Villa lose to Manchester United as Dave Woodhall wonders about goings-on.
In the words of the late, truly great Jimmy Greaves, football truly is a funny old game. Before kick-off on Sunday afternoon, Manchester United supporters were protesting against what they called their “greedy” owners the Glazer family, who have been in charge of affairs at Old Trafford for eighteen years. That’s the Manchester United whose modern success has been largely based on commercial greed and who this season have already won one cup, are in the final of another and who will almost certainly qualify for the Champions League.
Meanwhile Villa supporters, who haven’t won a trophy for a quarter of a century and with owners who could each lose the combined wealth of the Glazer family without blinking, are fairly happy with season ticket rises in excess of even the current inflation rate, seeing them as essential if we’re to get a fraction of the success United have achieved during these past eighteen ‘unsuccessful’ years.
A funny old game indeed, and to make it even funnier it was the Villa supporters, who have been conditioned over the years to think something’s about to go wrong at any moment, who if anything were the more confident going into Sunday’s confrontation. Unai Emery certainly had confidence in the team, putting out an unchanged side again despite signs over the previous week that a few legs were getting heavy as the season reaches its climax.
That would have been the conclusion at the end of the game, as Villa’s lengthy unbeaten runl finally ended. The team were second-best for most of the game and found dealing with United’s long balls a struggle – the first time in a long while that Emery has been outthought by an opposition manager. Emiliano Martinez might have been at fault for United’s opening goa, but he’s kept us in so many games that it would be difficult to criticise and perhaps the Villa defence should have reacted quicker to the loose ball from the keeper’s original save.
Villa were brighter during the second half and as the game wore on there were a couple of chances that on another day might have gone in. Douglas Luiz had a shot headed off the line, while in the final minutes Ezri Konsa couldn’t just get the ball to do what he wanted but in the end there was none of the burning sense of injustice that has accompanied so much disappointment when these two sides have clashed. In the final analysis, Villa didn’t do enough to win.
And so after all the strange goings-on in the build-up, the match itself had an ordinary outcome. United didn’t exactly get the points without having to break sweat, but neither side were at their best. Villa had the excuse of a squad stretched to breaking point, and it was easy to imagine how Boubacar Kamara could have bolster a midfield that was over-run too often, or picture Philippe Coutinho coming on to make a difference. Even the woefully inconsistent Leon Bailey might have had a late impact. But they were all unavailable, and with the usual Villa luck with injuries there’s little sign of them making a recovery for the run-in. That’s not very funny at all.