Unai Emery's poignant Champions League message after Man Utd anguish
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Despite defeat in arguably Aston Villa's most important game of the season to date, manager Unai Emery remained calm and composed in the press lounge post-match.
The Spaniard, much unlike other head coaches in the Premier League, rarely kicks up a fuss when his team loses. Even when something as major as Champions League qualification seems to be slipping away, Emery is professional to no end. Frustration is there, yes, but no groan or whimper, and certainly no blame to his players.
Villa Park was understandably in anguish at full time on Sunday as Scott McTominay's late header earned United the win in a huge six-pointer. The gap between the Villans and the Red Devils is now merely five points. It could have been 11 had the hosts converted their countless chances.
Nonetheless, Emery wanted to send a clear message to both the press and the fanbase, reinforcing his satisfaction with Villa's current position. "I want to tell you I am very proud of our work. I am very proud of everything we planned before more or less we were doing on the pitch," Emery said in the post-match press conference.
"We were focusing this match as a very good opportunity to do a big distance, a big gap with them. But of course, no win. How difficult was this match against Manchester United, playing in the moment they are now? In the last matches they won and were feeling confident.
“But we controlled the game, we created more chances than them, we deserved it more than them, we conceded not a lot of chances from them. They were clinical today, their goalkeeper was fantastic – it was a fantastic performance he achieved."
Emery wasn't wrong to feel Villa were worthy of claiming the points as 56 per cent of possession was in their favour and the better of the chances went their way. In total, 23 shots were registered and 10 on target. This compares to just five on target from United.
"We played maybe [apart from] the match against Manchester City here the best match at home this season," Emery declared. "Even from when I arrived here to the match today, it was one of the best matches we played but the result was not good. We have to accept it.
“It is really frustrating for us the result but we can take the balance of where we are in the table and how we are, being fifth with a lot of teams being contenders having some distance. Of course, they reduced the distance. Newcastle last week, now Manchester United.
"But we have to try to react and get our way. The way we did today and the way we played is the way I want," Emery concluded with a smile.