Manchester United were lucky to reach the FA Cup fourth round with a 1-0 win over Aston Villa on Monday thanks to an early goal from Scott McTominay.
The Scottish international headed in after eight minutes, but Villa lamented a series of missed opportunities and a controversial VAR review that ruled out Danny Ings’ second-half draw.
United interim manager Ralf Rangnick desperately needed an answer to a week of unrest on United’s field that followed a dismal performance as they lost 1-0 at home to Wolves.
A great decision got out of hand for the German as Cristiano Ronaldo was out of shape. United got the start they needed to calm their nerves when a perfect cross from Fred selected McTominay to drive a head butt down.
However, all the shortcomings that have haunted a chaotic season under two Red Devils coaches were soon revealed when Villa dominated the game.
Ollie Watkins failed to convert home a corner at the far post, Emiliano Buendía crossed the goal just barely dodging Ings and David de Gea produced an impressive save to deny John McGinn as the visitors missed a hat-trick of opportunities in quick succession. .
United also did not have the injured captain Harry Maguire and his substitute, Victor Lindelof, gave Villa another golden opportunity to equalize with a strong touch that let Watkins in, but his shot crashed off the crossbar.
The home team was limited to counterattacks, but could also have extended their lead before the break when Emiliano Martinez parried Edinson Cavani’s shot before Matty Cash cleared Marcus Rashford’s shot down the line.
Villa won at Old Trafford earlier in the season with former coach Dean Smith, but has improved markedly since the arrival of Steven Gerrard as boss in November.
The visitors had the ball in the net twice in the second half, but a lengthy VAR review denied them a chance to bring the tie into extra time.
After Ings dropped Ezri Konsa, the VAR initially checked to see if the forward was offside.
But it was referee Michael Oliver who made the final decision to disallow the goal for a foul on Jacob Ramsey’s Cavani as the ball entered the area.
Moments later, a much easier offside against Ings denied Watkins the equalizer.
It also took another moment of de Gea magic to see United on the line when he deflected Cash’s line.
Rangnick’s men will face Middlesbrough at home in the fourth round.