Unai Emery’s first game as Aston Villa boss as the Spaniard got the better of Manchester United once again, reports Daily Mail.
Emery’s Villarreal side overcame United on penalties in the Europa League Final last year and the scoreline was far more emphatic.
Ronaldo – surprisingly made captain for the day by Erik ten Hag – had not yet rejoined United when they lost in Poland last May but the Portuguese cut a frustrated figure here as Villa beat United at home in the league for the first time since 1995, ending the Premier League’s longest winless sequence in the process
Early goals from Leon Bailey and Lucas Digne handed Emery, hired to replace Steven Gerrard, the perfect start and though Luke Shaw’s deflected shot gave United hope just before half-time, the excellent Jacob Ramsey snuffed it out soon after the restart.
With Bruno Fernandes suspended and Harry Maguire left on the bench, Ronaldo was given the armband by Erik ten Hag but struggled to provide the leadership his team needed. He avoided a red card for a tangle with Tyrone Mings and was baited by the home crowd throughout as United slipped to a first league defeat in six. Emery never lost to United during his 18 months at Arsenal and this was the ideal way to begin his second crack at English football. Villa fans felt secure enough to chant ‘Ole’ in stoppage time as their team ran down the clock.
It was almost a nightmare start for Villa as Emiliano Martinez dawdled on the ball close to his goal-line and only just managed to clear before Alejandro Garnacho stole the ball from him.
Villa survived that scare and were ahead in the seventh minute. After a patient build-up, Ollie Watkins found Jacob Ramsey, who drifted in from the right and released Bailey. The Jamaican outsprinted Lisandro Martinez and drilled his shot across David de Gea and into the bottom corner.
Emery bowed his head and pumped his fists and four minutes later, it got even better. Shaw’s awful tackle on Ramsey led to a free-kick 25 yards out and before Digne took it, Martinez raced to the halfway line to order the Villa player in the United wall to adjust their position.
Whatever the skipper said did the trick as Digne promptly curled the ball over the defensive barrier and into the top corner. Emery was directing every Villa pass from his technical area and even celebrated by shaking his fist when Ronaldo was flagged offside.
Villa were flying at this stage, playing the ball quickly behind United’s defence and overloading midfield when Ramsey and Emiliano Buendia moving inside off the flanks. Another Bailey burst led to a chance for Buendia, who fired narrowly over from the edge of the box. The home side were so dominant that Martinez was even confident enough to juggle the ball inside his area.
Perhaps that showmanship sparked United into life and in the final 15 minutes of the first half they began to throw some punches of their own. Martinez made two excellent saves inside a minute, first from Garnacho’s powerful close-range effort and then to keep out Ronaldo’s point-blank header from Christian Eriksen’s deflected cross.
But the Argentine was helpless when United grabbed the goal their improvement deserved in the final minute of the half. Shaw’s shot looked to be flying well wide before it took a huge deflection off Ramsey that left the Villa ‘keeper stranded.
With Villa slow to reappear for the second half, Ten Hag ambled from his dugout for a quick word with Ronaldo and Donny van de Beek, before Bailey flew at United again from the kick-off and put a long-range effort into De Gea’s midriff.
The visitors began the second half in the style they had ended the first only to be undone again by a rapid Villa attack. This time it was Watkins who charged into the space behind the back line and rolled it across for Ramsey to guide into the top corner. Moments later, Ronaldo smashed an effort high into the Holte End, who roared with delight and goaded the Portuguese further by taking their time to return the ball.
With an hour gone, Ronaldo and Mings wrestled one another to the floor as Garnacho tried to cross from the left and though VAR checked for a possible red card, Anthony Taylor’s decision to book Ronaldo was upheld. At the other end, Bailey fell to the floor after claiming a blow to the stomach from Martinez but Taylor saw no offence. By this time Ten Hag had seen enough and made a triple substation, sending on Tyrell Malacia, Anthony Elanga and Anthony Martial and moving Marcus Rashford from the right flank to the left