The home side got the reward for applying plenty of pressure in the final third when Ashley Young was brought down in the area by Wes Brown in the 72nd minute. The winger stepped up to the spot and smashed home to give his side the lead.
Four minutes later, Villa went two up when young gun Marc Albrighton turned home a Stewart Downing cross at the far post.
But United hit back in the 81st minute when substitute Federico Macheda hit a stunning 20-yard strike before captain Nemanja Vidic helped his side to an unlikely point with a header from a Nani ball into the area.
The draw kept United in second but with third-placed Arsenal still to play tonight as Villa rose to eighth.
Venue: Villa Park, Birmingham Crowd: 40,073 Referee: Mike Dean Yellow cards:AV - Barry Bannan 18', Luke Young 63', Ashley Young 73' MU - Nani 53', Javier Hernandez 62', Wes Brown 71', Nemanja Vidic 72'
Aston Villa Brad Friedel (gk), Richard Dunne, James Collins, Stephen Warnock, Luke Young, Barry Bannan, Jonathan Hogg (Herd 90'), Stewart Downing, Marc Albrighton (Lichaj 88'), Gabriel Agbonlahor (Delfouneso 78'), Ashley Young
Subs - Brad Guzan (gk), Nathan Delfouneso (78'), Eric Lichaj (88'), Chris Herd (90'), Isaiah Osbourne, Shane Lowry, Daniel Johnson
Man Utd Edwin van der Sar (gk), Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra, Wes Brown, Darren Fletcher, Michael Carrick, Park Ji-Sung (Smalling 86'), Nani, Dimitar Berbatov (Macheda 73'), Javier Hernandez (Obertan 73')