BIRMINGHAM, England — Manchester United suffered a damage 3-1 defeat to Aston Villa in the Premier League clash at a lively Villa Park, as Unai Emery’s side gave their new manager the best welcome possible.
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Cristiano Ronaldo captained United but the Portugal forward could only watch on as Villa took a quick-fire lead through Leon Bailey and Lucas Digne in the first 11 minutes. A Jacob Ramsey owns goal reduced the deficit for Erik ten Hag’s team, but he redeemed himself with a fine finish in the 49th minute to give Emery a victory in his first match 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 | Postmatch quotes | Key stats | Upcoming fixtures
1. Man United show Ten Hag there is lots of work still to do
Just when you think Manchester United might be building something under Ten Hag, they throw in a horrific 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 half-time thanks to a fluke goal when Luke Shaw’s shot was deflected past Emiliano Martinez by Ramsey, and any Villa nerves were settled by a third goal early in the second half.
It’s still early in Ten Hag’s reign and consistency cannot 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 then dominate Tottenham Hotspur but also collapse at Villa.
There have been plenty of signs that Ten Hag has United heading in the right direction, but he will be keen to cut out the blips that are 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 maybe the break is coming at the right time.
2. Van de Beek uses up another of his lives
With Bruno Fernandes suspended, Donny van de Beek was handed his first Premier League start in 701 days, but it might be his last for a while. After an anonymous 45 minutes, he was late reappearing for the second half, and it wouldn’t have been a surprise if the Dutchman hadn’t come back out at all.
He was eventually substituted after 65 minutes with United already 3-1 down, and it was something of a miracle that he lasted that long. He managed just 18 touches in more than an hour on the pitch. In comparison, his partners in central midfield, Casemiro and Christian Eriksen, had touched the ball more than 50 times each by the time Van de Beek made his exit.
Ten Hag gave Van de Beek a chance to make an impression with starts against Real Sociedad and Villa in the space of four days, but he did nothing to suggest he should be in the team when United play Villa again in the Carabao Cup on Thursday. Not picked in the Netherlands’ provisional World Cup squad, the player is about to get a lengthy break, but it may be awhile before he gets another opportunity in a United shirt, even once the season restarts.
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 challenging team 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 were left chasing shadows for most of the first half. The second half started with United on the front foot, but once Ramsey had scored a superb goal following 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 still to play, they were chanting, “Unai, Unai, give us a wave.”
Emery’s record — particularly at Sevilla and Villarreal — suggests he can get players to buy in to his methods and if nothing else, Villa played like a team with plenty of belief in the plan. Villa had won just five of their previous 24 league matches while United had lost just one of their last 10, but there was only one team who looked like they were 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 lots of space in Emery’s system and made the most of it with a goal and an assist.
WORST: Victor Lindelof
He got dragged out of position for Villa’s first goal and then let Watkins wander into the penalty area in the build-up to their third.
Highlights and notable moments
There was no love lost between Ronaldo and Tyrone Mings when the two tangled in the second half and had to be pulled apart by teammates.
After the match: What the players and managers said
Emery on his welcome at Villa Park: “The supporters were amazing supporting us and the players were great with the plan. First step is take confidence, start with energy and the supporters supported with their response. We have the players with the good skills. The way we played the 90 minutes we can be optimism but only the first step and we have to work a lot to keep improving.”
Ten Hag on his players resorting to aiming crosses toward Ronaldo: “I think it was stupid to do that. Because we delivered too quickly crosses in from too far and too much forcing and we don’t help him. crosses in the right moment. We bring the crosses in too quickly. The right moment was Christian Eriksen in the first half in the pocket to deliver the ball to Cristiano at the far post, that was the right moment.”
Ten Hag on his players not following his tactics: “Already I’m a long time in football, they are people; human beings are not robots. Sometimes it’s the way it is and it’s psychological but it is not acceptable. me wrong, we have to be ready for every game and not give games away so easily.
Key stats (via ESPN Stats & Info)
Ramsey is the fourth player in Premier League history with a goal, assist and own goal in a single Premier League match, after Gareth Bale (November 2012), Wayne Rooney (October 2012) and Kevin Davies (December 2008).
Aston Villa: Fresh off the back of 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 again on the road at Brighton & Hove Albion next Sunday, before the Premier League breaks for the World Cup.
Manchester United: Ten Hag has the chance for instant revenge against Emery’s Villa at Old Trafford, and he may well use the game to make some changes to the team before next Sunday’s visit to Fulham brings the curtain down on 2022 for the Red Devils.