Well, that was shite.
And the award for most unbelievable result of the season goes to…
The absence of Alisson after a training injury caused the usual pre-match panic in certain quarters and the COVID-related lack of Sadio Mané meant that we gave the new £41m pound man Diogo Jota his first Premier League start. Still, it was pleasing to see Henderson on the bench as he works his way back from injury.
Adrián has generally been a solid backup when our bearded Brazilian custodian of the rigging has been absent- indeed, the Spaniard had not previously lost a Premier League game in which he started for us- but he soon gifted the ball to Grealish, who teed up Watkins for a simple opening goal. Grealish then set up Barkley for a golden opportunity but the former Everton man scuffed his shot and we were lucky not to be two goals down within nine minutes.
It took us ten minutes to snap out of our lethargy, with a blocked shot from Baby and then a drilled cross from Robbo cleared behind for a corner. A lovely move down out right then led to Martinez blocking Bobby’s shot and Salah was denied a clear penalty when McGinn blocked him in the area. Villa’s ‘keeper was lucky to escape without being punished when he gave the ball to Salah. Bobby was then thwarted by Martinez after wriggling through.
Just as it looked as though we were imposing ourselves on the game, Watkins was released down the Villla left and rifled the ball into the top corner, giving Adrián no chance. I thought that the striker was fractionally behind Gomez but VAR did not agree.
Two goals behind after twenty three minutes and Ollie “Championship player” Watkins on a hat-trick… was the wine already taking its toll on my mental faculties? I finished rubbing my eyes in disbelief just in time to see a dipping shot from Jota tipped over by Martinez; Barkley then spurned another opportunity just after the half hour. Baby then set up Salah to pull one back with aplomb. That goal marked the Egyptian’s one hundredth in English football; just imagine how many he would have had if he could finish.
Adrián then pulled off a fine save at his near post to block Barkley but had no chance when McGinn’s long-range shot was deflected off Virgil to reinstate Villa’s two-goal lead. Virgil was booked for a frustrated lunge at Barkley; the ensuing free kick was turned back from the byline and Watkins nodded home from close range to bag his hat-trick in the fortieth minute. Robertson was then denied by Martinez as we entered stoppage time; Martin Twatkinson then somehow awarded Villa a free kick when Jota was kicked by Mings on the edge of the home side’s penalty area.
Taki on for Keïta at half time came as a bit of a surprise; Baby hadn’t been great but was no worse than several others.
Barkley finally scored ten minutes after the restart, his shot deflecting off Trent’s outstretched boot and looping over Adrián to make it 5-1. Mo pulled a goal back on the hour mark, after being released by Bobby. Grealish had a shot take a huge deflection off Fabinho for Villa’s sixth of the night- completing a hat-trick of deflected goals to go with Watkins’ legitimate trio. Adrian stuck out a foot to deny Watkins his fourth as the forward raced clear in the 72nd minute; Grealish made it seven three minutes later after being left all alone by Trent on the halfway line.
Fuck it- I give up now.
Hopefully this game will act as the kick up the backside the team appears to desperately need; since winning the title we have generally been well below our best, a few games excepted. The international break won’t help as the players will be scattered all over the world; we resume against the table-topping Bitters in a fortnight’s time and anything less than three points will be unacceptable.
MOTM: Everybody involved with Manchester United Football Club. For serving up a pre-match treat that no chef could ever hope to equal. Pity that we were just as bad as they were.