Following the club’s lackluster performance during their midweek match against West Ham, which eliminated them the Carabao Cup, most fans of Manchester United were interested to see how the club would respond in Saturday’s match against Aston Villa.
Ole Gunnar Solskjær went with the same front three he used in Man U’s loss to Young Boys in the first game of the Champions League just last week, the trio of Paul Pogba – Cristiano Ronaldo – Mason Greenwood.
Aston Villa came into this week’s match pointless in their three previous trips to Old Trafford, winless away from Villa Park in 2021, and sitting mid table through their first five games of the Premier League.
Story of the game
Manchester United got off to a quick start after Luke Shaw was able to push down the line but foiled by a Bruno Fernandes shot that was over the crossbar. Like other matches we have seen this season, the Devils controlled possession for much of the first half but lacked any real chances or anything that would make Emi Martinez earn his wage. And in those same matches we have been the opponents produce real chances once they take possession and push down the field, often leading to one-on-one or two-on-two scenarios.
One of, if not the biggest, key this game against Aston Villa’s was the return of costly injuries that Manchester United fans are all too familiar with. Half of the English back line were forced to leave the game early due to injury. Luke Shaw in the 33rd minute and the United Captain, Harry Maguire in the 65thminute.
With no Alex Telles available, this proved to be extra costly since Shaw’s injury required Diogo Dalot to play on the left side. With United forced to use two of the substitutions on injured players early on, the starting XI had to overcome fatigue, something that was clear had settled in for the final 20 minutes of the match.Embed from Getty Images
In the second half, fans got a chance to see Edison Cavani and his new no. 21 for the first time this season, and while we have seen late theatrics from him before, the only goal in the match came when Kortney Hause beat Cavani on corner kick and headed into goal.
The best chance for Manchester United came in stoppage time, when Kortney Hause, who had just scored minutes prior, was charged, and later confirmed by VAR, with a handball after a Cavani header. Many had wondered if Bruno would continue to take penalties since the arrival of Ronaldo and that question was answered today – Bruno.
However, Bruno’s penalty pedigree would not repeat itself, as he launched the ball well over the keeper and crossbar, something we have yet to see from him. In addition to Bruno’s woes, we also saw something else for the first time this season – no Ronaldo goal at Old Trafford.Embed from Getty Images
Manchester United cannot afford to let today’s lost dwell on them as the quickly return to Champions League football this week when they take on Villareal and their last match still lives on in the memories of United players and fans.
A Manchester United attack without teeth
Many have said that this may be the best attacking presence Manchester United have had at the clubs in years; however, you may not understand why today. The club struggled to provide any real goal scoring opportunities inside the box, perhaps the closest came on a Pogba header that grazed the far post.
Today’s match was one without the new acquired Jadon Sancho, who had played in the mid-week match, and whose bench status would be cemented after the Shaw and Maguire injury.
The club displayed a real lack of confidence with the ball at their feet, something highlighted by a number of players, but perhaps the most obvious with Mason Greenwood who seemed to be holding onto the ball in the attacking third for much longer than usual.Embed from Getty Images
A glaring issue and one that has plagued Gunnar Solskjær since taking over the reins has been United’s continued lack of executing from set pieces. United had two opportunities against Aston Villa to capitalize on free kicks in front of goal and several corners, but nothing materialized from these golden opportunities.
We continue to see the Reds struggle to land crosses, dribble through defenders, or sync up with open teammates inside the box. The best solution to these nagging issues may reside in the Scott McTominay–Fred midfield that we have seen Solskjær lean on since becoming the United boss.
Neither provide a genuine attacking advantage and forces Pogba to be used on the outside rather than midfield where he has proven to be lethal with assists. Perhaps the one saving grace may be the return of Marcus Rashford, whose motor and work ethic is desperately needed.