Villa go out of the Carabao Cup to Manchester United. Dave Woodhall sees few surprises.
After the euphoria of last Sunday, and with 7,500 Villa supporters travelling for a midweek game, there was a real sense of disappointment when the team was announced and it became clear that Unai Emery was taking the League Cup about as seriously as every other Premier League manager does.
He had his reasons for the seven changes, but it still seems strange that with only one match left before the World Cup break Emery would choose to effectively scupper Villa’s best chance of a trophy this season. But he’s the manager and you have to trust what he’s doing.
There wasn’t really much to wonder what anyone was doing during a first half that was 45 minutes where the tempo barely rose above that of a training session. Douglas Luiz had a party-piece corner headed off the line and a couple of United players were booked, just to prove that the officials were also taking the match less seriously than a league game, but that was it. Then came the half-time whistle, and whatever both managers said in the dressing rooms, the atmosphere on the pitch changed dramatically.
Three minutes after half-time Jacob Ramsey put through Ollie Watkins, who lifted his shot past the United keeper to give Villa the lead. Unfortunately, the old failing of conceding a goal just after scoring returned, and the scores were level. Ten minutes later a triple substitution brought on Tyrone Mings, Emiliano Buendia and Leon Bailey, who made an almost-immediate impact with a header that deflected into the net. Two-one and another famous victory was looking possible.
Unfortunately, midway through the half the fourth goal was scored, and it was at the wrong end. Villa were looking rattled and as the home side came forward, our defence was increasingly under pressure. At times like this you need a ressuring presence in goal, but Villa had Robin Olsen, who rarely inspires reassurance at the best of times. First he spilled a cross that was barely scrambled clear and then moments later gave the ball away with a poor pass to the edge of the area and although there was a stroke of bad luck when United’s shot ricocheted off Tyrone Mings, it wouldn’t have been possible if the ball had been cleared properly.
Villa went forward in an attempt to find an equaliser, although there didn’t seem much chance of getting one, then into stoppage time another defensive error led to a tap-in for United’s fourth. And that was it, in the end Villa were well beaten. If we’d put out a full-strength team the outcome could have been different; as it was, Emery found out a few things that any of us could have told him. Olsen is a perennial accident waiting to happen, John McGinn is capable of some awesome inconsistency, there isn’t enough strength in depth to make many changes and still have a chance of being any half-decent opposition. He has a month with most of them to get things right and at least it’s our year for the FA Cup.