Manchester United were defeated in frustrating fashion at Old Trafford by Aston Villa by a 0-1 score. Though they had their opportunities in the match, there was little composure on the day throughout the squad, something which Villa were able to capitalize on with a late winner. It is their first loss in the Premier League this season, and a worrying performance that they will need to learn from.
Mason Greenwood probably should have opened the scoring about 17 minutes in. He found himself free on the left hand side, cut in on his right past a defender, and shot the ball right at Emiliano Martinez. He had Bruno Fernandes to square it to at the center of the box, but even from his position you expect Greenwood to do better.
Aston Villa wasted a fairly straightforward opportunity after about 20 minutes. De Gea was left one on one with Ollie Watkins after a slip up by Maguire, but the shot went right at the Spaniard, as did the rebound chance.
Seconds later United found themselves forward again. Bruno beat a defender wide right, and found Pogba with his pass into the box. Pogba’s shot through a crowd was deflected just wide. The resulting corner bounced around after several more shot attempts through the crowd, but Villa had properly gotten back to block by that point.
After half an hour Luke Shaw went off with an injury. Diogo Dalot came on to fill in at left back, but it was a very worrying sign. No clear moment of injury for him, and with Champions League play just around the corner, and Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s suspension in the competition, there was the looming prospect of having to play back ups at both full back positions.
United pressed late in the half, and Maguire nearly scored a header on the end of a Bruno Fernandes free kick. Martinez had to make a strong save on the chance, but was able to push it wide, and Greenwood couldn’t direct the follow up chance on target. A foul on Pogba a minute later on the edge of the box gave United another opportunity on goal just before halftime but Ronaldo sent it directly into the wall. The ensuing corner saw Varane nod the ball onto Pogba, but he couldn’t redirect it on target. The sides went into the break scoreless.
The second half started poorly for United. Villa found themselves point blank with De Gea again, but Danny Ings was dispossessed by Maguire in a dangerous position before he could get the shot off. His calls for a penalty may have been examined further by VAR had the flag not gone up for offside.
Things settled down a bit after Maguire began nursing an injury, and United settled back into possession around the hour mark. Pogba nearly curled one into the top corner from the edge of the box, but couldn’t get enough on the shot to direct it on target. Greenwood had an opportunity on the break a couple minutes later, but drifted too far wide for the shot. He had Ronaldo as an option central, but it would’ve had to be an inch perfect pass to find him.
Maguire was withdrawn, clearly ailing from the injury picked up early in the half, and Lindelof came on to partner Varane for the final 25 minutes. The new look back four was tested quickly, with Ollie Watkins finding an opportunity on the break. He was able to get a shot past Varane, but De Gea came up with a great diving save. Wan-Bissaka cleared quickly to Bruno, who sent Greenwood, but the young forward couldn’t find a clear shot or a teammate as Ronaldo ran offside.
With 10 minutes to go Ramsey had another clear shot at goal, but he mistimed his controlling motion and wound up hurting himself instead. Despite the apparent disorder Varane and Lindelof had done a decent job settling in and providing recovery after Maguire had gone off, and De Gea’s rediscovered confidence as a shot stopper only helped. Unfortunately, the defense would be undone in a familiar way to last season: a set piece.
Villa got a late goal in the 88th minute. Hause turned a corner on target and there was little De Gea could do about it. Cavani was the man marking, having just come into the game a few minutes earlier, and the mismatch paid off for Villa at the near post.
United’s rapid push forward for an equalizer got them a penalty in the 91st minute, following a handball by Hause. VAR confirmed the penalty, but Bruno Fernandes skied it. Along with it went United’s hopes of getting a point from what was a pretty open match. They had plenty of opportunities to get in front, but once again lacked composure and direction going forward.
United’s next match will be at home against Villarreal in the Champions League on Wednesday.