Unai Emery gets off to a winning start by shocking Manchester United at Villa Park for the first time in 27 years

English football’s longest unbeaten streak away from home came to an end when Manchester United fell to Aston Villa 3-1 at Villa Park.

The last time the Red Devils experienced defeat at the venue in the league was in 1995. It is not a feather that Erik ten Hag would want in his hat. Unai Emery, meanwhile, could not have asked for a better start and will hope to kick on his Midlands rebuild.

Leon Bailey started the game well and beat Lisandro Martinez to Jacob Ramsey’s pass before rifling it past David de Gea in the seventh minute. The shell-shocked Man United side had barely any time to recover before Luke Shaw brought down Ramsey 22 yards from goal to concede a free-kick.

Lucas Digne stepped up to curl the ball home past a despairing De Gea to double the lead in the 11th minute. Villa kept going, but some last-ditch defending coupled with poor finishing kept the deficit at two goals.

Erik ten Hag’s side, to their credit, did not give up and had opportunities of their own to score in the first half. However, they could find no way past Emiliano Martinez, who returned to the lineup following his concussion against Newcastle United.

The Red Devils were given a glimmer of hope when Luke Shaw’s half-volley took a wicked deflection off Jacob Ramsey to nestle in the Villa goal. This gave Ten Hag something to work on going into halftime.

Any rekindled hope Man United had of a fightback was extinguished quickly after the break as Jacob Ramsey slotted in Villa’s third of the night to restore their two-goal lead.

It took the wind out of Man United’s sails, and Villa saw the game out with minimal fuss. The frustration was apparent on the faces of the Red Devils stars who were just second best all night.

Both sides will now face off once again in the coming days in the Carabao Cup. For now, The Hard Tackle looks at how the Manchester United players fared on the night. 

David De Gea: 5/10

The Spaniard cannot be blamed for any of the goals as his defence left him high and dry on most occasions. One could argue that De Gea should have done better for the second Villa goal and not left his inside post unprotected. Either way, it was a poor night out for a player whose defensive line failed to offer any sort of assurance.

Diogo Dalot: 5/10

Another player who failed to get going on the night. Dalot was lacking the x-factor on the night and picked up a yellow card for dissent in the second half. It is fair to say he showed more fight arguing with the referee than against the Villa attack.

Victor Lindelof: 5/10

Whether it was because of his lack of game time or not, Lindelof looked rusty and struggled initially to keep up with Villa’s attackers. He improved as the game went on and also brought the ball out from the back when needed. However, it was far from a vintage performance from the Swedish international.

Lisandro Martinez: 6/10

The Argentine was given a tough time and was forced to make several challenges and tackles to stem Villa’s flow. Martinez should have done better to beat Bailey to Villa’s opener but otherwise did little wrong.

Luke Shaw: 5/10

The Englishman was given a rough night by Bailey, who caused him several problems on the night. The Aston Villa winger interchanged often with Jacob Ramsey, and this saw Shaw get caught in no man’s land several times. He gave away a cheap freekick that led to Villa’s second goal early on. Shaw earned himself a yellow card for the tackle and was fortunate to see his deflected effort earn the Red Devils a goal just before the break. He was taken off for Tyrell Malacia in the 65th minute.

Casemiro: 6/10

The Brazilian was strong in the tackle and can consider himself lucky that a rather wild scissor challenge on Emi Buendia went unpunished. He read the game well and covered several of the defence’s holes, making some crucial tackles and blocks in the process. Casemiro, however, faded as the game went on.

Christian Eriksen: 6/10

The Dane started the game decently and sprayed the ball all around the pitch. His ability to dictate play from deep did have an impact as Man United showed some fight in the second half.

Marcus Rashford: 5/10

Rashford tried, but it was ultimately not enough. He lacked decisiveness and did not quite hit top gear. 

Donny van de Beek: 2/10

The Dutchman was a surprise inclusion in the playing XI, and did little to inspire in the number 10’s role. Van de Beek showed a couple of great touches but was otherwise invisible over the course of the opening 45 minutes. It came as a surprise that Ten Hag took 65 minutes to take the player off.

Alejandro Garnacho: 5/10

Fresh off his heroics against Real Sociedad, Garnacho was a lively presence on the left and was not lacking in confidence. He showed good movement and forced Martinez into a strong save in the first half. He faded in the second half and was taken off for Anthony Elanga in the 65th minute.

Cristiano Ronaldo: 4/10

The legendary Portuguese ace did his best in the opening 45 minutes, forcing Martinez into a fine save in the 34th minute. The Man United skipper was particularly impressive in the air and caused Villa problems whenever the ball was launched into the penalty area. His frustrations boiled over in the second half and ended with him being shown a yellow card for a scuffle. With Bruno Fernandes absent, Ronaldo’s ability to sulk when things aren’t going Man United’s way is second to none.

Substitutes

Tyrell Malacia: 6/10

He was an improvement over Luke Shaw but offered a little more.

Anthony Elanga: 6/10

The young Swede replaced Garnacho, who had gone missing in the second half. Elanga, to his credit, offered energy and drive in the final quarter of the game.

Anthony Martial: 6/10

The Frenchman came on for the invisible Donny van de Beek in the 65th minute as Man United sought a way back into the game. Martial showed some good touches, but his rustiness from the lack of match fitness was apparent.

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