Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes this season's Premier League title race will be "so tight”, though he is not getting carried away after Manchester United moved level with Liverpool at the top. 

United defeated Aston Villa 2-1 at Old Trafford on Friday, remaining second behind the defending champions only due to their inferior goal difference. 

It was a 10th straight league match without defeat for Solskjaer's side, who seized the opportunity presented to them by Liverpool's goalless draw at Newcastle United on Wednesday. 

Liverpool can pull clear again at Southampton on Monday, with United's game in hand against Burnley to come later in January, but Solskjaer is expecting plenty more twists and turns before the campaign is out. 

"We've improved, we're getting better," the manager told Sky Sports. "The league – and the season – is going to be so tight. 

"There are going to be different and difficult games, strange results, we've just got to keep working and improving as a team. 

"Since Project Restart [late last season], we've been a very consistent team. 

"Every time you win a game, you take one step further. It's three points in total, you've just got to accumulate them. 

"The first game is just as important as the last game of the season - they all count the same." 

With Anthony Martial's opener cancelled out by Bertrand Traore, it again fell to Bruno Fernandes to hit the winner from the penalty spot against Villa, who are winless in 16 league meetings with United.

The Red Devils have lost just three of their 30 league matches since the 2020 signing of Fernandes, who has been involved in 33 goals in this time (19 goals, 14 assists). 

In Premier League history, only Andrew Cole (37 involvements - 28 goals, nine assists) has had a greater impact from his first 30 games in the competition. 

But United were clinging on in the closing stages, with Eric Bailly - who made a game-high six clearances - lunging into a vital stoppage-time block in front of goal, to leave Solskjaer a little concerned about his team's inability to close out games when ahead. 

"To be fair, I didn't enjoy the last 10 minutes that much – we should have seen the game out in a better way," he said, having seen United finish with just 48.9 per cent of the possession. 

"It seemed like it was a cup final, or the last game of the season. We need to learn how to play out games better when we're in the lead. We've shown that when we're chasing a goal, we're capable of doing that. 

"We created chances. It was always going to be a physical game. We knew that they'd improved massively, and they gave us some challenges. 

"There were a few times in that box when you were a bit worried. We didn't stop the crosses well enough, because when they put crosses in, they were always dangerous. 

"But we made some fantastic blocks, some saves, so I'm delighted with the three points."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer praised Paul Pogba after the midfielder helped overcome Aston Villa - a result that moves Manchester United level on points with Liverpool at the top of the table.

United started 2021 as they ended the previous year - with a hard-fought home victory - as they defeated Villa 2-1 at Old Trafford, in the process extending their unbeaten run in the Premier League to 10 games.

Marcus Rashford had struck in added time to see off Wolves on December 29, and while they did not leave it so late this time, the Red Devils were still made to work hard.

Solskjaer felt Pogba's ability on the ball helped repel a physical Villa team, the France international impressing again in the United midfield as he continues to improve after recovering from coronavirus.

"He's getting better and better, fitter and fitter. I think he played well today," Solskjaer said to Sky Sports about Pogba, who attempted more passes and more passes in the opposing team's half than any other home player.

"They are a physical side, there were loads of challenges, one against one situations. Paul's one of these boys that can hold players off, get hold of it for us.

"But, not just Paul, we were too keen to play the killer pass. We knew they were going to drop off, then there are other spaces in behind we should have used."

Pogba had the most number of touches for United (69), while also winning 52.6 per cent of his 19 total duels.

The 27-year-old - whose long-term future at the club remains unclear - was fouled twice during the game, one of those occasions leading to the penalty that Bruno Fernandes converted in the second half, seeing the hosts reclaim the lead.

Anthony Martial had put them ahead earlier in the contest, scoring just his second league goal of a campaign disrupted by both injuries and a three-game suspension.

Solskjaer hopes the French forward - who has now scored on all seven days of the week in the Premier League - can build on his performance.

"He's had chances all season, maybe his confidence has had a bit of a knock earlier with the sending off, and some niggles he's had.

"Now he's firing, getting better and better."

United are back in action on Wednesday, hosting neighbours Manchester City in the last four of the EFL Cup. 

They are next on duty in the league on January 12, travelling to take on Burnley five days before a huge trip to defending champions Liverpool.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insists his Manchester United players are not getting carried away by the prospect of a Premier League title challenge this season. 

Marcus Rashford's stoppage-time winner against Wolves on Tuesday stretched their unbeaten run to nine league games and cranked the pressure up on leaders Liverpool. 

The Red Devils are now just three points behind Jurgen Klopp's side and have a game in hand. 

It marks an impressive transformation in the club's fortunes after a dismal start to the season, which saw them collect just seven points from their opening six games. 

There were three home defeats in that run, including a humiliating 6-1 reverse to Tottenham. 

The 13-time Premier League champions have been a team reborn in recent months, though, and face Aston Villa on Friday knowing they can go level on points with Liverpool ahead of the Reds' clash against Southampton on Monday. 

While Solskjaer is delighted with how his side have improved, he says the hard work has only just started. 

"Well, we had a difficult start to the season with the late arrival of some players," he told the club's official website. "And I think we have shown after the second international break, the one in October, that we have regrouped and come together.

"We are getting fitter, stronger and the squad is getting better. We just have to take one game at a time, move up the table and improve as a team. 

"But we have finished the year strong. I think we have done well since the beginning of February, or end of January, and we have proven to ourselves that we can be consistent over a longer period.

"When you are getting closer [to the top of the table], that gives you a boost and it gives you extra focus. 

"The good thing about this group is that some of them have won before so they are not going to get too far ahead of themselves. 

"We know that the only way to do it is to take one game at a time.

"I know that is quite a boring statement, but that is the good thing about this group; they are not going to think we have cracked it because in any game in this league, you have got to be at it and that's why we have a big, strong squad."

Solskjaer acknowledges his side will have their work cut out against a Villa side who have won three of their last five Premier League games and sit just four points behind United, having played a game less.

The main threat for United will come from in-form pair Jack Grealish and Anwar El Ghazi.

Grealish – who was linked with a move to United ahead of the 2020-21 campaign – is the Premier League's leading chance creator so far this season, with the England international having crafted 51 opportunities, including six assists.

El Ghazi, meanwhile, has scored five goals in his last five top-flight appearances, after netting just four in his first 37 in the competition.

"You can see the improvement of results and also performances, how solid they are – they have conceded one goal in their last five league games and that was against Chelsea – so they have impressed me," Solskjaer added.

"We've met them in pre-season and of course we've kept in touch with them. I have been impressed but not surprised, because they have a squad and a team full of good players.

"I think it is a team performance, of course, but they have made some very good signings. I think Ollie Watkins is one of the centre forwards that you don't like to play against.

"At the moment, El Ghazi is the man in form and scoring every game. I think the whole front line is going to keep you on your toes and they are going to make you defend. 

"Then they are very solid at the back and they are not going to concede goals, so we need a good performance and hopefully we will get one."

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