Another Tough Loss

Ronaldo Manchester United

It’s been a tough spell for Manchester United these past few weeks. After the win in Ronaldo’s amazing homecoming debut, a malaise seems to have set in. We didn’t realize it at the time, but in hindsight this run of bad play started with the surprising loss to the Young Boys in the Champions League opener followed by a win over West Ham United in the Premier League that felt like it could have been a course correction for Ole Gunnar Solksjaer and the boys. However, West Ham would get their revenge as they facilitated a midweek 3rd round exit from the Carabao League Cup for the Red Devils. It felt like United needed another course correction at Old Trafford on Saturday, but unfortunately that course correction did not come against Aston Villa.

Aston Villa were on the front foot for most of the match and definitely didn’t play the part of parking the bus and countering that many thought would be their main tactic of choice. United had 28 shots but most were not very threatening or the result of clever build up. Maguire and Pogba both had great chances at scoring a goal with brilliant headers before halftime, but Pogba’s effort went just wide of the post and Maguire’s shot was unfortunately saved by the keeper. United had the edge in possession 60%-40%, but were almost level in shots on goal 4-3 and of course Villa got the goal that counted. Cavani and Pogba didn’t mark their man or deal with threat well enough on Villa’s goal and Ollie Watkins did enough to bother De Gea so that he couldn’t make the save. It is debatable whether that goal should have been allowed to stand since there was some interference with De Gea’s line of sight and ability to see the ball.

As much as things were going wrong in the match, there was still a chance to salvage a point when United was awarded a penalty in 2nd half stoppage time. Fernandes confidently stepped up to the spot and we all waited for an inevitable equalizer that turned into an inexplicable escalated moon missile that rose way over the cross bar of the goal and into the stands. In fact, if you grab a telescope and look towards the westward sky I am certain that you can still see the ball rising into suborbital space alongside Sir Richard Branson. I was absolutely befuddled and dumbfounded first by the fact that Ronaldo didn’t take the penalty and secondly by the fact that Fernandes, normally a quite exquisite penalty taker, bottled it and missed so badly. I know that Fernandes is the leader and heartbeat of this team, but when you have one of the best penalty takers of all-time on your side, CR7 has to be the one who takes that penalty. Watching Emiliano Martinez get in Bruno’s head before the spot kick and mocking Ronaldo afterwards while gesturing and gyrating to the fans in the Stretford end was almost too much to bare.

United has to get the ship corrected because as Man City, Liverpool, and Chelsea continue to get result after result in what is shaping up to be a fascinating four team title race, we want United to be in the mix come spring. Results like this against Aston Villa simply will not do. ManU moves on to play Villareal on Wednesday for the 2nd group stage match of the UEFA Champions League, which sets up a rematch of the Europa League final from last season’s campaign which produced the shocking result of Villareal knocking off a world power to win a continental trophy. Hopefully, a course correction and cold serving of revenge will be dished out against the neon shirt wearing Spanish side come Wednesday. We shall see.

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