The good and bad: Aston Villa 2-2 Manchester United

Meeting for the second time in a week, this time it was Villa’s turn to host Manchester United and attempt to complete a league double over United for the first time since 1954 when they played and beat Matt Busby’s side in consecutive games.

Steven Gerrard handed Luca Digne his debut after his move from Everton earlier in the week replacing Matt Targett who dropped to the bench. Phillipe Coutinho started on the bench while Morgan Sanson was given a rare start, replacing the suspended John McGinn.

Villa fans were in a buoyant mood as they wanted their side to bounce back following the manner of the defeat in the FA Cup earlier in the week but United have not lost in their last 22 appearances at Villa Park.

United took the lead just 6 minutes into the game. They were awarded a free-kick where it was played short and Bruno Fernandes hit a tame shot but a rare mistake from Emi Martinez saw the ball trickle between his legs and into the net.

Martinez soon redeemed himself when Alex Telles crossed a ball and found Mason Greenwood but the big Argentina keeper stood up strong to deny the England international.

The Argentina international came to Villa’s rescue again when Nemanja Matic won the ball off Jacob Ramsey and United broke. Fernandes laid off Greenwood but Martinez was equal to the effort on goal.

Villa’s first real effort of a poor first half came just after the half-hour mark. Digne swung in a corner and Emi Buendia beat everyone to head the ball towards goal only to be denied by David De Gea.

Just before half-time, Villa came close again when Douglas Luiz and Matty Cash linked up before the latter crossed the ball. Diego Dalot appeared to push Danny Ings in the back but the ball fell to Digne but he was denied by De Gea.

Villa were much better in the second half as they tried to get back level. Some clever link-up play between Digne and Ollie Watkins before they found Ramsey who did a one-two with Buendia but he struggled to get any power on his effort and De Gea tipped his effort around the post.

It was United who eventually scored against the run of play as they doubled their lead after 67 minutes. Digne played the ball to Sanson who then played a short ball to Tyrone Mings which allowed Fred to win the ball, he then laid it off to Fernandes whose effort smashed off the crossbar and into the net.

Gerrard immediately introduced Coutinho to the fold which appeared to give everyone in Claret and Blue a huge lift and it wasn’t long before Villa pulled one back.

After a poor clearance from United, Mings picked up the ball just inside the opposition half before some silky skills to beat both Fred and Greenwood. He played the ball into Coutinho who linked up well with his fellow substitution Carney Chuckweumeka, Fred gets a tackle in on the Brazilian as the ball falls to Ramsey who slots the ball past De Gea.

Four minutes later, Villa were back level. Kortney Hause who replaced the injured Ezri Konsa at half-time passed the ball to Luiz midway in their own half. The midfielder passed the ball to Mings who then played it into Watkins who turned and laid the ball off to Buendia. The Argentine played Ramsey through who crossed the ball along the area on the turn for our new little magician to smash in at the far post to complete the comeback.

The Good

  • The comeback is a massive credit to the spirit within the current squad. So many teams just give up, especially given the time of the game once they go 2-0 down but we never gave up and the draw was something I felt that we fully deserved.
  • Emi Buendia – A few have been critical over the Argentine since his move from Norwich in the summer but over the last 2-3 games we have started to see an improvement. I felt he was the best player on the pitch yesterday, even during a poor first half for Villa. Villa are not short of options in the positions behind the strikers so this is the perfect chance for him to make the position his own while so many are unavailable. Based on the performance yesterday, no one is getting him out of that side.
  • Luca Digne – A lot of the talk was about Coutinho yesterday but what a debut from the French international. Gerrard stated that he wanted Matt Targett to stick around and fight for this position back. Good luck, Matt!
  • The Villa Academy- Jacob Ramsey once again impressed and without sounding like a broken record I thought I would pay tribute to our academy. Chuckweumeka was introduced mid-way through the second half and made an immediate impact. Based on that cameo performance he will be giving Gerrard food for thought on his selection at Everton next week.

The Bad

  • Villa were very poor in the first half and Gerrard rightly called them out on it. I expected a reaction given what happened on Monday night but they made Manchester United look more like their City rivals. We need to find a way of performing consistently for 90 minutes.
  • Ings v Watkins. It doesn’t work. I don’t think it ever will work. Yesterday wasn’t a great example as I felt both were not at their best yesterday but Villa look a better side when just one of them play. I appreciate what Ings cost and I like so many, love Watkins but similar to Digne and Targett, it needs to be one or another. They need to fight for their position in the starting line-up.
  • Bruno Fernandes. Not Villa related but I am really starting to despise him as a player. There is no doubt that on his day he is a world-class player and he was probably United’s best player yesterday but his consistent moaning and play-acting is embarrassing. And Yes, I am fully aware of what Trezeguet did last week and rightly the Egyptian got called out for it. It’s about time someone called out the Portuguese player for what he does. He doesn’t need to do it when he has the quality that he has.

Up Next

Everton v Aston Villa

Premier League
Goodison Park
Saturday, 22nd January 2022

Gerrard will want his Villa side to return to winning ways against an under-performing Everton side. Rafa Benitez (at the time of writing) is under a lot of pressure with a lot of the media expecting him to be sacked very soon.

Original Source: A Villa Fan

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