Aston Villa hearts were shattered on Sunday as Manchester United struck a dagger in the Villans' UEFA Champions League hopes with a 2-1 away win at Villa Park. Unai Emery's side had more of the ball and created far more opportunities but a lack of finishing touch was costly. The Red Devils, meanwhile, were clinical to take their chances; Rasmus Hojlund's early opener and Scott McTominay's 86th-minute header were enough to seal the points to move to within just five of Villa.
United were the more threatening team in the opening quarter of an hour or so; several set pieces ramped up the nerves and the hosts nearly let the pressure get to them – especially in one instance. Douglas Luiz's poorly weighted back pass to Clement Lenglet was intercepted and Bruno Fernandes fed Hojlund to shoot from merely 10 yards. The £72 million forward would've certainly scored if it wasn't for Diego Carlos who threw himself to the ground to block.
Villa really should've used that moment as a wake-up call but they failed in doing so as Hojlund got redemption to net an opener just a few minutes later. It came from a deep corner from Fernandes as Boubacar Kamara lost Harry Maguire and it was flicked on for Hojlund to strike first time between Emiliano Martinez's legs. The hosts called for an offside as it was tight but Ollie Watkins just about played the Denmark international on.
Emery's side responded well to going a goal down as the crowd gave the players a much-needed lift and both John McGinn and Watkins were denied by United goalkeeper Andre Onana. First up, it was the skipper, who unleashed a mightily powerful effort from around 25 yards but Onana did excellently to dive across and tip the ball behind. McGinn then played Watkins clean through on goal with an intricate pass around the corner but that too was saved superbly.
Villa simply had to score at the start of the second half as Matty Cash zipped a low delivery across the six-yard box and Watkins was there to pounce. The finish was uncharacteristically underwhelming from Villa's number 11 as the ball was struck straight at Onana; a gaping miss.
The hosts finally netted their equaliser in the 66th minute as Douglas Luiz roared Villa Park into pandemonium with a delicate clip beyond Onana from close range. Leon Bailey had swung in a dangerous deep corner before seeing it cleared back to him to try again. The second delivery was even sweeter as it found Luiz, who made an excellent run across the near post before converting cooly for 1-1.
Luiz had a glorious opportunity to double Villa's tally in the 76th minute but he fluffed his lines. United right-back Diogo Dalot's failed clearance landed at Luiz's feet but he struggled to control the ball before scuffing a shot into Onana's path. Substitute Moussa Diaby also missed a big chance as he was found in the channel by McGinn but skewed his shot well wide of the left post.
It was late anguish for all associated with the men in claret and blue as United scored in the 86th minute to regain their lead against the run of play. Scott McTominay, who had come on merely 13 minutes beforehand, completely outmuscled Cash to head in emphatically, converting from a powerful Dalot cross. The must-not-lose encounter has been lost and United close the gap to pile on the pressure.
Here are our Villa player ratings from a painful defeat in the Champions League fight.