Manchester United fell short of extending their unbeaten streak to 10 games, as Unai Emery’s resurgent Aston Villa side deservedly took all three points on Sunday.
The Red Devils did display some encouraging build-up play in a few phases of the game, but their slow starts in both halves and lackluster work of the ball allowed the hosts to take charge of the affairs at Villa Park.
From Leon Bailey’s opener in the 7th minute to Jacob Ramsey’s goal after the break to end any hopes of a United comeback could’ve been avoided if the visitors showed more urgency in recovering possession of the ball.
They missed Bruno Fernandes’ presence in the middle of the park, not only from the creative point of view but also during their half-hearted pressing.
Donny van de Beek, who started in the absence of the suspended Portuguese, failed to impose himself in his first Premier League start of the season, and more or less guaranteed another long wait for a start in a meaningful game.
Bruno Fernandes, a very important player to everything that is good with #mufc. We missed him extremely today.
— centredevils. (@centredevils) November 6, 2022
Team looks completely aimless without Fernandes.
I'd sooner have Rashford as a number 10 to provide the link-up to the attack.
An out-of-position Bruno still does a lot more for this team any almost anyone else.
— Oliver (@Oliveresuana) November 6, 2022
Can we just normalize the fact that Bruno Fernandes is Manchester United’s most important player in midfield. pic.twitter.com/KpK5P5TmYd
— AB (@AbsoluteBruno) November 6, 2022
Our right-wing was so ineffective because of no Antony, and we missed Bruno Fernandes' creativity and work-rate in the middle, which is why Erik ten Hag needs time and backing to build a Man Utd team with quality depth. Until then, we still have a long way to go. pic.twitter.com/wcJYfXRbUH
— UtdFaithfuls (@UtdFaithfuls) November 6, 2022
The Dutchman, who only managed 17 touches against Real Sociedad in the Europa League, underlined with his second straight disastrous performance the importance of Fernandes and the lack of quality squad options at the club.
Ten Hag could’ve started Christan Eriksen as the No. 10, but that would’ve meant no significant ball progression from deep, as other midfielders at the United boss’ disposal don’t possess the same quality in possession.
The club hierarchy needs to add more technical as well as physical players to not only compensate for the absence of first-team stars like Fernandes but to also encourage quality competition in the squad.