Steven Gerrard was criticised for his stubbornness to move from his narrow 4-3-3 formation. When Unai Emery was appointed, I am sure I wasn’t alone in watching and reading anything I could get my hands on regarding the Spaniard.
Emery’s work permit was accepted on Wednesday, with several of his coaching staff still awaiting visas, allowing him four days with the squad to try and get his message across before we took on an inform Manchester United at Villa Park. Although I think we all expected an improvement, I don’t think we thought we would see it as quickly as we did. And don’t get me wrong, I am sure there will be ups and downs until Emery settles in but my god, what a start.
Emery opted for a 4-4-2/4-2-2-2 formation as Jacob Ramsey and Lucas Digne replaced Danny Ings and Ashley Young from the side that was smashed by Newcastle a week before.
His changes and tactical knowledge were clear from the offset. The home side looked like they had a plan and it didn’t take them long to score their first goal.
Ollie Watkins did well to hold off Victor Lindelof and with the defender pulled out of position it created space for Ramsey in the middle. Leon Bailed began racing towards the box as Ramsey released a through ball for the Jamaican to send the ball across David De Gea into the far corner.
Villa Park was bouncing and as former Villan Anwar El Ghazi stated earlier in the week in an interview, the players were feeding off the fans. Ramsey pounced onto a loose ball and was brought down just outside the area by Luke Shaw who was rightly shown a yellow card.
Digne stepped up and curled a wonderful free-kick over the United wall and into the back of the net. De Geas could only get his fingertips to the ball but was unable to prevent the Frenchman from making it 2-0.
It took United until the final 5-10 minutes of the first half before they turned up as they had a little spell on the front foot.
Youngster Alehandro Garnacho’s effort was denied by Emi Martinez and moments later Cristiano Ronaldo’s header was saved by the Argentine’s legs.
The away side did get some good fortune just before half-time, however.
Ramsey sliced his clearance and it fell to Shaw who unleashed a shot that looked destined to go wide of the goal but it hit the Villa midfielder and looped into the far corner of the net.
I have never seen Villa beat Manchester United at Villa Park but have seen them come back from 2-0 leads to take all three points so Villa fans could be forgiven for going into half-time a little nervous. Emery and his players had different ideas though.
Straight from kick-off, Bailey was allowed to run straight through the United team but his effort went straight into the arms of De Gea.
Villa soon restored their two-goal lead.
Emi Buendia picked out Watkins who raced down the left before pulling the ball back to Ramsey. The England U-21 international sent a first-time finish into the top corner to make it 3-1.
Both managers made several changes throughout the latter stages of the second half but the visitors never really looked like a threat. Emery welcomed back Bouba Kamara who returned from a long-term injury and gave Morgan Sanson a cameo for his first appearance of the season.
Emery would have been pleased with his side as his reign got off to a dream start. Up next for Villa, Manchester United in the League Cup at Old Trafford on Thursday? Same again? One can hope!