Football Features

“The magician is back” – The Internet reacts to Aston Villa 2-2 Man Utd, a story of revenge

By Harry Edwards

Published: 19:49, 15 January 2022

It was a story of revenge at Villa Park on Saturday as Aston Villa fought back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 with Manchester United in the Premier League.

Aston Villa went into the game looking to do the Premier League double of Man Utd having won the previous meeting at Old Trafford 1-0, a match that was all about Bruno Fernandes. In what was a very close affair at Old Trafford, Kortney Hause had given Aston Villa the lead in the 88th minute which would ultimately be the winner.

But it might not have been. In the third minute of injury time Man Utd were awarded a penalty when Hause was adjudged to have handled the ball inside his own area. Man Utd’s first league penalty of the season, many had expected Cristiano Ronaldo to take responsibility following his arrival but Fernandes, who had been so reliable from the spot, pulled rank.

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Perhaps affected by the pressure, Fernandes went for power rather than his standard hop, skip and jump method, and blasted the ball into the Stretford End. Cue frustration and bemusement at the miss, not to mention Emiliano Martinez’s celebration, having a little dance in front of the fans.

After the game, as many players do nowadays, Fernandes used social media to post a message to his followers and Man Utd supporters to apologise for his penalty miss.

“Nobody is more frustrated and disappointed than me for missing the penalty and the consequent defeat,” he wrote.

“I’ve always assumed my responsibilities and I’ve always embraced them under pressure in moments like this. Today, I failed. But I took a step forward and faced the challenge with the same ambition and responsibility as when, on the many other occasions, the ball ended up in the net.

“Criticism and contrasting opinions are a big part of football. I’ve learned to live with it, even using them to drive me on, and I consider it all a very important part of my commitment to never stop trying to improve and to become the best player I can possibly be, for me and the team.

“Today I once again took the responsibility given to me almost since I joined United and I will take it again without any fear or dread whenever called upon.”

Fernandes may have been forgiven by fans for his miss, but Martinez had made an enemy of Man Utd. Which only made the return fixture at Villa Park much sweeter for the Red Devils – the earlier moments at least.

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In the sixth minute of the game, Fernandes gave Man Utd the lead after a quick-thinking free-kick. Alex Telles had lined up to shoot but instead had the slightest of touches on the ball to allow Fernandes to run with it. The Villa defenders were not aware of the danger and allowed Fernandes to shoot, though it wasn’t the greatest of efforts.

Martinez seemed to have things under control but he was affected by Edinson Cavani’s (onside) presence in front of him and fumbled the ball, through his legs and into the back of the net. Karma was a word quick to everyone’s lips.

It was the ultimate personal redemption arc from Fernandes, who has now scored in each of his three appearances at Villa Park (adding a second later in the match), and also perhaps a return to earth for Martinez – who is still one of the top goalkeepers in the Premier League.

Not everyone had Martinez in their crosshairs though…

But the game wasn’t done there as Villa came back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 courtesy of goals from Jacob Ramsey and one Philippe Coutinho on his debut. Because who else?

Coutinho doesn’t have the best record against Man Utd, failing to score in his previous seven Premier League appearances against the Red Devils before and only managing two in 11 across all competitions (one for Barcelona in the Champions League and once in the Europa League for Liverpool).

But it had to be the former Liverpool man, for Reds legend Steven Gerrard’s Villa, to keep Man Utd’s underwhelming form going.