Paul Pogba appears to instruct Luke Shaw to dive moments before winning Manchester United penalty against Aston Villa

Paul Pogba won Manchester United a crucial penalty just after the hour-mark (Picture: Getty)

Manchester United boosted their growing title credentials with a 2-1 victory over Aston Villa on Friday night – but the decision to award Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side their crucial second-half penalty has become the major talking point of the game and continues to divide fans across social media.

Referee Michael Oliver pointed to the spot after Douglas Luiz appeared to clip Paul Pogba from behind inside the box – a call which was supported by VAR – and Bruno Fernandes made no mistake from 12 yards to restore the hosts’ lead at Old Trafford.

Just three minutes earlier, Bertrand Traore had cancelled out Anthony Martial’s first-half effort with a calm finish past David de Gea from close range.

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A frustrated Dean Smith claimed Pogba ‘tripped himself up’ at his post-match press conference and Douglas Luiz has professed his innocence on Twitter, calling for officials to ‘start using VAR correctly’.

‘I see this video, I can’t believe it was a penalty,’ he told his followers.

‘I always support fairer football, with fewer mistakes, but then I stop and see these types of moves.

‘If we have VAR to help, LET’S start using it CORRECTLY, these mistakes can define the future of clubs!’

The Villa defender also retweeted a video of Pogba appearing to instruct team-mate Luke Shaw to dive in the 57th minute of the match, just moments before the controversial penalty call.

It’s clear Shaw’s decision to stay on his feet after a tussle with Matty Cash did not go down too well with the France midfielder.

Shaw remained on his feet after a tussle with Cash in the 57th minute (Picture: Sky Sports)
Pogba appeared to instruct Shaw to go to ground (Picture: Sky Sports)

The result put United level on points with Liverpool at the top of the Premier League table and Solskjaer claimed his side had ‘improved immensely’ over the last 12 months.

‘You are always delighted with three points. The performance was good and we created chances,’ the United manager told BBC Sport.

‘It was maybe a little too open and we wasted chances. We tried to play the Hollywood pass instead of securing the first one and using the space that was there.

‘We are happy with what we are doing. We have shown we have improved a lot in a year. We lost to Arsenal away last New Year’s Day. We have improved immensely.’

Solskjaer’s men sit top of the table alongside Liverpool (Picture: Getty)

United match-winner Fernandes agreed that United had ‘improved immensely’ but felt they need to be more clinical in order to kill off opposition teams.

‘I agree with that because against Leicester we conceded a goal at the end,’ Fernandes said after the Villa win,’ the Portuguese said.

‘The only mistake we made today was we had more chances to score again and maybe we have to close the game more quickly. We don’t score the third one and they press us until the end.

‘We knew they [Aston Villa] play really well. They have qualities and are doing well in the league.

‘We did well and created more chances than before but scored less goals.

‘The most important thing is three points, though.’

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