As managerial debuts go, this has to be up there. Under the animated and watchful gaze of Unai Emery, Villa ran out deserved 3-1 winners against Manchester United at Villa Park. It ends a 23-year winless run against the Red Devils on home turf, and is the first since 1995 in the Premier League. Finally.Embed from Getty Images
This was not just about Villa getting off to a respectable start under new manager Unai Emery, it also immediately improves our Premier League points tally and makes the table look far less precarious. After a mauling last time out at Newcastle (4-0), this performance was just what the doctor ordered.
There were shades of the victory against Brentford early doors, with Leon Bailey and Lucas Digne firing Villa into an emphatic lead. United looked visibly shellshocked as Villa Park reverberated.
Bailey, so frustrating to many owing to his apparent inconsistency, once again reminded us of his terrorising potential. The Jamaican international burst forward at pace, firing a powerful low drive beyond De Gea to open the scoring.
Digne soon followed suit on his return from injury. The former Barcelona defender made no mistake from a free-kick on the edge of the area after Ramsey was fouled, curling an unstoppable effort into the net in front of The Holte End. It was a goal of genuine quality from the Frenchman.Embed from Getty Images
United lacked cohesion but still threatened. Those amongst us with any memory of this fixture dared not even momentarily consider this encounter to be over. Naturally, it was not to be without its scares.
As the first half matured, Emi Martinez was forced into a smart reaction save from close range, before denying the often petulant Cristiano Ronaldo with his feet after the 37-year-old directed a low header towards the goal.
Villa had appeared to have ridden out the storm. However, in the depths of injury time and in typical Aston Villa fashion, an attempt by Luke Shaw cruelly deflected beyond Martinez. Shaw, perhaps fortunate to be on the pitch after an earlier lunging challenge on Ramsey, had given United a foothold at the break. The wisened amongst us pondered what that might mean.
Villa emerged re-energised and purposeful in the second half. Uncharacteristically of late, we once more took the game to the visitors.
We were rewarded for our endeavours again, with the tireless Ollie Watkins demonstrating his best attributes, cutting back a perfect ball for Ramsey to guide beautifully into the top corner. 3-1. It was a scoreline from which United wouldn’t recover.Embed from Getty Images
This wasn’t a game without talking points either. Indeed, the low standard of decision-making from the officials and VAR might easily be overlooked here owing to the fact that Villa won.
The poor lunging early tackle from Shaw upon Ramsey was dangerous but got a yellow. Ronaldo’s mindless hands-on scuffle with Mings resulted in only a yellow. The most blatant was the elbow from Lisandro Martinez upon Leon Bailey, which produced no response at all from the officials. It’s beyond comprehension and it affects the outcome of football games week in, week out.
Overall, this was a timely, uplifting victory from which we must distil and use as a springboard for the rest of the campaign. The positive signs are once again there, it’s now up to the new regime to nurture the talent and coax consistency and “continuous improvement” out of them.
For Emery, it’s a great start and we now crave more of the same.