ASTON VILLA have a healthy lead against Manchester United after Jalen Ramsey bagged a third for the home side.
Leon Bailey bagged the first strike of the new era at Villa Park before Lucas Digne added just moments later, with Erik ten Hag’s side 2-0 down until late on in the first period.
The Red Devils have pulled one back, through Ramsey’s own goal, with Luke Shaw’s shot taking a massive deflection off the defender.
However that quickly evaporated four minutes into the second half when Ramsey produced a fine strike at the right end to restore his side’s two-goal cushion.
The Red Devils’ response was tepid despite a triple change from Ten Hag, with United losing ground in the top-four race as Newcastle won at Southampton.
Emery has talked about his desire to win a trophy and restore Villa to European competition and this illuminating evisceration of Manchester United capped a sensational start to life for the Spaniard at Villa Park. Goals by the excellent Leon Bailey, Lucas Digne and Jacob Ramsey propelled Villa to victory over United, who succumbed to only their second league defeat since August.
By the end Villa fans in the Holte End were asking Emery to give them a wave and Cristiano Ronaldo, who wore the captain’s armband for United, was throwing his arm down in a haze of frustration. Ronaldo’s most memorable contribution was a second-half contretemps with Tyrone Mings, which led to the video assistant referee clearing the striker of violent conduct.
Emery’s early assessment upon taking charge was an underperforming squad short of confidence but the manner in which Villa shifted the ball hardly married with the idea of a team lacking belief. How Villa supporters enjoyed watching their team express themselves as they beat United here in the league for the first time since 1995.
It was an afternoon that brought great pleasure, from the purposeful running of Ollie Watkins and intricate passing in midfield to the sight of the goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez performing his own version of keepie-uppies, twice heading a bouncing ball on the edge of his own box midway through the first half. Then there was the fleet-footed Bailey.
Villa appeared liberated, nobody more so than Bailey, Ramsey and Watkins, who combined for their opener. Watkins did superbly in the buildup to keep Victor Lindelöf at arm’s length and after being forced infield he picked out Ramsey, who nudged the ball into Bailey.
From there Bailey’s first touch allowed him to motor past Lisandro Martínez and with his second he sent a diagonal left-foot shot across goal and into the corner. Emery high-fived his coaching staff and substitutes. Philippe Coutinho, signed by Steven Gerrard, was left out of the Villa squad altogether.
Villa were rampant, United rattled. Luke Shaw’s crude challenge on Ramsey, just as the Villa academy graduate was programmed to hurtle towards the United box, earned the England defender a booking and Villa a free-kick 22 yards from goal. Emiliano Martínez, who again captained Villa, legged it into the United half to choreograph the set piece, yelling instructions to his teammates.
The one man he didn’t need to tell what to do was Digne, who sneaked a brilliant, bending left-foot shot inside David de Gea’s left post, brushing the goalkeeper’s fingertips before it nestled in the goal. With 16 minutes on the clock, Matty Cash played in Bailey down the right and the Jamaican cut the ball back for Emiliano Buendía, who powered a shot just wide.
Emery was hopping on the touchline as Villa went in search of a third. Erik ten Hag, meanwhile, stood sternly, arms folded. United roused a little before the break, with Martínez making two smart saves in quick succession, first to deny Alejandro Garnacho on his first Premier League start with his left hand and then Ronaldo with his right boot. But United were fortunate to strike before the interval when Shaw’s shot from the edge of the box, more in anger than anything, took a wicked deflection off the back of Ramsey, wrongfooting Martínez as it looped into the far corner.
Bailey started the second half as he did the first and cannoned a shot into De Gea’s midriff within the opening seconds. Villa were dangerous in attack and mean in defence, marshalled by Mings. A few minutes later De Gea was fishing the ball out of his net once more as Villa again overpowered the visitors. Buendía seized Lisandro Martinez’s headed clearance on halfway and freed Watkins down the left. Watkins, among Gareth Southgate’s striking options for the World Cup, then cut the ball back for an unmarked Ramsey, who swept the ball into the top corner.