Radamel Falcao clinched a 1-1 draw for Manchester United as ten-man Aston Villa ended their visitors’ winning run.
The Colombian scored just his second United goal, cancelling out Christian Benteke’s beautiful opener for the hosts.
Gabby Agbonlahor’s controversial red card – after a 50-50 challenge with Ashley Young – forced Villa to play the final 25 minutes with ten men, but they held on to end United’s six-game winning streak and earn a deserved point.
Falcao had been recalled, with James Wilson dropped while midfielder Darren Fletcher returned for the ill Marouane Fellaini.
Depleted Aston Villa recalled Ron Vlaar and Fabian Delph. Delph had not started since dislocating his shoulder in October while Vlaar had been out for over a month with a calf problem, but they replaced the suspended Kieran Richardson and Tom Cleverley, while Matt Lowton was recalled for the banned Alan Hutton.
United bossed the opening stages but It took 17 minutes for the visitors to force Brad Guzan into action, when he got down low to gather Robin van Persie’s angled volley.
But despite their territorial domination United found themselves behind after 18 minutes thanks to a piece of Benteke brilliance.
Delph lofted in a free-kick to the Belgian striker who took it on his chest, made a fool of Jonny Evans and curled a wonderful effort into the top corner from 16 yards.
It was against the run of play but Louis van Gaal’s side did not do enough to break Paul Lambert’s men down.
Fletcher was replaced at the break by Tyler Blackett but United were almost 2-0 down when David de Gea superbly turned Benteke’s powerful header over two minutes after the re-start.
But United deservedly levelled after 53 minutes through Falcao, who thumped a header past Guzan from Young’s cross.
It had been coming and Van Persie’s acrobatic volley flew over as United looked to take full control.
Villa’s task then got even harder in the 65th minute when Agbonlahor was harshly sent off.
It looked an unavoidable collision in midfield but referee Lee Mason produced a shock red card for the Villa man. But his team rarely looked like conceding after that, as resolute Villa refused to buckle.
And in stoppage time Benteke was inches away from Bacuna’s cross as the home side nearly snatched victory at the death.