In what was arguably Villa’s most competitive performance against a top side for a number of weeks, this was a tough one to swallow. Having got ourselves level through Douglas Luiz, a number of spurned opportunities would ultimately be rued, with United substitute McTominay scoring a late winner.
VILLA 1-2 MAN UTD
It was United who took the lead, deflating an otherwise positive start to the game. After Villa failed to deal with a Maguire downward header, Hojlund was on hand to score his fifth Premier League goal in five games. The Dane hadn’t remotely threatened to score at all until he broke his duck against Villa on Boxing Day. He hasn’t looked back since. Typical.
If McTominay would be the player to best illustrate a clinical finish, it would stand in contrast to a string of missed goalscoring chances for most of the Villa squad over ninety minutes.Embed from Getty Images
Watkins had three; unable to fashion a finish from a through ball in the first half, before a close range effort was fired straight at Onana early in the second. A late header also left the United ‘keeper untroubled.
McGinn tested Onana too, firing an effort that was well saved by the maligned goalkeeper in front of the North Stand.
Luiz, who was on hand to level the game, was guilty of a tame effort after a poor clearance in the area. A momentary lack of composure from the normally cool Brazilian saw probably the most clear-cut chance go to waste. Equally, fine work by Leon Bailey to weave a through ball to Ramsey came to nothing as the midfielder failed to control the pass when put through on goal.
On another day, those chances are taken, but these are the fine margins between a season maintaining Champions League momentum and one where you begin looking over your shoulder. United, far from the great side they once were, served to remind us of what it takes by holding out and taking their clear-cut chance when it presented itself. Erik ten Hag’s side must now be considered a real risk as the campaign goes on.
These types of results can be as damaging on the team’s psyche as much as the league table. Significant effort was expended in a game which felt like it had the potential of building into the crescendo of a famous home victory.
It wasn’t to be, and whilst Emery will no doubt be encouraged by the uptick in application compared to lacklustre defeats against Newcastle and Chelsea, he must surely be concerned about the sudden collapse of home form.
Worse yet is the news that Kamara has suffered a serious knee injury, likely ruling the Frenchman out of the remainder of the campaign. This was truly a bad day at the office, for sure and one we must bounce back from quickly.