Old Trafford was buzzing because weekend football is back and the kind of form the Red Devils have been at the moment, yet another party was expected. Sadly, the match ended up with deafening silence at the Theatre of Dreams.

A late Kortney Hause headed goal condemned Manchester United to their third defeat in their last four games, with Aston Villa taking all three points at Old Trafford.

The home side also missed a golden chance to salvage a point when Bruno Fernandes uncharacteristically blasted an injury-time penalty over the bar after Hause had handled the ball in the area.

Manchester United have beaten Villa more times than they have any other side in the competition and went into Saturday’s clash at Old Trafford unbeaten at home against their visitors since December 2009.

And yet, as they looked to bounce back following their disappointing Carabao Cup exit at the hands of West Ham in midweek, the spark required to get back to winning ways was badly missing.

A third defeat in four, with the only win in that, run coming via a stoppage-time penalty save, and there will be sections of the fan base sharpening their knives and pointing them in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s direction.

It was the usually so-reliable Fernandes who won the penalty when his delivery was handled by Kortney Hause, Mike Dean giving the kick after giving the call due consideration.

When the final whistle went Hause ended as the architect of taming United at their own backyard. It was his powerful header only a few moments before, from Douglas Luiz’s corner, which had beaten David de Gea to send the defender, his teammates and the raucous travelling support into ecstasy.

Villa had a clear, coherent plan, which they executed well, while United lacked real imagination when it came to their own attacking play.

The front three, and Anthony Martial, in particular, were rightly criticised for their display in the Carabao Cup, but here Cristiano Ronaldo was back and looking to add to his goal tally of four goals in his first three matches back at the club.

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner, though, was barely in the game, managing just four shots and none on target.

Instead, it was Mason Greenwood who was the brightest of the front three here, as his direct runs allowed him to get behind the Villa backline regularly, but even he could not find a breakthrough.

The defeat was further compounded by the fact that two of Solskjaer’s first-choice defenders, Luke Shaw and Harry Maguire, were forced off with injuries. With Aaron Wan-Bissaka already suspended for the Champions League meeting with Villarreal, Solskjaer will hope neither of the knocks picked up by his England stars is too serious.

The loss means that the Red Devils missed the chance to go top of the Premier League and now sit in the fourth spot but level on points with Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool, with the latter having a game in hand.


Manchester United are keeping pace in the league for now, but the pattern will be a cause for concern as it becomes evident that signing Cristiano Ronaldo can’t paper over all the cracks.

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