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Man United recovers to beat Aston Villa 3-2

TEENAGE substitute Federico Macheda scored in injury time on his Manchester United debut yesterday to earn a 3-2 win over Aston Villa and end the team's monthlong winless streak in the Premier League.

The 17-year-old Italian curled the ball past Brad Friedel in injury time to ensure the defending champions ended the weekend a point ahead of Liverpool at the top of the standings with a game in hand. Cristiano Ronaldo scored the first two goals for United.

"This is a day of my dreams," said Macheda, who replaced Nani in the 61st. "It was a dream to have debut and score a goal like that. I need to keep going like that and enjoy."

Macheda was in the squad because striker Wayne Rooney was suspended and Dimitar Berbatov is injured. But despite being the most inexperienced player on the bench, he was United manager Alex Ferguson's first substitute after Gabriel Agbonlahor put Villa ahead 2-1 in the 58th.

"It was a gamble. Winning is the name of the game at this club," Ferguson said. "Yes we take risks, but that is part of football. I love the thrill of them myself."

The stage was set for Macheda, who joined United in 2007 from the Lazio academy, after Ronaldo equalized in the 80th by slotting the ball past Friedel.

"He was always penetrating with his runs and a threat all the time," Ferguson said of the young Italian, who received a yellow card after scoring by running into the crowd to celebrate with his family. "Now he needs to keep his feet on the ground."

Ronaldo scored his first goal from a free kick in the 15th minute. United was awarded the free kick after James Milner's backpass to the goalkeeper.

With captain Gary Neville returning from a two-month injury layoff, Ferguson shifted the right back to the center alongside John O'Shea. But John Carew took advantage of his height advantage over Neville to head in Gareth Barry's cross for Villa's equalizer in the 30th.

Villa went in front when Ronaldo lost possession in his own half, allowing Villa to surge forward with the ball and Agbonlahor to head Carew's cross past Edwin van der Sar.

"You are never comfortable against United," Villa manager Martin O'Neill said. "But I felt we were in commanding form and looked as though we could withstand anything."

Villa has slipped to six points behind fourth-place Arsenal in the race for the league final Champions League spot.

Liverpool, which won in injury time Saturday, moved ahead of United and into first place overnight. But Ferguson believes United is back in control.

"We are top of the league and that's where we want to be," Ferguson said. "Teams drop points and we've had our blip and recovered today with seven or eight players missing today, but you can see these young players are prepared to go until the very end."

United leads the league with 68 points, one more than Liverpool and four more than Chelsea, which beat Newcastle 2-0 Saturday.

Also Sunday, Everton recorded its biggest win of the season, beating Wigan 4-0 to strengthen its grip on sixth place and qualification for the Europa League, the UEFA Cup's new format.

Brazil striker Jo, on loan from Manchester City, scored twice and Marouane Fellaini and Leon Osman also found the net.


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