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Player ratings and analysis as Coutinho enjoys dream debut on Premier League return

Aston Villa 2-2 Man Utd (Ramsey 77′, Coutinho 82′ | Fernandes 6′, 67′)

Philippe Coutinho came off the bench to help earn Aston Villa a point as Steven Gerrard’s side recovered from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 against Manchester United at Villa Park.

Bruno Fernandes had put United in a seemingly commanding lead with goals in each half, however, the introduction of Coutinho proved to be a masterstroke from Steven Gerrard as the Barcelona loanee played a key part in Jacob Ramsey’s strike before scoring the equaliser himself.

Ralf Rangnick decided to ditch his favoured 4-2-2-2 system in favour of a 4-2-3-1 shape that was synonymous with the Ole Gunnar Solskjaer era and the switch paid off almost instantly, albeit with a helping hand from Villa goalkeeper Emi Martinez, who fumbled Fernandes’ speculative shot into his own net.

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Martinez partly redeemed himself by blocking a Mason Greenwood effort and after a slow start, Villa began to take the game to their hosts, with David De Gea forced to make a couple of important stops to deny Emi Buendia and debutant Lucas Digne to preserve United’s lead.

De Gea continued to impress after the restart, flying down to his right to keep out Jacob Ramsey as Villa built upon a strong end to the first-half at the start of the second and making a more routine save from a Buendia strike.

After being the better team during the second half, Villa contributed to their own problems by gift-wrapping United’s second goal for them. Morgan Sanson’s slack backpass was seized upon by Fred who teed up Fernandes to rattle in his second goal of the game off the underside of the crossbar.

Aston Villa (4-3-3)

  • Emi Martinez – 5
  • Matty Cash – 6
  • Ezri Konsa – 6
  • Tyrone Mings – 6
  • Lucas Digne – 6
  • Morgan Sanson – 5
  • Douglas Luiz – 7
  • Jacob Ramsey – 8
  • Emi Buendia – 7
  • Ollie Watkins – 6
  • Danny Ings – 4

Subs:

  • Kortney Hause – 6
  • Philippe Coutinho – 8
  • Carney Chukwuemeka – 6

Man Utd (4-2-3-1)

  • David De Gea – 7
  • Diogo Dalot – 6
  • Victor Lindelof – 6
  • Raphael Varane – 5
  • Alex Telles – 6
  • Nemanja Matic – 6
  • Fred – 7
  • Mason Greenwood – 7
  • Bruno Fernandes – 8
  • Anthony Elanga – 7
  • Edinson Cavani – 6

Subs:

  • Donny van de Beek – N/A
  • Jesse Lingard – N/A

Sanson was substituted straight after as Steven Gerrard handed Philippe Coutinho his Villa debut and the Brazilian played an important part in Villa’s goal by helping the ball into Ramsey’s path who smashed an effort beyond De Gea.

And Coutinho capped a dream debut at Villa Park by tapping home Ramsey’s cross to make it 2-2 much to the delight of his new fans.

Man of the match – Bruno Fernandes

Fernandes profited from a Martinez mistake to open the scoring (Photo: Getty)

Fernandes hasn’t looked an ideal fit for Rangnick’s 4-2-2-2 formation and it was no surprise that he was far more effective in his more natural role as a No 10. While there was a degree of fortune about his opener given Martinez made an uncharacteristic error, his second was brilliantly executed. As good as Fernandes was, he was overshadowed by another playmaker as Coutinho salvaged a point for his new club.

How did Villa’s debutants fare?

Steven Gerrard has certainly been backed during the January transfer window, with Villa’s board sanctioning the loan signing of Coutinho from Barcelona and the £23m purchase of Lucas Digne from Everton.

Gerrard opted to start Digne at left-back, while Coutinho was named on the bench and introduced as a substitute with just over 20 minutes to go.

Digne enjoyed a solid first outing in a Villa shirt (Photo: PA)

Digne has been signed to provide greater attacking impetus to Villa’s left flank and the Frenchman certainly looked to make an impact in the final third by whipping crosses into the box at any opportunity. He also had a decent chance to score but slashed wildly at his shot and was booked for a mistimed challenge on Diogo Dalot.

Coutinho’s first meaningful contribution was to fluff an attempted corner but he soon got to grips with the tempo of the game. His presence inside the penalty area caused confusion and led to Ramsey’s goal, before he made it 2-2 with a tap-in after ghosting unchecked into the six-yard-box.



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