Most read in Football
    Martin Dubravka – 5
    Didn’t have much to do in the opening 45.
    Had no chance stopping Watkins’ opener with the England striker getting his shot off unopposed.
    Diogo Dalot – 5
    Chugged up and down the line, as per usual.
    Caught napping for Villa’s goal and desperately tried to recover.
    Redeemed himself with a searching ball down the line to Fernandes for Martial’s equaliser.
    But then shot himself in the foot by turning Villa’s second into the back of his own net.
    Harry Maguire – 5
    Arrived late on Ollie Watkins just before half-time and picked up a booking.
    More minutes under his belt heading into the Qatar World Cup but his sluggish performance could be a cause for concern.
    Couldn’t get near Watkins for Villa’s goal.
    Should’ve scored a free header late on in the second half.
    Victor Lindelof – 6
    Didn’t put a foot wrong in the first half.
    Held his line well and wasn’t at fault for the first goal, with that coming down Dalot and Maguire’s side.
    Tyrell Malacia – 7
    Man Utd’s biggest attacking threat in the first half.
    The flying Dutchman overlapped Rashford well but saw multiple crosses be blocked in the first half.
    A decent performance, putting his Europa League horrors behind him.
    Could start to push Luke Shaw for the starting spot again in the New Year.
    Scott McTominay – 7
    Stopped Douglas Luiz from opening the scoring, clearing the ball off the line from a direct corner in the first half.
    Picked up the first booking of the game, clattering United legend Ashley Young.
    Was the more defensive of the midfield pairing until Fred’s substitution.
    Got forward in the latter stages and got his goal.
    Fred – 6
    Played a more advanced midfield role while McTominay did the sweeping.
    Was slow to pick up Jacob Ramsey for Villa’s opener.
    Focus has probably shifted to the World Cup, where Brazil are favourites.
    Was subbed for Christian Eriksen.
    Bruno Fernandes – 8
    Played out wide to allow Van De Beek to play through the middle.
    Played some clever passes into Martial at times and got the assist for United’s equaliser.
    Scored the winner with a deflected effort, proving why he’s United’s main man.
    Donny van de Beek – 5
    Largely a passenger in the Red Devils team.
    Really struggling to impress, even under Erik ten Hag, who managed him at Ajax.
    Was subbed for Anthony Elanga.
    Marcus Rashford – 7
    Relatively quiet night for Rashford, who received good news earlier on Thursday that he was heading to Qatar.
    Grabbed the equaliser after Villa made a mess of their defending.
    Anthony Martial – 6
    The Frenchman is just returning to fitness and struggled to make an impact in the opening 45.
    Got a goal on his return.
    Was subbed for Alejandro Garnacho with just under half an hour to go.
    Alejandro Garnacho (for Anthony Martial, 62) – 7
    Bright when he came on, proving he can compete against Premier League teams.
    Got the assist for McTominay’s goal.
    Deserves more league minutes.
    Anthony Elanga (for Van De Beek, 62) – 5
    Added some energy, which Van De Beek simply wasn’t offering.
    Allowed United to play a lot wider.
    Christian Eriksen (for Fred, 62) – 6
    Added some much needed control to the midfield when he came on.
    Crisp passing kept United ticking.
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    Casemiro (for Rashford, 82) – 5
    Didn’t have much to do when coming on.
    His job was to keep it tight at the back and maintain United’s lead – which he did.
    Lisandro Martinez (for Lindelof, 86) – N/A More