Aston Villa’s Unai Emery gets off to a perfect start against Manchester United and captain Ronaldo

Aston Villa’s Unai Emery gets off to a perfect start against Manchester United and captain Ronaldo

Aston Villa’s new manager Unai Emery got off to the perfect start as his side beat Manchester United at home for the first time in 27 years.

Unai Emery got off to a perfect start in charge of Aston Villa as his new side beat Manchester United at home in the league for the first time in 27 years.

That defeat for United in 1995 prompted Alan Hansen to come out with his infamous line on Dagens kamp that “you can’t win anything with children”. Yet at Villa Park yesterday (Sunday) it was Jacob Ramsey – one of Villa’s ‘kids’ – who put the finishing touches on a well-deserved victory.

Since agreeing to take charge, Emery, known for his meticulous planning, has watched replays of all of Villa’s games this season. Even after just four training sessions, the Spaniard will have acknowledged that the performances delivered by his side in their 3-1 victory far surpassed those Villa produced under Steven Gerrard.

There was an intensity and an attacking chatter that has been absent far too often this term. Under Gerrard, Villa became hard to beat but boring to watch. This is not an accusation that can be leveled at this Emery side, at least on the evidence of this game.

“It’s been a tough couple of weeks with the old gaffer getting sacked. “There’s been a lot of tactical work this week and the game plan worked,” said Ramsey, the Villa academy graduate who scored his third goal.

Villa Park had been buzzing with excitement and anticipation before kick-off and all four stands gave Emery a warm welcome to his new Midlands home. But not even the most optimistic Villa fans would have predicted they would be 2-0 up inside 11 minutes. Leon Bailey got the first when he went on a drive into the 16-yard box. He got on the wrong side of Lisandro Martinez and sent a powerful low shot into the far corner of David de Gea’s goal.

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Without Raphael Varane, sidelined with a hamstring injury, United looked shaky at the back and Villa, with their fluid attacking system, knew early on that they could cause Erik ten Hag’s side problems. Emery has favored a 4-4-2 in his previous coaching roles and Villa fell back into that formation when they were out of possession. Going forward, however, they switched to a 4-2-2-2, which caused problems for United’s defense and midfield.

Four minutes after conceding the opening goal, Ten Hag’s team was undone defensively again. Bailey drove forward and Luke Shaw hacked him down on the edge of the area. Lucas Digne stepped up to curl a perfectly struck free kick into the top corner of the net.

With Bruno Fernandes suspended, Donny van de Beek started for the first time in the league since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s last game, against Watford last November. There was a time when United fans were looking for the Holland player to get a chance, but based on his performance at Villa Park, there may not be many who are longing to see him in midfield now. There has been much debate about Fernandes’ influence at United, but his absence clearly left a creative hole in the team.

Stunned by the two early goals, United went 34 minutes before testing Emiliano Martinez in the Villa goal.

“When you start the game you always have the attitude and that was one of our best standards,” Ten Hag said. “We’re usually really on the front foot. We’re really ready to play in every game so far. Today we weren’t there from the start. We didn’t follow the rules defensively and we lost our games. I think it was collectively that we brought a poor performance.”

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Alejandro Garnacho tested Martinez as United enjoyed a rare period of dominance and they got a lucky goal after Shaw’s shot was deflected off Ramsey into the top corner.

Ten Hag described United’s tactics of pumping balls into the area as “stupid” and after a run of nine games unbeaten, familiar flaws from the old days were exposed as they looked fragile at the back and out of ideas going forward.

Any hope of them producing a comeback was killed four minutes after the restart. Ollie Watkins made a great run down the left, pulled the ball back to the edge of the box and Ramsey was there to fire into the top corner.

Emery, who had been an animated presence on the sidelines all game, high-fived the backroom staff on the bench. “I dreamed about this,” he said. “It was a special day here today. Today everything is perfect.”

For Villa, who had just three wins this season, the three points meant the most. The fans, who welcomed the Emery era with enthusiasm, will no doubt be hoping for more performances with such attacking flair.

As the 51-year-old walked down the tunnel to the applause of the Villa faithful, he knew he was off to a perfect start, while Ten Hag will no doubt be hoping for a much better display when these two sides meet again in the Carabao Cup on Thursday night.

– The times

Originally published as Aston Villa find their thriller instinct against Manchester United boilover

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