Vidic heads home United's late leveller

 

Manchester United produced a stirring fightback to extend their unbeaten start to the season in a thrilling 2-2 draw with Aston Villa.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s men looked destined to suffer their first defeat in all competitions this season after Ashley Young blasted home the opener from the penalty spot in the 72nd minute with Marc Albrighton adding the second four minutes later following a swift counter-attack.

Substitute Federico Macheda gave the Red Devils hope as he found the top corner of Brad Friedel’s net in the 81st minute before Nemanja Vidic’s diving header five minutes from time extended Villa’s miserable Premier League run against United to just one win in their last 30 meetings.

After a slow start to the game, Dimitar Berbatov missed a glorious opportunity to put United in front in the 16th minute when he scuffed his shot wide following a neat pass from Javier Hernandez, with Villa appealing in vain for offside.

Wes Brown, brought in at right-back in place of the injured Rafael, was then allowed to wander unmarked towards the near post to make contact with Nani’s whipped free-kick on the edge of the six-yard box but could not direct the chance on target.

Ashley Young forced Edwin van der Sar into a sprawling save on the half-hour mark with a strike from the edge of the box after Gabriel Agbonlahor had flicked on by beating Rio Ferdinand in the air.

Sleepy

Nani and Patrice Evra then demonstrated some quick thinking with the winger playing in the left-back with a free-kick from the edge of the area, but the smart move caught out their own team as much as Villa’s sleepy defence with no-one on hand inside the six-yard box to turn home the France international’s dangerous cross.

Stewart Downing then worked space for a shot as half-time approached but saw his curling strike deflected wide with Van der Sar scrambling across his goal, before James Collins headed well wide in added time before the break.

Stephen Warnock and Nani became embroiled in an altercation at the start of the second period, with the Villa full-back seizing possession and playing on despite his rival being in a heap, before Albrighton lashed wide following Vidic’s poor touch in his own area.

The Portugal international was clearly incensed by the earlier challenge and elected to seek his own immediate retribution and was lucky only to be booked after a blatant swing of the arm into his opponents face as they jumped for a ball.

And in the 54th minute Albrighton missed Villa’s best chance of the match as Downing’s delightful cross found him in space at the far post but his cushioned header back across goal also went wide of the post.

Gerard Houllier’s men went even closer in the 67th minute as another splendid ball into the box from Downing was met by Collins’ towering header, which beat Van der Sar all ends up, only to crash back into the play after hitting the face of the crossbar.

Pressure

Seconds later the woodwork was rattling again as Agbonlahor attempted a one-two with Ashley Young before smashing the loose ball against the base of the near post with United’s goalkeeper helpless again.

But Villa’s pressure finally told when a lightning break by Agbonlahor saw the striker burst away from Vidic down the right before crossing for Ashley Young, with the Villa player unceremoniously bundled over by Wes Brown.

Referee Dean had no hesitation in pointing to the spot before Young picked himself up to confidently drive the ball home, sending Van der Sar the wrong way in the process.

And Villa doubled their lead in the 76th minute with another clever counter-attack as Ashley Young fed Downing down the left with the former Middlesbrough man putting the ball on a plate for Albrighton to fire home from six yards out.

The goalscorer was then in the right place to calmly head off his own line after Rio Ferdinand’s driven effort, before substitute Macheda halved the deficit in the 81st minute with a superb finish into Friedel’s top corner after Darren Fletcher’s backheel.

Downing fired a rising shot fractionally over the bar before Nani’s dangerous inswinging cross found the diving Vidic at the far post to spark scenes of jubilation among the travelling United supporters.

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