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Welcome back to the Premier League Philippe Coutinho. The magician was introduced into the match with Aston Villa behind 2-0 in the 69th minute and along with Jacob Ramsey led the charge back for Aston Villa. Something special is brewing at Villa Park when their star signing and an academy starlet are combining to bring the magic. 

The first half saw one of the best Manchester United performances of the season as without Cristiano Ronaldo and Marcus Rashford the team embodied the Ralf Rangnick way. Two players pressed every Villa possession and Bruno Fernandes was back to running the show after an early goal in the sixth minute.

While Emi Martinez got butterfingers on that goal, United got their noses ahead just enough to fend off Aston Villa attacks. It was almost all United to open the match as Aston Villa didn't get a true shot off until the 32nd minute when Ollie Watkins forced a save but the Red Devils would wonder why they were only up 1-0 in the early going. 

Diogo Dalot was unable to handle Lucas Digne, also making his Aston Villa debut following a move from Everton, as Steven Gerrard's team began to round into form in the end of the first half. But David De Gea would stand tall to deny Villa a chance to get back into the game before the break. At the half, Ezri Konsa would be withdrawn for Kortney Hause due to an injury that he picked up and hobbled through with.

Villa would improve slightly after the half but Fernandes doubled Manchester United's lead in the 67th minute. It ended Fernandes' dry spell after he wasn't involved in a goal in his last four league appearances. 

Directly after that goal, Coutinho would enter for Morgan Sanson who wasn't very happy with being withdrawn, throwing a bottle on the sideline. And from that minute on Aston Villa hit a new gear. Manchester United wouldn't have another chance of note from then until the final whistle. 

Taking advantage of Manchester United tiring from the press, Coutinho deftly passed to Ramsey who did not miss to bring Aston Villa back into the match. 

While the goal brought relief on the scoresheet, it also brought belief that Villa could power through this match. Only five minutes later, Ramsey set up Coutinho for what ended up being the equalizer for Aston Villa.

For Gerrard, things couldn't have gone better getting his new boys on the pitch but questions must be asked about Manchester United's fitness this late into the season. While the press was better without Cristiano Ronaldo, if the team can't maintain it through 90 minutes, Rangnick needs a backup plan which he doesn't seem to have even though he has now been with the team two months.

Here are a few takeaways from the match

The press must be dialed back

Good coaches are able to find players that can excel in their system while great coaches mold a system to the players. Given that this was one of the better Manchester United performances and after Bruno Fernandes's second goal in the 66th minute, they seemed home free, they should have been able to hold on and lock up the match. But with all the players gassed after 70 minutes, there were no adjustments made and the players got circles passed around them while Villa created chance after chance.

The press hasn't worked when Cristiano Ronaldo plays but he is still only withdrawn when hurt and even then, the players clearly aren't fit enough to sustain a press given how different it is to the system that they had under former manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Rangnick needs to strike a balance between his ideal approach, and what his players are currently capable of. Manchester United are now five points off of a Champions League place and that gap could grow next Saturday when they host West Ham United.

Coutinho, oh my


With only 22 minutes played, Coutinho took 15 touches and was everywhere for Aston Villa. While he wasn't very involved defensively, Coutinho was brought in to elevate the attack and did just that being heavily involved in two goals and also completing every pass he attempted in the attacking third leading meaning that Villa's attacks reached their full potential. His performance along with other new signing Lucas Digne's were major bright spots for Villa moving forward as Gerrard now has different options to tinker with as he looks to unlock matches.

Anthony Elanga is calling for more United minutes

One of the best players on the pitch for Manchester United, Elanga has struggled to get his career started at Old Trafford. While he has three Premier League appearances this season, this is his first start and he was a bright spot ripping off four shots and also completing six dribbles as one of the few players who wasn't afraid to advance the ball in the match. Pinging passes around the left side of the pitch he also made the most of his 78 minutes today and while Rashford and Jadon Sancho work to get up to full speed, playing Elanga more can give United a more dynamic presence.