Aston Villa lost 1-0 to Manchester United in the FA Cup third round, but their performance was promising.
United won the game thanks to an early Scott McTominay header from a great Fred cross. A superb goal that was probably the only good thing either man would manage to do all night.
Whatever the result was, the performance would have filled Steven Gerrard with nothing but pride as Villa rocked up to Old Trafford and absolutely dominated their illustrious if troubled hosts. From start to finish, they were the better and more proactive side.
They even put the ball in the back of the net twice. Once correctly ruled out for offside, and the other was chalked off by VAR. Supposedly for an off-ball block on Edinson Cavani, but that seems tenuous and confusing at best. And certainly not worthy of a three minute stoppage in play as they pored over the video footage. Gerrard lamented this post-match, saying that the break: “took the sting out of the game.”
Possession statistics for Manchester United and Aston Villa:
◉ Aston Villa (61%)
◉ Manchester United (39%)
Steven Gerrard's men are dominating, but, still can't find a way through at Old Trafford. 😩 pic.twitter.com/awUmeEsYtD
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 10, 2022
While there is certainly some merit to that claim, the overall performance from Gerrard’s men was so good that the Englishman can only be chomping at the bit for next week’s Premier League rematch with the Red Devils, this time at Villa Park, and this time with Coutinho.
Speaking on the Brazilian’s situation, Gerrard said: “Philippe is currently in the process of finalising his immigration papers and we are looking forward to getting him on the training pitch with the group on Wednesday at Bodymoor.”
And given the way Villa played tonight, with their 4-3-3 shifting seamlessly into a 4-3-1-2 as Emi Buendia peeled in off the left-flank to cause United no end of troubles behind two natural strikers in Ollie Watkins and Danny Ings, you can see how Gerrard is already shifting his tactics slightly as he prepares to fit Coutinho, who he describes as an “outstanding footballer,” into the starting XI.
Villa dominated the match at Old Trafford. From start to finish they were superior. They just lacked a bit of punch in the final third to give their dominance impact. Wouldn’t it just be so very Gerrard if he were able to revitalise Coutinho to give them that punch? He certainly has the talent to take some of the chances that Buendia wasted and his range shooting adds a devastating ace up Villa’s sleeve.
Philippe Coutinho’s Premier League career for Liverpool by numbers:
302 chances created
150 through balls
52 big chances created
19 goals from outside the box
5 free-kicks scored
Reunited with Steven Gerrard. 🤝 pic.twitter.com/k7McGx9nB1
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 7, 2022
Coutinho has struggled at Barcelona, but put him back in the Premier League and back to being the talisman of a young side full of talent (the way he was for Liverpool in the early days under Jurgen Klopp) and you might just see him back to his best.
Aston Villa at Old Trafford had the perfect blueprint for success, they just needed someone to make it a reality. Could Coutinho be that man? The system seems set-up for him and a rematch against Manchester United is the ideal way to make a big debut.