Philippe Coutinho makes dream Premier League return as Aston Villa fight back to stun Manchester United

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·20-min read
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Philippe Coutinho (right) celebrates scoring Aston Villa's equaliser - ACTION IMAGES
Philippe Coutinho (right) celebrates scoring Aston Villa's equaliser - ACTION IMAGES
  • Fernandes puts United 1-0 up after six minutes after Martinez howler

  • The Portugal international doubled lead midway into second half

  • Ramsey clawed one back for Villa, before Coutinho scored equaliser

Some 20 minutes after the final whistle, Philippe Coutinho was still on the pitch doing sprinting drills between cones. The Brazilian is short of full fitness but in his brief Aston Villa debut he produced an assist and goal to further expose the fragility at Manchester United.

United must dread facing the player who scored for Barcelona in his last appearance against them, and enjoyed a good record against them for Liverpool. In 14 minutes, he showed why Steven Gerrard wanted to bring him back to the Premier League from Spain.

Villa had gifted two goals to Bruno Fernandes, his first went through Emiliano Martinez’s legs and the second after an error from Morgan Sanson. It looked like a straightforward result until Coutinho was introduced as a last throw of the dice.

"I missed these games and the Premier League,” said Coutinho. “It was a good start, we kept believing until the end, but we didn't lose. There have been many ups and downs since being away. It is in the past, I'm here and I'm focused on the objectives of the club.”

Philippe Coutinho scores Aston Villa's second goal after coming off the bench - GETTY IMAGES
Philippe Coutinho scores Aston Villa's second goal after coming off the bench - GETTY IMAGES

Cristiano Ronaldo spoke out during the week over the deep-rooted problems within the team, which surfaced again as they let this lead slip. Ronaldo repeated his manager’s call for professionalism, something the pair surely did not think would be lacking this season when they arrived.

For those wanting sweeping changes at United, this match saw Ronaldo missing with a hip problem, Harry Maguire as an unused substitute and Jadon Sancho on the bench for most of the match. Marcus Rashford was also injured, although it can be argued he does not warrant a place on form.

“Broken and rotten from top to bottom,” read a banner in the United end before kick-off, echoing the problems highlighted by Ronaldo. Within six minutes, however, those fans were dancing in delight and setting off a flare after Fernandes’ goal.

With his Portugal team-mate absent, Bruno took centre stage in place of United’s superstar. When Alex Telles rolled a free-kick to him 30 yards from goal on the left flank, most expected Bruno to cross, including Martinez.

Instead, Bruno tried his luck with a dipping drive straight at the Villa keeper but wobbling in the air. With Edinson Cavani distracting him, Martinez let the shot slip though his hands and between his legs. He attempted to argue that Telles had not touched the ball, but was clutching at straws.

Emi Martinez lets the ball slip through his legs for Fernandes' first goal - ACTION IMAGES
Emi Martinez lets the ball slip through his legs for Fernandes' first goal - ACTION IMAGES

After such a poor start, Villa were gaining momentum and growing in confidence. Lucas Digne, also on his debut, was making an impact as an attacker and forced a save from David De Gea with a volley after a sweeping move.

United’s goalkeeper was also kept busy after the break when he denied Jacob Ramsey, with Villa perhaps inspired by the number of chances they created in defeat last week in the FA Cup at Old Trafford.

But their hopes seemed to end when Fernandes added his second goal. Again, it was self-inflicted from Villa, who gift-wrapped the goal from Sanson’s stray pass. Fred latched onto the error and sent through Fernandes, whose finish went in off the bar.

Sanson booted a plastic tray of bottles in frustration as he was immediately subbed. But the change brought on Coutinho for his debut and he helped set up Ramsey’s goal, exchanging passes on the edge of the area with the young midfielder who stroked into the top corner.

The pair combined again for the equaliser, Ramsey sending in a low cross that evaded De Gea and found Coutinho at the far post to tap in.

“In those 15 minutes we conceded two goals in four minutes and they were both similar,” said Rangnick. “It is difficult to speak of the positives but we had a few.

“I don't think we were panicking but we were not as compact as we were in other parts of the game and the two goals we conceded were too easy for them to dribble through our lines. This is what we did well in other parts of the game but didn't do it well in the last 15 minutes.”

On Sanson kicking out in anger, Gerrard added: “I asked whether it was frustration at the mistake or at me for making the sub. It was over the error and I'm okay with that, we can all make mistakes. I would have had an issue if it was on the back of the decision as you have to respect the person coming on.”

Aston Villa vs Manchester United, as it happened:

08:26 PM

That's all for today

Thank you for joining us for what turned out to be a very entertaining second half.

It'll feel like a victory for Villa and a defeat for United, given what happened in the final 15 minutes.

We'll be back tomorrow with coverage of Liverpool vs Brentford and West Ham vs Leeds.

08:13 PM

A disappointing evening for Ralf Rangnick

He tells Sky Sports:

It is very difficult to find some positives. We had spells when I felt it was our best game since I came here. We dominated the game in the first 30 minutes.

When you are 2-0 up you have to defend it better. We gave away too many balls at times and were not compact. It feels like a defeat, to be honest. The team is very disappointed with the result, it feels like two points lost.

Ralf Rangnick -  LINDSEY PARNABY/AFP via Getty Images
Ralf Rangnick - LINDSEY PARNABY/AFP via Getty Images

08:09 PM

Coutinho on his dream return to the Premier League

Speaking with Sky Sports:

I missed these games, I missed the Premier League,

I’m very happy to be here, to know my new team-mates. Yes, it was a good start, we had a good game, we kept believing until the end we could win the game, but we didn’t lose and we move on.

There have been many ups and downs but that was in the past. I’m here to focus on the objective of the club, the manager and I want to do a good job to help my team-mates and the club.

07:36 PM

He won't get many easier than this

07:31 PM

Full time: Aston Villa 2-2 Manchester United

Villa with a fantastic second half performance to come back from 2-0 down.

The talking point will be Coutinho's return. He came on at 65 minutes and was involved in both goals - two in five minutes for Villa..

Digne impressed too. Some very shrewd business from Gerrard in his first Premier League transfer window.

Philippe Coutinho gestures to the Aston Villa supporters at full time - LINDSEY PARNABY/AFP via Getty Images
Philippe Coutinho gestures to the Aston Villa supporters at full time - LINDSEY PARNABY/AFP via Getty Images

07:26 PM

90 + 3 mins

Buendia is back on. It did look for a moment that Ashley Young would replace him.

There'll be a couple more minutes after that break in play.

07:25 PM

Two final subs for United

07:24 PM

90 minutes

Four minutes of added time. It's been all Aston Villa these last 10 minutes. A nervy end for United here.

Matic puts in a borderline foul on Buendia. He's lucky to escape without a second booking.

07:20 PM

86 mins

Coutinho gets another shot away... but it's straight at de Gea. He's injected some magic into this Villa side this evening.

07:18 PM

85 mins

Villa come again, with Coutinho driving Villa forward.

United are very much on the back foot as the game enters the final five minutes.

07:16 PM

A couple of subs in amongst the goals to tell you about

07:15 PM

81 mins GOAL Aston Villa 2-2 Manchester United

COUTINHO! He scores on his debut! And he won't get many easier than that.

Buendia pulls the ball across the United box, from the left. Coutinho is in a tap-in position and sends it home.

Two goals in five minutes. Villa Park erupts.

07:10 PM

76 mins GOAL Aston Villa 1-2 Manchester United

Ramsey! It's been coming, and now they've got their goal.

Villa with pressure up the left. It comes to Coutinho, who manages to dribble into the United box and play in Ramsey who smashes his shot into the back of de Gea's net. The Spaniard's saved a few this evening, but there was no way he was getting to that one. Game on!

07:07 PM

72 mins

Coutinho almost with a dream start. His pressure on Matic forces the Serbian to fire back to de Gea, who only just clears, sliding with his feet. It would've been a horror of an own goal by Matic had that gone in.

07:02 PM

68 mins - Coutinho is on!

07:01 PM

66 mins GOAL! Aston Villa 0-2 Manchester United

Bruno Fernandes!

Sanson with the mistake this time. He passes back, into the path of Fred, who has Fernandes supporting him. He rolls the ball to the Portuguese international, who unleashes a rocket which ricochets off the crossbar and into the back of the net.

06:58 PM

63 mins

Fernandes has gone down. He had a tussle with Luiz, and it looks like the Villa man has stepped on the back of Fernandes's knee. Not sure if that was intentional or not.

06:55 PM

61 mins

Ramsey is body-checked by Lindelof on the edge of the United box. They feel that should've been given a foul there - and it's hard to disagree.

Chants of "you're not fit to referee" echo around Villa Park.

06:53 PM

60 mins

Greenwood is played in down the right channel on the counter. He drives into the box, shoots from a wide position and it's just past the far post.

06:52 PM

58 mins

United have gone up the other end and earnt a corner. It's swung in by Fernandes, but dealt with by Watkins.

Cash gives the ball away to Elanga, who takes a couple of touches, gets into the Villa box to shoot, before firing just wide. Cash - and Villa - off the hook.

06:49 PM

56 mins

Buendia plays Digne in this time. He takes one touch in the box before lashing the ball towards the United goal.

In the end, the angle was a little too tight and it ripples the side netting.

The new signing is making an instant impact for Gerrard's side. He's involved in almost every Villa attack here.

06:48 PM

54 mins

Hause launches a great ball down the left channel to send in Digne. Digne gets away from Dalot, who then pulls the ball back for Buendia, who hits the ball first time. It's straight at de Gea in the end.

All Villa at the moment. Can they pull one back?

06:43 PM

49 mins

Greenwood tries to dink a forward ball down the right channel of the Villa box into Fred who is making a surging run. Luiz does enough to get in front of him and allow Martinez to gather.

06:41 PM

48 mins

Watkins with a floated ball into the United box, but it's headed away. Villa build again.

Ramsey cuts in and gets a shot away, but it's saved by de Gea. Villa are looking lively.

06:38 PM

46 mins

Fernandes gets himself an early post-break yellow.

He's gone flying in on Sanson.

Manchester United's Portuguese midfielder Bruno Fernandes slides in and fouls Aston Villa's French midfielder Morgan Sanson - Lindsey Parnaby / AFP
Manchester United's Portuguese midfielder Bruno Fernandes slides in and fouls Aston Villa's French midfielder Morgan Sanson - Lindsey Parnaby / AFP

06:38 PM

The second half begins

Villa kick off.

The injured Konsa is off; Kortney Hause replaces him.

06:27 PM

Here's the goal...

06:24 PM

Half time: ASTON VILLA 0-1 MANCHESTER UNITED

A tale of two goalkeepers. Martinez with a howler; de Gea with a couple of brilliant saves to deny Villa

Overall, United have had more chances than Villa - and have seen much more of the ball - but the home side have found their feet in the final 15 minutes of the half.

Will we see Coutinho unleashed in the second half? Gerrard seemed to think he was a lot further ahead in his fitness than originally thought when speaking with Sky Sports before the match.

Martinez - Action Images via Reuters/John Sibley
Martinez - Action Images via Reuters/John Sibley

06:19 PM

45 + 2 mins

Konsa is back on his feet now. He'll probably limp into half time before being replaced.

06:18 PM

45 mins

Three minutes of added time. Probably a couple more to come after this extended break to provide Konsa with treatment.

06:17 PM

44 mins

Konsa is down after dealing with Elanga's run into the Villa box.

It looks like this might be the end of his evening.

06:14 PM

42 mins

Cash with a magnificent ball in from the wide right hand side; Digne is there at the far side of the box to have a crack, but de Gea makes another great block - with his knees this time - to deny the new signing. Full back to full back action.

06:11 PM

37 mins

Quick free kick taken by Villa; it's to Sanson, who then plays Digne in up the left. It's crossed in, but headed away.

Another dinked cross comes into the box. But Ings, it looks like, can't quite get to it.

A very positive period of play from Villa these last few minutes.

06:06 PM

35 mins

Aston Villa corner now. It's whipped in by Digne, Buendía is too it on the front post, but a brilliant save from de Gea denies the Villa man.

06:05 PM

31 mins

Watkins gets a shot away from the left side of United's box. But he's tried for a curling plant and de Gea reads that and comfortably collects.

06:02 PM

29 mins

Matic picks up a yellow for foul on Ings, about halfway into United's half.

The resulting free kick is floated in, but the United players are first to it.

06:00 PM

27 mins

Telles goes for goal with the free kick; Martinez gets to it well, but then it drops to Greenwood, just outside the Villa D. He takes a touch before unleashing a power drive across the turf which whistles inches wide of Martinez's left-hand post.

United are playing with real confidence now, looking much more threatening than in recent games.

05:58 PM

26 mins

Dalot is hacked down by Digne, just outside the box on United's right. He's rightly booked for that one.

United with another threatening set=piece opportunity.

Manchester United's Diogo Dalot (right) and Aston Villa's Lucas Digne - Isaac Parkin/PA Wire.
Manchester United's Diogo Dalot (right) and Aston Villa's Lucas Digne - Isaac Parkin/PA Wire.

05:55 PM

22 mins

Sanson brings down Elanga in the Villa box. VAR are checking it, but it's deemed not a penalty.

Cavani flashes a ball across the box, but no-one is there to get on the end of it.

United are looking lively, much more so than recently seen under Rangnick.

05:53 PM

20 mins

Greenwood starts a counter attack up the right. It's a really strong run, beating a couple of opposition players, and he's able to spread it to Fernandes in the middle. But Villa are back quickly and are able to keep United at bay in the end.

05:50 PM

17 mins

Telles whips a ball in towards Cavani in the Villa box. It breaks to Greenwood on the right side of the box, but Martinez comes sprinting out to deny him and it's out for a United corner.

The Villa keeper somewhat redeemed himself there after his early howler.

05:45 PM

13 mins

Fernandes is getting involved in plenty of United attacks here. He's spreading the ball well, probing openings to carve open Villa's defence.

05:41 PM

9 mins

Sanson tries to skip past the United defence, cutting inside, but he runs into trouble before he's able to play Cash through on his right.

05:38 PM

5 mins GOAL! Aston Villa 0-1 Manchester United

Bruno Fernandes! A horrendous mistake from Martinez to put United ahead.

Telles takes a touch with the free kick, Fernandes takes the ball and moves towards the box, unleashing a shot from outside.

It looks like Martinez is to it, but he doesn't expect the bounce and drops between his legs and over the goal line!

Aston Villa's Emiliano Martinez  - Action Images via Reuters/John Sibley
Aston Villa's Emiliano Martinez - Action Images via Reuters/John Sibley

05:35 PM

4 mins

Sanson brings down Telles on the left for another United free kick on the left side.

Plenty of set pieces for the visitors in these opening few minutes. Can they capitalise?

05:34 PM

2 mins

Konsa thumps the ball behind for an early United corner.

It's headed away and we've got a follow-up. Villa clear again for a throw-in on United's left side.

United win a free kick on the left. Telles curls it in, but Watkins is there to cover. Danger averted for now.

05:30 PM

Kick off!

Man United get us under way.

05:27 PM

The players are emerging from the tunnel now; a reminder of the teams

Aston Villa: Martinez, Cash, Konsa, Mings, Digne, Sanson, Luiz, Ramsey, Watkins, Ings, Buendia. Subs: Targett, Steer, Young, Coutinho, Hause, Chukwuemeka, Archer, Iroegbunam, Kesler.

Manchester United: de Gea, Dalot, Lindelof, Varane, Telles, Fred, Matic, Greenwood, Fernandes, Elanga, Cavani. Subs: Jones, Maguire, Mata, Lingard, Heaton, Sancho, Henderson, van de Beek.

05:26 PM

Bruno Fernandes

He captains the team today, but he's gone 12 away appearances without a goal for the club.

... although this came in the form of a penalty conversion in the 3-1 Premier League win at Villa Park last May.

05:21 PM

Ralf Rangnick reveals the reason behind Ronaldo's absence

Speaking with Sky Sports, the United manager says that Ronaldo has problems with a hip flexor injury and couldn't train on Friday.

But he hopes the Portuguese forward will be available on Wednesday when United head to West London to face Brentford.

Manchester United interim manager Ralf Rangnick before the match  - REUTERS/Ian Walton
Manchester United interim manager Ralf Rangnick before the match - REUTERS/Ian Walton

05:11 PM

Warm ups well under way at Villa Park

Aston Villa's new signing. French defender Lucas Digne (centre), warms up with his teammates - LINDSEY PARNABY/AFP via Getty Images
Aston Villa's new signing. French defender Lucas Digne (centre), warms up with his teammates - LINDSEY PARNABY/AFP via Getty Images
Manchester United's Harry Maguire and Phil Jones during the warm up before the match - REUTERS/Ian Walton
Manchester United's Harry Maguire and Phil Jones during the warm up before the match - REUTERS/Ian Walton

04:59 PM

Full time scores in the Premier League 3pm matches

  • Newcastle United 1-1 Watford

  • Norwich City 2-1 Everton

  • Wolverhampton Wanderers 3-1 Southampton

04:53 PM

Three changes in the United team that beat Villa in the FA Cup on Monday evening

Luke Shaw and Scott McTominay are both suspended; Alex Telles and Nemanja Matic come in for them.

Marcus Rashford is rested, giving Sweden's 19-year-old Anthony Elanga a starting spot.

Anthony Elanga came off the bench in Man United's 1-0 win over Aston Villa on Monday night - Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images
Anthony Elanga came off the bench in Man United's 1-0 win over Aston Villa on Monday night - Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images

04:43 PM

Coutinho's arrival a boon to merchandise sales at Villa Park this afternoon...

Outside Villa Park - REUTERS/Ian Walton
Outside Villa Park - REUTERS/Ian Walton
Badges on sale outside Villa Park - REUTERS/Ian Walton
Badges on sale outside Villa Park - REUTERS/Ian Walton
Hats and scarfs at Villa Park - Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Hats and scarfs at Villa Park - Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

04:33 PM

United team sheet: Maguire starts on the bench; Ronaldo not in the squad

04:31 PM

Villa team news: Digne starts; Coutinho is on the bench

04:28 PM

Gerrard's big signings

Coutinho is unlikely to start, but Digne could replace Matt Targett at left-back from the off.

Team news in a few moments...

Philippe Coutinho and Lucas Digne before the match - Action Images via Reuters/John Sibley
Philippe Coutinho and Lucas Digne before the match - Action Images via Reuters/John Sibley

04:05 PM

Good evening and welcome to Telegraph Sport's coverage of Aston Villa-Manchester United

Aston Villa may have to be patient to get the best out of new signing Philippe Coutinho, manager Steven Gerrard said on Friday, adding that he will "unleash" the midfielder when he is back to full fitness.

Villa signed Brazil international Coutinho on loan from Barcelona last week while France defender Lucas Digne arrived from Everton on Thursday.

Gerrard said Digne is available for Saturday's Premier League home game against Manchester United while Coutinho is short of match fitness.

"He's not match fit because he's been doing a lot of individual training at Barcelona and he also had a COVID situation," Gerrard said.

"It's great to have him, it's my job to get him settled in and enjoying his football again. I'm sure there's a lot of football left in this boy because for me, he's a fantastic talent... At the right time, he'll be unleashed."

Gerrard said both signings showed the club was working in the right direction and praised the support he has received in the transfer window so far.

Villa are 14th in the league on 22 points after 19 games, nine points behind United who beat them 1-0 in the FA Cup third round on Monday.

Meanwhile, Ralf Rangnick has encouraged Manchester United's players to hold each other to account after Cristiano Ronaldo warned their poor season will continue if their mentality does not improve.

United enter the weekend seventh in the standings after things unravelled following a positive summer in which Jadon Sancho, Raphael Varane and Ronaldo arrived.

The latter this week said they need to start afresh in 2022 and warned "it will be a nightmare" if they do not as the 36-year-old questioned the mentality within the group.

Ronaldo could be back along with captain Maguire on Saturday, but Rangnick dismissed a suggestion that the Portuguese may be more effective as United skipper on a permanent basis.

"Right now I don't see a reason to do that because Harry has been the captain so far," he said.

"As long as Harry is playing he will be the captain and if he's not playing then someone else will have to be the captain. This can change from game to game just depending on who is playing."

PA and Reuters

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