Match Report: Aston Villa 2-2 Manchester United

Manchester United threw away a two-goal advantage against Aston Villa to draw 2-2 and leave Villa Park with just one point.

Bruno Fernandes scored both of United’s goals, with the second a particularly impressive finish. David de Gea once again made some exceptional saves for Ralf Rangnick’s side and helped keep Villa at bay; however, Jacob Ramsey and Phillipe Coutinho scored late on to earn their side a draw.

Story of the game

Fernandes got the game off to the best possible start for United. After having several set-pieces in the first five minutes, which amounted to nothing, United’s captain saw his long-ranged effort burst through Emi Martinez’s hands and nestle in the back of the net. There were calls for offside against Edinson Cavani, but the goal stood to give United an early lead.

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United continued to apply pressure to Villa in the minutes that followed Fernandes’ opener. Anthony Elanga saw his header go just past the post after he met a deep cross from Fred, and Mason Greenwood had a close-range effort well-saved by Martinez. Greenwood also saw a well-drilled effort from distance go agonisingly wide.

United’s good pressing and their ability to keep possession well early on, meant Villa struggled to create any substantial chances in the first half an hour; that was until Ollie Watkins squandered a good one-on-one chance with David de Gea. Villa won the ball back in midfield and quickly broke away, but it was a weak shot from the England striker and a comfortable save for United’s number one.

De Gea was called into action not long after, making a sublime reflex save after a good header from Emi Buendia seemed goal-bound, to keep the United in the lead. The Spaniard pulled off another good save in the 43rd minute, denying Lucas Digne a debut goal after the Frenchman made an unmarked run into United’s area.

It was Villa who started the second half on the front foot, despite an early chance for Elanga, who saw his shot well saved by Martinez. Young midfielder Ramseytested de Gea with a powerful low effort, and the Spaniard needed to be at full stretch to keep it out. Digne also fired a chance wide just moments later.

United, however, managed to weather the storm that was the constant Villa pressure and had some chances of their own. Elanga dragged a shot with his weaker left foot wide after some impressive skill. Greenwood also saw a right-footed effort narrowly miss the target, after finding some space on the right-hand side.

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In the 65th minute, Fernandes doubled United’s lead, with a magnificent finish which bounced off the crossbar and went in. United won the ball back inside Villa’s half, and Fred played through a pass to Fernandes, who did not think twice, rifling home an exceptional finish to put United two goals ahead.

Just 11 minutes after Fernandes’ goal, however, Villa pulled one back, through Ramsey. Tyrone Mings managed to dance his way through United’s midfield, and, after two quick passes, had the ball in the box, with Ramsey. The Englishman did not hesitate, and fired home, leaving de Gea with no chance.

Frustratingly, Villa managed to find an equaliser, through new loan signing Coutinho. It was Ramsey who picked the ball up on the left-hand side of United’s box, despite Diogo Dalot’s effort to intercept Buendia’s pass. Ramsey squared it to Coutinho, who equalised for his new club, with less than 10 minutes remaining.

Coutinho had a chance to win it just five minutes later, but his long-range shot was saved by de Gea. Despite substituting both Donny van de Beek and Jesse Lingard on, United could not find a winner and had to settle for a disappointing draw.

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A ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ Performance

United’s performance at Villa Park was extremely frustrating, especially considering the two-goal lead they had with less than half an hour to go. At times, notably in the first half, United looked confident on the ball and were pressing well off it. Fernandes’ second goal was an example of what this team can do.

However, to concede two late goals in the manner they did is certainly a cause for concern, and, defensively, United cannot afford to switch off, or they will have a price to pay.

With Wednesday’s trip to Brentford on the horizon, three points is an absolute must as the hunt for a top-four spot continues.

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