BIRMINGHAM, England — Manchester United suffered a damaging 3-1 defeat against Aston Villa in the Premier League clash at a lively Villa Park as Unai Emery’s side gave their new manager the best possible welcome.
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Cristiano Ronaldo captained United but the Portugal forward could only watch as Villa took a quick lead through Leon Bailey and Lucas Digne in the first 11 minutes. A Jacob Ramsey own goal reduced the deficit for Erik ten Hag’s side, but he redeemed himself with a fine finish in the 49th minute to give Emery victory in his first game in charge since his appointment last month.
ESPN’s Rob Dawson has reaction and analysis from Villa Park.
JUMP TO: Player Ratings | Best/Worst Performers | Highlights and Notable Moments | Post Match Quotes | Key Statistics | Upcoming matches
1. Man United show Ten Hag there is still a lot of work to do
Just when you think Manchester United might be building something under Ten Hag, they throw in an awful performance. Aston Villa won a league game against United at Villa Park for the first time since August 1995, and it was fully deserved. Villa, led by new coach Unai Emery for the first time, won 3-1, but it could have been more.
United were 2-0 down inside 11 minutes and were only back in it at the break, thanks to a flurry of goals when Luke Shaw’s shot was parried by Ramsey past Emiliano Martinez, and any Villa nerves were eased early in the second goal with a third goal established. half.
It’s still early in Ten Hag’s reign and consistency can’t happen overnight, but it’s still remarkable that a team can look so bad against Brentford but then so good against Liverpool, beat Arsenal but crumble at Manchester City and then Tottenham Hotspur dominate, but also collapse at Villa.
There have been plenty of signs that Ten Hag has United headed in the right direction, but he will be keen to cut out the blitz that is becoming semi-regular. United have a Carabao Cup game against Villa and a Premier League trip to Fulham to come before the World Cup, and perhaps the break comes at the right time.
2. Van de Beek uses another one of his lives
With Bruno Fernandes suspended, Donny van de Beek got his first Premier League start in 701 days, but it may be his last for a while. After an anonymous 45 minutes, he reappeared for the second half, and it wouldn’t have been a surprise if the Dutchman didn’t come back at all.
He was finally replaced after 65 minutes with United already 3-1 down, and it was something of a miracle that he lasted so long. He managed just 18 touches in over an hour on the field. By comparison, his central midfield partners, Casemiro and Christian Eriksen, touched the ball more than 50 times each when Van de Beek made his exit.
Ten Hag has given Van de Beek a chance to impress with starts against Real Sociedad and Villa in the space of four days, but he has done nothing to suggest he should be in the squad when United face off again on Thursday Villa does not play in the Carabao Cup. Not selected in the Netherlands’ preliminary World Cup squad, the midfielder is set for a long break but it could be a while before he gets another opportunity in a United shirt even once the season start again
3. Emery makes immediate impact
Emery couldn’t have asked for much more from his first game in charge. Villa were in the bottom three when the game kicked off, but for the first 30 minutes they played like a team challenging for a place in the top six.
With Bailey and Ollie Watkins playing as split strikers, United never got to grips with Emery’s system and spent most of the first half chasing shadows. The second half started with United on the front foot, but once Ramsey scored a superb goal after a clinical counter-attack to make it 3-1, Villa were never really troubled. The home fans felt so comfortable that with more than 10 minutes to play, they chanted: “Unai, Unai, give us a wave.”
Emery’s record – particularly at Sevilla and Villarreal – suggests he can get players to buy into his methods and if nothing else, Villa played like a team with plenty of faith in the plan. Villa have won just five of their previous 24 league games while United have lost just one of their last 10, but there was only one team who seemed to be playing with confidence and composure.
Aston Villa: Martinez 7, Cash 7, Digne 8, Konsa 7, Mings 7, Luiz 8, Dendoncker 7, Buendia 7, Bailey 8, Ramsey 9, Watkins 7.
Subs: McGinn 7, Young 6, Ings 6, Kamara 6, Sanson 6.
Manchester United: De Gea 6, Dalot 6, Shaw 5, Lindelof 4, Martinez 6, Casemiro 5, Eriksen 6, Van de Beek 4, Rashford 4, Garnacho 6, Ronaldo 5.
Subs: Martial 5, Malacia 5, Elanga 5.
Best and worst performers
BEST: Jacob Ramsey
He found plenty of space in Emery’s system and made the most of it with a goal and an assist.
WORST: Victor Lindelof
He was dragged out of position for Villa’s first goal and allowed Watkins to wander into the penalty area in the run-up to their third.
Highlights and notable moments
There was no love lost between Ronaldo and Tyrone Mings when the two got tangled up in the second half and had to be pulled apart by teammates.
After the game: What the players and managers said
Emery on his welcome at Villa Park: “The fans were amazing to support us and the players were great with the plan. First step is to take confidence, start with energy and support the fans with their reaction. We have the players with the good skills. The way we played the 90 minutes, we can be optimistic, but only the first step and we have to work a lot to keep improving.”
Ten Hag on his players resorting to crosses to Ronaldo: “I think it was stupid to do that. Because we delivered crosses too quickly from too far and too much pressure and we don’t help him. We have to get the crosses up the right moment. We bring the crosses in too quickly. The right moment was Christian Eriksen in the bag in the first half to deliver the ball to Cristiano at the far post, it was the right moment.”
Ten Hag on his players not following his tactics: “I’ve been in football for a long time, they’re people; people aren’t robots. Sometimes it’s the way it is and it’s psychological, but it’s not acceptable. Don’t get no. I’m wrong, we have to be ready for every game and not give games away so easily. If you start a game like that, you get beaten.”
Key Stats (via ESPN Stats & Info)
Ramsey is the fourth player in Premier League history to score a goal, assist and own goal in a single Premier League game, after Gareth Bale (November 2012), Wayne Rooney (October 2012) and Kevin Davies (December 2008).
Aston Villa: Fresh from a big win over Manchester United, Unai Emery’s first away trip as Aston Villa manager is against … Manchester United in the Carabao Cup on Thursday. After that, Villa are on the road again next Sunday at Brighton & Hove Albion, before the Premier League starts for the World Cup.
Manchester United: Ten Hag has the chance to gain immediate revenge against Emery’s Villa at Old Trafford, and he could potentially use the game to make some changes to the squad before next Sunday’s visit to Fulham brings the curtain down on 2022 for the Red Devils bag.