By Jonathan Parkin
Four points adrift from safety, and five games left to play, not the situation Villa fans were picturing at the start of the season. A battling defeat against Liverpool gave a small amount of hope to players and supporters alike. However, playing the in-form team in England, Manchester United, is arguably the biggest test this Villa side could face at this stage.
Dean Smith made only one change from that which faced the Champions, with Keinan Davis dropping out for Ally Samatta. This highlighted how pleased Smith was with large sections of the Liverpool performance, hoping the same parts could provide a different result second time round.
The Villans started brightly, with chances for Jack Grealish and Trezeguet failing to find the target. Despite this, with a ridiculous penalty decision not overturned by VAR, and United going up by a goal, the game was over. Villa seemed to completely lost all of their fight, as their heads dropped and the tempo lowered. Just before half time, Tyrone Mings made yet another mistake, as he stood and watched Mason Greenwood fire the ball past him and into the net.
The second half came and Villa looked no different. United had all of the ball, and toyed with the Villans, before putting away a third in the 58th minute. Both sides made a number of substitutes and the game dropped into a pace that resembled a preseason friendly. United could have had one or two more goals before the ninety was up, but failed to capitalise on the chances Villa afforded them.
Villa won’t stay up with more performances like this. To be able to be optimistic about fighting against relegation, some fight has to be present, and there is none. One goal is enough to beat this team, and opposition sides know that.
Pepe Reina – 6
Pepe Reina wasn’t at fault for any of the United goals, and made a good save late on to stop a fourth going in. Unfortunately, the Spaniard is more used to having better defences in front of him, and can’t stop inept errors from occurring.
Ezri Konsa – 5.5
There was no way that Ezri Konsa’s challenge in the box was a penalty, and his complaints were very much justified. Despite some decent deliveries in the first half, the United forward line were soon burning past the former Brentford man, and that enabled them to carve open the Villa defence multiple times.
Kortney Hause – 6
Unlike his defensive partner, Kortney Hause put in a solid performance despite the brutal loss. He made three interceptions and five clearances, as well as being the most accurate passer in the Villa defence. Kortney Hause has improved since his shakier performances earlier in the season.
Tyrone Mings – 4.5
Tyrone Mings is supposed to be Villa’s ‘experienced’ defender, as he is the loud leader of the backline, and cost the club a hefty sum. The 27-year-old has shown he is anything but experienced in his games since the restart. Mings has played just under 50 Premier League Games, keeping a grand total of four clean sheets (he has also made the most mistakes leading to goals in the Villa team this season). After failing to close the attacker for both goals in the Liverpool game, he did exactly the same again for United’s second. To make the same errors again and again is infuriating for Villa fans and Dean Smith.
Neil Taylor – 5
It seems as if Dean Smith had specifically told Neil Taylor to mark Mason Greenwood, as in the second half the Welshman moved to the right side of defence. However, this seemingly good idea didn’t work, even when the Welshman was playing on his preferred left side. Greenwood created havoc in and around the penalty area, and Taylor was powerless to halt his progress.
Douglas Luiz – 6.5 MOTM
Douglas Luiz must be the most annoyed of all the players. He keeps the performances coming, and no one else in the team can deliver. Three tackles and three interceptions, as well as a handful of nice passes, were not enough to drag the Villa to a better result however.
John McGinn – 5.5
There was a real hint of the fully fit John McGinn on show, for the opening 20 minutes of the game. The Scotsman charged down the lethargic Man United defenders, and was a real menace. As soon as the first goal went in, it was seemingly back to half fit version of the Scotsman, who was constantly second best to United’s midfielders.
Anwar El Ghazi – 4.5
If Villa had another winger with pace, Anwar El Ghazi wouldn’t be anywhere near the starting XI. He flits in and out of games at the best of times, and at the worst his impact is non-existent. This was one of the worse days.
Jack Grealish © – 5
Jack Grealish went missing as soon as the first goal went in, just like the rest of the attack. When the captain of a team can’t lift his head and keep his effort levels up, there’s a real problem. On top of this, his set piece delivery was diabolical, with corners going straight into David De Gea’s arms every time. It seems as if Jack has realised that he won’t be at the club next season, and so is just counting down the games till his big money move.
Trezeguet – 4
Trezeguet has probably already booked his plane tickets ready for his move back to Turkey. One shot off the post is the only difference the Egyptian made on the match. It was hard to even notice he was on the pitch for the rest of the game, and he played every minute.
Ally Samatta – 4.5
Despite being a striker, Ally Samatta doesn’t look like he’ll ever take a shot, let alone get one on target. His pressing was aggressive, and then stopped after the first goal. He suddenly became very easy to play around and defend against, ambling around up front, letting the United defence pass him by.
50% Retro Sale for 50 hrs
Off the Bench
Conor Hourihane (57) – 5.5
Conor Hourihane ran about a bit for the half an hour he was on the pitch. The Irishman had little presence in the midfield, as United moved the ball from defence to attack with ease.
Marvelous Nakamba (58) – 5.5
Defensive midfielder Marvelous Nakamba committed a stupid foul on the edge of the box, and this was his major contribution in his appearance off the bench. United played at a much slower tempo while Nakamba and Hourihane were in the Villa midfield, but still seemed to cut through it so much easier, to create a multitude of chances.
Keinan Davis (58) – 5.5
Villa had one attack of note, (maybe two at a push) while Keinan Davis was on the field. The young striker certainly had little to do, with 11 touches in 35 minutes.
Indiana Vassilev (83) – N/A
There was little point to Indiana Vassilev coming on, other than giving an excuse for a terrible pun. Maybe Deano hoped Indiana would whip the lads into shape.
Dean Smith – 5
There wasn’t a lot that Dean Smith could have done about the poor penalty decision, or the mistake by Mings. However, Dean Smith can do something to stop the effort levels from falling to such an extent after a single goal has gone in. This lack of mental toughness is what will cost Villa at the end of the season.
This result and the manner of the defeat has killed the optimism fans were clinging to. Crystal Palace may have nothing to play for, but they gave Chelsea a much harder game than Villa did a couple of weeks ago. A miracle is needed.
Give Jon a follow on Twitter here – @JonParkinSports