Villa dominated for large portions of the game at Old Trafford but Scott McTominay’s eighth minute header ensured it was the home side that progressed to face Middesbrough in round four.
The game had an edge to it before a ball was kicked with the return of United’s old foe Steven Gerrard in the Villa dugout.
He entered the field to a chorus of boos but showed their was no intimidating him as he turned and stared down the Stretford End for a good few seconds.
But intimidation or not, it was the home side that took the lead early on.
Luke Shaw’s initial corner wasn’t dealt with - the ball came out to Fred who whipped it into the danger area for McTominay to head home too easily.
The goal seemed to spark the visitors into life though as they were far better after conceding.
Jacob Ramsey and Emi Buendia both had half-chances to level but it was Ollie Watkins who went closest to an equaliser before the break.
He pounced on a defensive error from Victor Lindelof and made his way into the United box before unleashing a great strike which ricocheted back off the crossbar.
Villa thought they had equalised almost immediately after the restart. Danny Ings had the ball in the back of the net following a corner but after a long VAR check Edinson Cavani was adjudged to have been fouled leading up to the goal.
And the claret & blue had another disallowed less than five minutes later. Once more it was Ings who was played through on goal, he dinked an effort over De Gea for Watkins to prod home but the former was offside in the build up.
Villa continued to dominate for the remainder of the second-half but couldn’t force an equaliser.
It’s United who progress to round four.
Manchester United (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Dalot, Lindelof, Varane, Shaw; Fred, McTominay; Rashford (85’ Elanga), Fernandes (85’ Lingard), Greenwood; Cavani (71’ Van de Beek)
Subs not used: Heaton (GK), Matic, Diallo, Wan-Bissaka, Telles, Mata
Aston Villa (4-3-3): Martinez; Cash, Mings, Konsa, Targett; McGinn, Ramsey (85’ Philogene-Bidace), Luiz; Buendia (79’ El Ghazi), Ings, Watkins
Subs not used: Steer (GK), Sinisalo (GK), Sanson, Archer, Iroegbunam, Hause, Chukwuemeka
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