BY CIARAN CONNEELY, SPORTS STAFFER
In his first game in charge of Aston Villa, Unai Emery ended Manchester United’s nine-game unbeaten run with a 3-1 win at Villa Park. Aston Villa’s new-manager bounce shellshocked United. The Red Devils looked fatigued, offset and annoyed during the game. This match showcased how much work United must do in its rebuild.
Aston Villa had a rampant start to the game, dominating possession in the first ten minutes. Emery’s side made life difficult for Manchester United, not allowing the Red Devils to fully settle into the game. Leon Bailey scored Villa’s first goal of the game in the seventh minute. Manchester United’s Victor Lindelöf overcommitted in his pressing, which left an abundance of space on the right side of the defense. Jacob Ramsey saw the opening and played a pass to Bailey, who took several touches before firing the ball into the net. Villa Park erupted in cheers, which helped energize the hosts.
In the 10th minute of the game, Villa heavily pressed United’s defense. Lisandro Martinez gave the ball away to Ramsey. Before Ramsey could get away, Manchester United’s left back Luke Shaw scythed him down, giving away a free-kick just outside United’s penalty area. Lucas Digne took the free-kick for Villa. The Frenchman wrapped his left foot around the ball, sending an inch-perfect shot into the top-right corner of the goal. Digne’s first goal for the club gave Villa a two-goal lead inside 15 minutes.
Manchester United grew into the game as the first half progressed. In the 34th minute, Manchester United’s Christian Eriksen sent a cross into Villa’s penalty box. Ezri Konsa’s half-clearance fell to Cristiano Ronaldo, whose headed effort forced a point-blank save from Emiliano Martinez. Just before half-time, United pulled a goal back. Ramsey cleared a cross from Diogo Dalot. The clearance fell to Shaw. After Shaw chested the ball down, he fired a volley toward goal. The shot took a wicked deflection off Ramsey before flying into the back of the net.
But Aston Villa extinguished Manchester United’s resurgence in the second half. In the 49th minute, Villa hit Manchester United with an electrical counterattack. Ollie Watkins drove down the left side of the field before pulling the ball back to Ramsey inside the penalty area. Ramsey struck the ball with his first touch, sending the ball into the goal to restore Villa’s two-goal lead. The poor positioning of Manchester United’s midfielders exposed the defense, making it an easy goal for Ramsey.
Ramsey’s goal sunk Manchester United, who offered very little going forward in the second half. Manchester United manager Erik Ten Hag made three changes in the 65th minute, but the substitutes didn’t have an impact for the Red Devils. United’s players got more annoyed as the game went on, leading to several skirmishes with the Villa players. Ronaldo received a yellow card after getting into a tussle with Aston Villa’s Tyrone Mings.
The game showed the promise of a new era for Aston Villa under Unai Emery. Villa defeated Manchester United at Villa Park for the first time since 1995. This game took United’s Premier League away loss tally to nine in 2022, the most away defeats the club has had in a calendar year since 1989.
Ten Hag gave a thoroughly honest post-match interview, saying:
“We lost the game at the start of the first half, start of the second half.
“I said it was up to us. It was up to us. We didn’t keep the ball. We let them run at the start of the game, we didn’t get the right organization but especially we didn’t follow the rules in defending and we lost battles. It’s not acceptable.
“The result is clear. That never lies. In football you always get your earnings. Today we were not good enough.”
Manchester United host Aston Villa in the English League Cup on Thursday and take on Fulham on Sunday before the FIFA World Cup break. United have already had setbacks this season, and the team must overcome them again. Ten Hag will look to improve his team in the final two matches before the break.