Manchester United

Manchester United

Premier League • England

Coutinho haunts Man Utd on dream debut after Aston Villa roar back to snatch thrilling draw

Philippe Coutinho celebrating after scoring against Man Utd

Philippe Coutinho capped off a dream debut when scoring the equalising goal as Aston Villa roared back to secure a pulsating 2-2 draw with Man Utd.

Cristiano Ronaldo missed out for the visitors with Ralf Rangnick revealing the Portuguese is struggling with a hip flexor injury. Lucas Digne made his debut for Aston Villa, but fellow new boy Philippe Coutinho had to make do with a place on the bench.

If United were in need of a favour to lift their sunken spirits, they quickly received one from the unlikeliest of sources.

A short free-kick routine saw Bruno Fernandes try his luck from distance. Edinson Cavani tried in vain to latch on to the strike with the ball seemingly destined to nestle in Emiliano Martinez’s gloves.

However, the usually reliable Argentine fluffed his lines, allowing the shot to wriggle through his legs as United went one up.

Martinez redeemed himself soon after when rushing off his line to smother Mason Greenwood’s effort. The United forward has found a pocket of space at the far post following a teasing Alex Telles delivery, but Martinez reacted quickly to extinguish the danger.

The visitors were putting up a far stronger showing than in their narrow FA Cup victory on Monday night.

A reckless Lucas Digne challenge saw the Frenchman booked and a free-kick in a dangerous area conceded. The delivery came to nothing, but Greenwood rifled a low strike agonisingly wide from the follow-up.

David de Gea rises to the occasion

Villa finally began to find their feet mid-way through the half and quickly began calling David de Gea into the action.

The Spaniard was superb on Monday night, and had to be again here when repelling Emiliano Buendia’s close-range header. Digne was then denied a dream debut moment when De Gea saved his powerful strike with his knees to preserve the lead going into the break.

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Aston Villa roared out of the traps in the second half and waste little time in stinging the palms of De Gea. Jacob Ramsey showed quick feet to dance inside a challenge before De Gea turned his goal-bound effort to safety.

Both sides looked capable of scoring as the game became increasingly frantic. Greenwood pulled his fifth shot narrowly wide, while the vibrant Anthony Elanga went close with his fourth effort in anger.

A goal seemed inevitable, and so it proved when Fernandes doubled his tally for the day.

Morgan Sanson’s loose pass was hoovered up by Fred. The Brazilian fed Fernandes who took one touch to control before powering the ball in off the crossbar to make it 2-0.

That prompted the introduction of Philippe Coutinho, as Steven Gerrard went in search of inspiration from the ex-Liverpool favourite.

Coutinho makes immediate impact

Coutinho was quickly in the action when probing inside the area, but it was the unfortunate Fred who inadvertently provided the assist for Jacob Ramsey to pull one back.

The midfielder got a toe in inside the area but saw the ball travel straight into the path of Ramsey. Like Fernandes, he took one touch to steady himself before firing beyond the helpless De Gea to make it 2-1.

That got the Villa Park crowd off their seats, and they were in ecstasy moments later when Coutinho levelled the scores with a tap-in.

Ramsey showed great vision to spot the Brazilian free at the far post despite being played in himself. His inch-perfect pass left Raphael Varane helpless before Coutinho stabbed home to set up a tense finale.

Both sides pushed hard for a winner, but it wasn’t to be with Coutinho’s goal forcing Man Utd to settle for a 2-2 draw at Villa Park.

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