(Reuters) – Aston Villa manager Unai Emery tasted victory in his first game in charge as his side beat Manchester United 3-1 in the Premier League on Sunday, the visitors’ first defeat in 10 matches in all competitions.
Former Arsenal boss Emery was given a warm welcome by home supporters ahead of the match, and he could not have wished for a better start to life back in the Premier League as Villa raced into a two-goal lead inside 11 minutes.
Leon Bailey arrowed a strike into the bottom corner to give Villa the lead, before Lucas Digne curled a sublime free kick past the despairing dive of United goalkeeper David de Gea, much to Emery’s delight on the touchline.
United improved a great deal as the half wore on, creating several openings before Luke Shaw’s strike took a huge deflection off Jacob Ramsey and found the net on the cusp of halftime to give the visitors hope.
Those hopes were quickly dashed, however, as Ramsey made amends, finding the top corner four minutes into the second half to restore Villa’s two-goal advantage.
Tempers flared as the match reached its climax, but United could not muster a comeback, losing for the first time at Villa Park in the league since 1995 to stay fifth in the standings as a well-deserved victory lifted Villa to 14th.
“We were hopeful at halftime that we could come back, but we gave the game away early in the second half,” United manager Erik ten Hag said.
“I am a long time in football. People are not robots. It is not acceptable, we have to be ready for every game and not give the game away. Collectively it was a bad performance.”
It was a run of 23 games that United had gone unbeaten at Villa Park in the Premier League — the longest undefeated away run a team has had against another in English league history — but the writing was on the wall from the start on Sunday.
Ramsey set Jamaican winger Bailey through on goal and he rifled home the opener — the first goal United have conceded from open play in over 12 hours of football in all competitions.
Things went from bad to worse for the visitors when Ramsey won a free kick, and full back Digne stroked an unstoppable shot into the net.
United finally found their feet just after the half-hour mark, with Emiliano Martinez in the Villa goal forced into two fine saves to deny youngster Alejandro Garnacho and captain for the day Cristiano Ronaldo
Shaw’s strike did not look like it was heading for the net, but the huge deviation off Ramsey’s back gave Martinez no chance.
That stroke of luck proved to be only a consolation for a below-par United, as Ramsey, who had ran United ragged all afternoon, fired home Ollie Watkins’s pass to restore Villa’s two-goal advantage.
Each of the previous nine managers to face United in their first Premier League match in charge of a team had all lost, with the Spaniard becoming only the fourth to get off to a winning start with a new side against the 20-times top-flight champions.
“We have the players with the good skills,” Emery said. The way we played the 90 minutes we can be optimistic but only first step and we have to work a lot to keep improving.”