Steven Gerrard called on his Aston Villa players to be more ‘ruthless’ after a strong display at Manchester United counted for nothing in a 1-0 FA Cup defeat at Old Trafford.
United edged a pulsating cup clash as Scott McTominay’s early header proved enough against Gerrard’s side, who dominated for large periods of the game and had two goals chalked off.
After a weekend of intrigue and upsets, the third round ended with an all-Premier League encounter and one of Liverpool’s greatest-ever players managing at Old Trafford for the first time.
Monday’s tie lacked goals but provided plenty of entertainment, with McTominay’s header the difference as Ralf Rangnick’s United secured a hard-fought 1-0 win to set up a fourth-round date at home to Middlesbrough.
Villa already had an Old Trafford win under their belt this season and will leave ruing what could have been given the number of chances they created after falling behind in the eighth minute.
Ollie Watkins cannoned an effort off the crossbar in the first half and, while United had chances to extend their lead, the visitors looked as unruffled as their constantly goaded manager.
Danny Ings saw an equaliser ruled out after a lengthy video assistant referee review. Jacob Ramsey’s block on Edinson Cavani was the apparent reason, before Watkins saw a leveller chalked off for offside.
United looked there for the taking but Gerrard’s side could not eke out an equaliser in a tie that adds spice to Saturday evening’s Premier League meeting between the clubs at Villa Park.
Gerrard rues lack of ruthless streak
Speaking after the game, Gerrard told BBC Sport: “Very tough. We are out of the FA Cup and coming into this job I saw this competition as an opportunity to have a good run in it.
Here’s the VAR check, on what Aston Villa thought was an equaliser, in its entirety.
All 3 minutes & 45 seconds of it.
— Match of the Day (@BBCMOTD) January 10, 2022
“The lads gave a lot in terms of performance. But we need to learn and close the gap from a performance that was nearly good enough. We dominated for large parts but we were not ruthless enough.
“I’ve seen enough tonight in terms of the performance to know that I can get to where I want to get to but we need to learn and learn quickly. We need to be more ruthless moving forward, defending crosses we need to be tighter. We cannot be having people with free headers in our six-yard box. It is quite clear what we need to iron out and we will do it in the short term.”
As for the controversial VAR decision to rule out Ings’ striker, Gerrard added: “How long have you got? The officials took three and a half minutes to settle that one. They have looked at two or three things in it.
“When VAR is there and they make a decision you have to accept it. There is nothing you can do to change it. The easy way out is to blame luck and the officials, we won’t do that.”
Chance to right the wrongs
On playing United again this weekend, he added: “It is quite unique to play a team in the space of five or six days. The players have an opportunity to flip the mood, flip the feeling.
“I am sure they are frustrated. They played quite well and dominated large arts but with no rewards for the performance. So they have an opportunity at Villa Park to straighten that out.
“I am not disappointed in the performance tonight just disappointed we didn’t take our chances and conceded a sloppy goal.”