Philippe Coutinho scored on his Aston Villa debut

Philippe Coutinho scored on his Aston Villa debut

Philippe Coutinho scored a late equaliser on his debut as Aston Villa recovered from two down to draw 2-2 with Manchester United at Villa Park on Saturday.

United looked set to seal a morale-boosting and hard-fought victory thanks to Bruno Fernandes’ brace, but Villa fought back in the final 13 minutes to secure an unlikely point.

There was undoubtedly a hint of fortune about United’s opener, an Emiliano Martinez howler allowing Fernandes to score for only the second time in the Premier League since September, but the Portugal star’s second was an emphatic effort.

That looked as though it would be enough for United, but Jacob Ramsey scored and then teed up new loan signing Coutinho to rescue a draw with a dream debut goal.

It took United – who were without Cristiano Ronaldo and Marcus Rashford due to injury – just six minutes to score, though Martinez gave them more than a helping hand, inexplicably allowing Fernandes’ long-range strike squirm through his legs.

Villa came to life towards the end of the half, but David de Gea was equal to Emi Buendia’s near-post header and debutant Lucas Digne’s controlled strike.

Chances continued to flow at either end after the restart, with Anthony Elanga going close twice and Ramsey forcing De Gea into a smart save.

But Fernandes was less wasteful, his drive clattering in off the crossbar after a Morgan Sanson error led to Fred feeding United’s captain.

Villa rallied, however. Ramsey pulled one back with a well-taken left-footed finish inside the box before playing an inch-perfect pass across goal for Coutinho to smash home five minutes later.

What does it mean? Villa’s home hoodoo continues but draw feels like a win

It is now 23 home Premier League matches for Aston Villa without a win against United, extending the longest such run one side has had against another in English Football League history.

When Fernandes saw his 67th-minute strike go in off the crossbar, Villa looked to be completely without hope considering they had previously been wasteful.

But the late turnaround stunned United, who missed the chance to go move up to sixth in the table, with their top-four hopes taking another disappointing blow.

Emi’s buen dia

Ramsey had a decisive role, and Coutinho got the crucial equaliser, but in terms of an overall standout player for Villa, it is difficult to look past Buendia. The Argentinian midfielder really pulled the strings as the hosts looked to pull themselves level, his four key passes more than anyone else managed on the pitch.

Cavani a disappointment

You could argue Edinson Cavani had a role in United’s first goal, with his flailing leg perhaps putting Martinez off, but that was arguably about the most he contributed in the final third. He did not register a single shot or key pass in a largely anonymous outing, which was made even more damning by the fact he somehow completed the full 90 minutes.

Key Opta Facts

– In all competitions, Manchester United are unbeaten in their past 23 away games against Aston Villa (W17 D6), since a 3-0 loss in the EFL Cup in October 1999. No side in English football history has had a longer unbeaten away run against an opponent when both sides have played in the top four tiers at the time.
– United failed to win a Premier League away game in which they led by two or more goals for the first time since January 2016 against Newcastle United (3-3).
– The Red Devils (10/10) are one of just two sides to have scored in all of their Premier League away games this season alongside Leicester City (9/9).
– Jacob Ramsey became the first Aston Villa player to both score and assist against United in a single Premier League game since John Carew in April 2009 and the third-youngest player to do it against the Red Devils in the Premier League overall after Kelechi Iheanacho in September 2016 and Harry Kewell in November 1998.
– Philippe Coutinho made his first Premier League appearance in 1477 days (for Liverpool vs Leicester in December 2017). His equaliser was the first league goal he has ever scored against United in his eighth appearance against them.

What’s next?

United make their first ever Premier League trip to Brentford on Wednesday, while Villa go to Everton three days later in what could be a contest bursting with narratives as Digne faces his former club and Gerrard goes up against Rafael Benitez… assuming the Spaniard is not sacked first.