Refereeing issues were the catalyst for Villa’s demise tonight, but the effort of those in claret and blue was lackluster regardless.
Words: Regan Foy | @findfoy
As the Premier League edged ever closer to it’s conclusion, Aston Villa and Villa Park hosted an in-form Manchester United side this evening. With the influential stars like Paul Pogba, Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford all on the pitch, it looked like Aston Villa may be in for a rough night from the off.
The opening seven or so minutes were nothing to shout about generally, with Mbwana Samatta and Trezeguet both called offside in the early stages.
The game was a little stop-start with a number of fouls and clearances. McGinn was often tasked with picking up Matic or Pogba, Luiz tasked with watching Fernandes, and Grealish with whoever McGinn had left.
A cross from Konsa found Jack Grealish free at the far post in the 18th minute, and the Aston Villa captain should have buried it. Grealish took it first time, side-footing the ball over the bar when he had time to take a touch.
Trezeguet could have quite easily put Aston Villa ahead in the 25th minute as he won the ball in the centre of the park before racing forward into space and attempting to curl the ball past David De Gea – instead firing it onto the post and out for a goal kick.
Manchester United took the lead in the 28th minute with a joke of a scenario. With the ball on the edge of the box, Bruno Fernandes attempted to roulette past Ezri Konsa – instead treading on the defender’s leg and going to ground. The referee and VAR gave the penalty United’s way – but it really should have been a foul against Fernandes, rather than the other way around. Fernandes buried the resulting penalty.
Reina was forced into two relatively easy saves from Martial and Greenwood in the minutes following.
Bruno nearly had a second just as time was added on at the end of the first half with a free header in the centre of the box – with the Portuguese midfielder firing just whiskers over the bar.
Nemanja Matic was booked for a late challenge on Jack Grealish in the 48th.
As the final minutes of the first half came, Mason Greenwood doubled United’s lead as Tyrone Mings was dispossessed near the half-way line and United were able to break. Greenwood edged forward, playing in Martial, who played the ball back to Manchester United’s 18-year-old talent before he slammed the ball past Pepe Reina.
Manchester United had an early chance in the second half after Samatta had a shout for a potential penalty at the other end – with Wan-Bissaka heading just wide from an exceptionally close position.
Ezri Konsa was booked in the 52nd minute for stopping Marcus Rashford from breaking away on a counter.
In the 55th minute Marcus Rashford thought that he’d put it beyond Aston Villa’s reach – but was called offside after his shot struck the back of the net. Just a few minutes later, however, and it was Paul Pogba who had done just that, with Aston Villa shirking their defensive responsibilities and the World Cup winner firing low into the bottom right.
What followed was a triple substitution – with El Ghazi, Samatta and McGinn taken off for Hourihane, Davis and Nakamba.
Anthony Martial could have made it four on the hour mark, but his shot cannoned off the crossbar and away from the goal.
Brandon Williams and Scott McTominay entered the fray in the 66th with the game all but over, replacing Nemanja Matic and Wan-Bissaka. Ten minutes later, and Fernandes was replaced by Fred.
Nothing was going right for Aston Villa. Passes going astray, Grealish struggling to play simple balls. It almost just looked as if the players had given up.
With twelve minutes remaining, Martial and Greenwood were replaced by Odion Ighalo and Daniel James.
Young American Indiana Vassilev joined the fray in the 84th minute, replacing Douglas Luiz.
Nothing much of note followed. Things are getting dicey.