A dejected Ezri Konsa. A beleaguered Dean Smith. The tone of Villa’s post-match press was downbeat, but with a definite feeling that our fortunes hinged solely upon another dreadful VAR decision. It’s not the first time.
Whilst Villa had shown promise in the early stages, most notably when Trezeguet clipped the outside of David De Gea’s right hand post, we were not ahead. It was promising, Villa were competitive, but we weren’t ahead. Sound familiar?
The story of our season isn’t confined to singular moments in matches. We just haven’t won enough games of football and if we are brutually honest, have rarely walked away from a defeat pondering what might have been.
The game against United was ultimately no different. They are a top team, now on a seventeen game unbeaten run. Their winning streak at Villa Park also extends beyond most of the lifetimes of our younger cohort of supporters. Villa last beat them on home soild in 1995.
Given those stats and our performances to date, we knew that it would require a determined, relentless performance from our side. Grit, guile and leadership would be the bare minimum required. Sadly, we saw little of this, either on the field or from the bench.
United, once ahead through an erroneously awarded Fernandes penalty, took full advantage of our frailties and abject lack of character. That extra gear we knew Solskjær’s side had within them was mustered as any composure or resilience we might have left visibly ebbed away.
McGinn and Mings bickered. Luis flailed his arms at the lack of movement whilst attempting to drive forward. A search party was prepared to locate missing persons Grealish, El Ghazi and Samatta.
You can see The Villa Underground Player Ratings here, it doesn’t make for pretty reading but it does at least inspect our shortcomings.
United exploited an increasing resignation to the fate before us, reminding Villa what damage a potent attacking four can inflict upon a ill-equipped defence.
Konsa was run ragged, Hause battled and blocked, but Mings found his realistic international credentials under close scrutiny.
Fernandes went close again, narrowly putting a header over the bar when it seemed certain he’d score.
Mason Greenwood made it two, rifling in a powerful effort from just outside the area. The sight of John McGinn barely managing to jog back to support a desperate Luiz did little to inspire confidence. To concede a second so deep into first half injury time was a hammer blow to a Villa side which may have regrouped at half time.
United’s third came after dominant play after the break, with Villa looking bereft of ideas as to how they might get back into the game. Pogba, inexplicably not closed down from a United corner by an anonymous Grealish, stroked his first goal of the season into the net.
A 3-0 defeat, if we do miraculously survive, might have been the best outcome in terms of goal-difference. Aside from the Fernandes missed header, Bissaka somehow placed a header wide after ghosting past Trezeguet. Pepe Reina, not at fault for any of the goals, also made saves to keep out good chances for Greenwood and Martial. In short, it could have been much worse.
The VAR decision shouldn’t have happened, it did stifle what momentum we had in a pleasing early period, but it cannot be used to excuse what came after it. Nor does it do anything to absolve those responsible of why Villa are so perilously close to relegation.
This easily now make’s Sunday afternoon’s game against Crystal Palace a must win. Win at all costs.
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