Football Features

“He needs to be seen as a liability” – Winners & Losers as Manchester United draw 2-2 with Aston Villa

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 13:53, 23 July 2022

In a dynamic match of football in the pouring rain, Manchester United and Aston Villa played out a 2-2 draw.

It was a game of two halves as United took a 2-0 lead by half-time only for Villa to turn it around in the second period.

Who were the winners & losers?

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Winner: Jadon Sancho

There’s no doubt that Jadon Sancho’s debut season at Manchester United was underwhelming. Now, that’s not entirely his own fault, but it was the end result for sure.

However with Erik ten Hag in charge, it seems like things will change. Sancho has been electric in pre-season, and was so again in the first-half against Aston Villa. His movement was electric as none of the Villa defenders could get near him.

Sancho opened the scoring with a neat finish at the back-post, thumping the ball home to cap off a flowing team move. He then played a big role in the second goal, with his run in behind being found by Fred before he squared to Rashford for a tap-in (Rashford’s shot ricocheted off Matty Cash and went in). Sancho becoming a decisive presence in the final third is exactly what the Red Devils need.

Loser: David de Gea

Under Ralf Rangnick, Manchester United went 0-2 up at Villa Park in January of this year. That day Steven Gerrard’s side came from behind to pick up a point with a valiant fightback and a late equaliser. Today history repeated itself, but it didn’t have to.

To be clear, Aston Villa absolutely deserved their draw. As bad as they were in the first-half, they really rebounded in the second period and dominated the game. But they didn’t have to get their equaliser; by the time the match was rolling into its final seconds, United were 2-1 up.

But then a booming corner came into the box and Calum Chambers rose uncontested to nod the ball home. David de Gea had hesitated when the corner was struck, then decided to come when it was too late, and he came with absolutely no force as well.

De Gea took some meek steps off his line into the defender blocking his path, then just stood still on the sodden pitch, watching as Chambers rose to head the ball over him. This is a recurring problem with De Gea; his failure to leave his line to contest crosses is even more of an issue than his kicking, because it can expose the defence to set-piece vulnerability.

And when De Gea does come off his line, it can often be ineffective even in open play. Earlier in the half he came out to contest a Villa forward but got skinned, only for Harry Maguire to bail him out with a great clearance off the line.

United are targetting lots of players this summer, but that none of them are goalkeepers should concern their fans because for all the ridiculous shot-stopping there is a definite issue with the rest of David de Gea’s goalkeeping game. He needs to be seen as a liability.

Winner: Leon Bailey

United were largely untroubled by Villa in the first-half as they dominated the game with ease. Steven Gerrard clearly had some stern words for his side because they opened the second-half with much greater drive and the chief architect of this was Leon Bailey.

The Jamaican international was flying at United every single chance that he got, showing a directness but also a level of sharp control and decisive thought to put United under pressure.

He scored Villa’s first goal with a wonderful slalom run, skinning Victor Lindelof alive and then slotting the ball into the far corner of the net. He then almost scored a second after rounding the goalkeeper, but his shot was cleared off the line.

Finally, with the second-last touch of the game, Bailey dropped a peach of a corner right onto the head of Calum Chambers, allowing the defender to head home a deserved equaliser for Villa. Could he be set for a breakout season in Birmingham?

Loser: Donny van de Beek

Against Crystal Palace, Donny van de Beek came on at half-time and instantly improved the Manchester United midfield with some savvy passing play. He wasn’t great, but he was much better than Scott McTominay. Van de Beek retained his place against Aston Villa but left behind all the assertive play we saw in Melbourne.

Van de Beek coasted through the game against Villa. Even when United were dominant, he wasn’t really a part of said dominance. And when Villa began to fighting back in the second-half he was nowhere to be seen, even though United were in desperate need for him to take the ball and slow play down. Even with Erik ten Hag in charge, it just feels like there’s something missing for Donny van de Beek, and with Christian Eriksen waiting for the squad back in Manchester, Donny may just have missed his chance to secure a starting spot for next season.

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Ruben Neves 11/1
Christian Pulisic 12/1
Memphis Depay 16/1
Mykhailo Mudryk 16/1
Kylian Mbappe 16/1
Youri Tielemans 16/1
Declan Rice 16/1
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Winner: Lisandro Martinez

Back in Manchester, training with Christian Eriksen, Lisandro Martinez will have watched United play against Villa. And it would be a surprise if he wasn’t tearing his shirt off trying to board a plane to Perth by the hour mark.

The hapless Victor Lindelof and the barely fit Raphael Varane had the left side of United’s defence looking intensely weak and open to being attacked, something Leon Bailey was doing at speed.

Then for once, Ten Hag did not bring Alex Telles on in defence, but as a defensive midfielder. That move makes no sense unless you’re trying to prepare your team to handle passes coming out from the back via a left-footed player.

So you’ve got a left-side of defence in shambles and a manager constantly making sure the team knows what to expect from having a left-footer orchestrate play from deep. He hasn’t even been officially presented let alone played a game for them, yet the deck is being cleared for Lisandro Martinez to come in and sweep the United fans off their feet.

Loser: The fans

Speaking of the fans, the biggest loser on the night was probably them. Not because of the quality of the football anything like that; no. The fans are losers because of the absolutely hideous weather.

Optus Stadium was assaulted by rain and wind all through half-time, leaving fans soaked and cold. The quality of football dipped hugely after the half-time break took the players out of the rhythm they had first period.

Obviously any chance you can get to see Manchester United and Aston Villa live is a good one, but getting absolutely battered with wind and rain must have soured the experience a bit. This especially so for the United fans who had to ensure a risible second-half as well.