Aston Villa have not won against Manchester United at home since 1999 with a 3-0 victory in the League Cup. Dean Smith attempted to change history using an unchanged lineup from the previous game against Liverpool in which Aston Villa preformed admirably but lost 2-0 in the process.
Early on, Villa looked unphased by the red hot form of Manchester United and were content to press high with the midfield and attack when in possession. This high press led to opportunities within the first fifteen minutes, as Samatta was able to dispossess the United Centerhalf and give off to El Ghazi who was subsequently fouled. Although the free kick taken by Douglas Luiz was deflected off the wall this was encouraging early.
The high press also started a flurry of attacks from the Claret and Blue which saw Konsa put in a pair of brilliant balls from the right side. The first was just out of the reach of Samatta and went for a corner and the second was to the far post and Grealish attempted a volley but couldn’t get his foot through it.
The most promising of the Villa attempts in the first half came from another Manchester United turnover in which Trezeguet was gifted the ball with Samatta and Grealish on either side of him. The winger was able to advance the ball to the edge of the Penalty Area and opts to shoot. The shot beat De Gea but not the post and was ultimately off target.
Minutes after the Trezeguet miss, Aston Villa were hard done by John Ross and the VAR as the referees judged a Bruno Fernandes dive to be a foul committed by Konsa on the edge of the area. The Penalty was given, and Bruno Fernandes calmly stepped up and reaped the rewards of a terrible decision to make the score 0-1.
After the penalty scored, Manchester United was able to take control of the match with a goal in hand. United held possession more effectively after the goal and was almost able to double their lead with a good passing movement which saw Bruno Fernandes get a free headed opportunity, but he couldn’t get the shot on target.
As the half came to a close Villa earned a couple of free kicks from fouls to Grealish which earned the likes of Matic a yellow card. After the second free kick opportunity, Manchester United was able to counter effectively and get the ball to Mason Greenwood who slotted one home unopposed from outside the box to make the game 0-2 as the half closed.
As the Second half opened, neither team made changes to the starting lineups.
Within the first three minutes of the first half Aston Villa should have been awarded a penalty as Maguire put his arm near the neck area of a charging Samatta to keep the striker away from the ball. But astonishingly the opportunity is not given.
After a ten minute spell of United possession, Grealish was able to progress the ball forward with a caravan of Villa players at his disposal. As Grealish dished the ball to Trezeguet down the left McGinn drifted in behind the captain and received the return ball. McGinn tried to put it in from a distance, but the ball went right to the keeper
Minutes later United were back on the attack and were able to put another ball into the back of the net although it was disallowed due to an offside Pogba.
The Frenchman was able to atone for his mistake though as he curled a ball into the bottom left corner right after and made the game seemingly unreachable for Villa at 0-3.
Dean Smith brought on subs right after the third goal. The manager brought on Davis for Samatta, Hourihane for El Ghazi, and Marvelous Nakamba for McGinn.
After a Villa attack which produced another shot on target for Hourihane, Grealish went down for some time in the box. After some trainer attention the Captain was able to get up and continue
Manchester United was able to coast to the water break from this point with Villa looking defeated.
Late on as Manchester United were charging towards yet another attacking opportunity Marvelous Nakamba was able to stop the attack with a foul on the Manchester player and earned a yellow card in the process.
Villa also showed signs of life soon after with a counter attacking opportunity which lead to a deflected Hourihane shot from 8 yards out after a fantastic cross from Douglas Luiz. The resulting corner was calmly collected from De Gea though.
At the 83rd minute, the youngster Indiana Vassilev comes on for Douglas Luiz. Dean Smith may be hoping that the teenager brings energy to the side but it ultimately is too little too late.
As the game mercifully finished, there are very few positives to point out other than the fact that Villa’s harsh run of fixtures is over. The next four are “winnable” games and the team will have to improve their performance to get something meaningful out of them.