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By Tyrone Marshall Senior Football Writer 14:39, 25 SEP 2021 Updated 15:17, 25 SEP 2021 Sport opinion Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United reacts after Aston Villa’s winner (Image: Getty) Get the United transfer latest, team news, match updates and analysis delivered straight to your inbox every day for free
Subscribe Cristiano Ronaldo walked solemnly past Bruno Fernandes and offered a consoling pat on the shoulder, but you can only imagine what was actually going through his mind.
Manchester United had just wasted a chance to turn a disastrous result against Aston Villa into just a disappointing one.After Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's complaints about the stonewall penalties United have been refused they got one they deserved in injury time, but when Fernandes grabbed the ball ahead of Ronaldo eyebrows were raised.
Those eyebrows were in danger on the Stretford End when the penalty was taken.Fernandes' effort was a long way over the crossbar and his hold on penalty-taking duties at United is surely being relinquished with that.
Manchester United player ratings: David de Gea good but Fred poor vs Aston Villa Manchester United 0-1 Aston Villa highlights and reaction as Bruno Fernandes misses penalty after Hause goal It was United's final chance to salvage a point.Ronaldo's true feelings were clear by the fact the final whistle saw him head straight for the tunnel, the first home player to make his exit.He's come back to win trophies but in a disastrous 10 days United's grip on three of the four they are in has been weakened.
The increasingly tense and fraught atmosphere inside Old Trafford had told you all need to know.
It might only be late September but United are in a title race, one where home draws against Aston Villa simply won't suffice.
This was a Saturday afternoon when United were supposed to make up ground in what is shaping to be a four-way bunfight for top spot in May.
Instead, with most eyes on Stamford Bridge and the prize fight between Chelsea and Manchester City, United slipped up on the undercard.In their desperation to chase all three points United saw one become none as they failed to keep a clean sheet yet again.
That's now one shut out in 16 games in all competitions dating back to the end of last season.
This was a slugfest that was always going to deliver a knockout blow, unfortunately for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer it came at the wrong end.
A dizzying 90 minutes deserved a goal and Villa punished United inability to defend set-pieces, a trait dating back to last season and one that remains as costly as ever.
Throw in the Champions League defeat to Young Boys and the Carabao Cup exit to West Ham and it's not been a good month for United, or for Solskjaer.They've dropped five points from a routine Premier League start and are under pressure already.
Solskjaer had used his programme notes to stress the importance of eradicating the slow starts that continue to plague United and his words should have been heeded inside two minutes.A sweeping move beginning with Mason Greenwood and involving Luke Shaw and Paul Pogba ended with Fernandes firing a very presentable chance over the crossbar.
It set the tone for a manic half of football that displayed the good and the bad of United.They created plenty of chances going forward but were unable to control the game and looked vulnerable at the other end.
First, the good.
Greenwood was a livewire, constantly threatening the Villa defence in front of the watching England manager Gareth Southgate.Latching on to a Pogba pass, he cut inside Tyrone Mings but his right-footed finish was a weak one.
Fernandes and Pogba both saw deflected efforts from the edge of the area flash wide as United tried to sustain the pressure.
Mason Greenwood has a shot on the Aston Villa goal (Image: Manchester United FC) But Villa were finding it too easy to get their own foothold in the game.The below-par Shaw, who was forced off injured after half an hour, was struggling to keep up with the surging Matty Cash and his low cross was somehow fired over from inside the six-yard box by Matt Targett.
United were once again indebted to David de Gea midway through the half.Harry Maguire's wayward back pass forced the hero of the London Stadium to stretch and his clearance only fell to Ollie Watkins, but De Gea sprang to his feet and, as his trademark, used them to make a smart save from the Villa striker.
The half ended with a burst of pressure from United, Ronaldo firing a 25-yard free-kick into the wall and Pogba flashing a header inches wide from the resulting corner.
Having lost Shaw after half an hour, United's defensive woes doubled on the hour when Harry Maguire was forced off with a calf injury as the game became increasingly fraught.It was Villa who had started the second half looking the more threatening team and Old Trafford was on edge.
It was Greenwood who had the chance to settle nerves, played through by Fernandes from the halfway line, he carried the ball wide on his left foot but could only shoot straight at Emiliano Martinez.
By now the game was end-to-end, United desperately searching for a winner and Villa increasingly confident of posing a threat on the break.Greenwood dragged another shot wide and Pogba poked a near-post effort off target.At the other end Watkins skipped inside Raphael Varane's challenge impressively but found De Gea too good.
Villa looked like winning it when Jacob Ramsey lined up a shot at goal from 12 yards, only for his legs to buckle at a crucial moment.Kortney Hause made no mistake when he escaped the attentions of Edinson Cavani to plant a near-post header past De Gea with two minutes to go.
United looked like they'd banked their get of jail free card, but Fernandes failed from 12 yards when usually he's so faultless.
His penalty was still rising when it hit the Stretford End.
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