Ronaldo & Macheda win it for United

It was young Italian striker Federico Macheda who came to United's rescue, but only after Cristiano Ronaldo had given them a chance to winning, with two well-taken goals in what was an otherwise quiet match for teh portuguese super-star.

With Liverpool winning the day before to go top of teh tabel, this was a must-win game for United, and tehy came through it eventually!

They struggled with an unfamiliar back four that was forced upon them because of Rio Ferdinand's injury and Nemanja Vidic's suspension. Gary Neville, returning from injury, was brought in to partner John O'Shea in the heart of defence, but that proved to be a costly mistake. The pace of Agbonlahor, back in the side for the injured Emile Heskey, and the poise and passing of Gareth Barry was causing United all manner of problems.

United were handed their first chance when Milner passed the ball back to Brad Friedel, who picked the ball up, and the resulting free-kick in the area was cracked in by Ronaldo after Ryan Giggs had rolled the ball to him.

The goal settled United's nerves and they began to stroke the ball around with more confidence, but without really penetrating. Villa remained dangerous on the break, particularly through Agbonlahor, whose speed was a big problem for Neville.

From another quick counter Villa restored parity, Barry's excellent right-wing cross powerfully headed into the bottom corner by Carew as Neville stood by helplessly. Shortly after, Neville was switched with right-back Jonny Evans - but it had been a half-hour to forget for the United skipper. He would have felt better if Ronaldo's glancing header had gone either side of Friedel rather than straight at the keeper and given United a half-time lead.

Villa struck again on 58 minutes when Ronaldo was caught in possession and Villa moved the ball quickly to Carew, and his cross was headed in by Agbonlahor.

United's response was to bring on Macheda for Nani. The young Italian, who signed professional terms with United in August 2008, hit a hat-trick for the reserves against Newcastle on Monday. He appealed unsuccessfully for a penalty after he fell under challenge from Curtis Davies, then at the other end Davies was close to converting Ashley Young's free-kick.

United needed something special from somewhere and it came from Ronaldo, who picked up the ball on the edge of the box and fired a low drive into the bottom corner to drag his side level. The impetus was all with the hosts now and it took a fine save from Friedel to deny Fletcher from 12 yards. Substitute Danny Welbeck was next to be thwarted by Friedel as he saw his shot saved at point-blank range.

But United were not to be denied and Macheda produced a moment of magic to win the game when he turned and curled a peach of a shot into the far corner.

Man Utd: Van der Sar, Neville, O'Shea, Evans, Evra, Nani (Macheda 61), Carrick, Fletcher, Ronaldo, Giggs, Tevez (Welbeck 87).

Subs Not Used: Foster, Park, Gibson, Martin, Eckersley.
Booked: Macheda.
Goals: Ronaldo 14, 80, Macheda 90.

Aston Villa: Friedel, Luke Young, Cuellar, Davies, Shorey, Milner (Reo-Coker 76), Petrov, Barry, Ashley Young, Carew, Agbonlahor.

Subs Not Used: Guzan, Delfouneso, Knight, Salifou, Gardner, Albrighton.
Booked: Milner, Ashley Young.
Goals: Carew 30, Agbonlahor 58.

Att: 75,409
Ref: Mike Riley (Yorkshire).