Breathless and captivating: Manchester United and Aston Villa put on a half-football, half-basketball spectacle that ended with the surreal sight of Bruno Fernandes hacking a penalty in added time that would have shared the points.
After Ole Gunnar Solskjær moan that shots on goal have dried up for United since Jürgen Klopp complained in January that they were receiving an excess, Fernandes’ miss offered a comedic and cruel irony to close the competition.
It was the usually so reliable Fernandes who won the penalty when his delivery was handled by Kortney Hause, with Mike Dean kicking in after giving due consideration to the call. When the final whistle went Hause, making a first start to the league season, ended as a non-zero hero: it was his powerful header moments before, from the corner of Douglas Luiz, who had beaten David de Gea to send the defender, his teammates and the noisy travel support into ecstasy.
United might regret this afternoon when the titles count is done. Aston Villa was good – in attack and defense – and in the RV with three points to be proud of. Still, the Solskjær team created more and had the clearest chances. Mason Greenwood may be disappointed after decorating the first half, in particular, with cunning and threat, but lacked composure ahead of Emiliano Martínez’s goal.
It was a squad-wide problem: a scintillating front line made up of Greenwood, Paul Pogba, Fernandes and Cristiano Ronaldo couldn’t kill their visitors with the latter, as the center-forward, too isolated.
United go on to lose their unbeaten Premier League record, record a first white of the campaign and end with Luke Shaw and Harry Maguire limping.
At the final whistle, Villa greeted his fans, who sang: “Deano, Deano, Deano! for Dean Smith, their beloved manager who should remember this day for a long time and rightly.