September 26, 2021 || 11:53 am

Cristiano Ronaldo reaction shows damage to Manchester United title hopes

Man Utd were bea’ten 1-0 at home by Aston Villa and Bruno Fernandes mis’sed an i’njury-time penalty to resc’ue a point.


Cristiano Rona’ldo wal’ked solemnly past Bruno Fernandes and offe’red a consoling pat on the shoulder, but y’ou can only imagine what ‘was actually going through his m’ind.

Manchester United had ju’st wasted a chance to tu’rn a disastrous result aga’inst Aston Villa into just a disappointing one. After Ole Gun’nar Sols’kjaer’s complaints about the stone’wall penalties Unit’ed have been ref’used they got one they deserv’ed in injury time, but when Fernandes gra’bbed the ball ahead of Ronaldo eyebrows were raised.


Those eyebr’ows were in danger on the Stret’ford End when the penalty was ta’ken. Fernandes’ effort was a long way over the crossbar an’d his hold on penalty-taking duti’es at United is surely being relinquis’hed with that.


It was United’s fin’al chance to salvage a po”int. Ronaldo’s true feelings we’re clear by the fact the final whi’stle saw him head straight for the tu’nnel, the first home player to make his exit. He’s come back to win trop_hies but in a disastrous 10 days Un_ited’s grip on three of the four they are in has been weake_ned.


The incre’asingly tense and fra’ught atmosp”here inside Old Trafford had told you all need to know. It mig’ht only be late September but United are in a title race, one where ‘home draws against Aston Vill’a sim’ply won’t suffice.


This was a Satur’day afternoon when United were supp’osed to make up gro’und in what is shaping to be a four-way bunfight for top spo’t in May.


Instead, with mo’st eyes on Stamford Bridge and the prize fight betw’een Che’lsea and Manche’ster City, United slipped up on the unde’rcard. In their desper’ation to chase all three points Uni’ted saw one bec’ome none as they failed to keep a clean sheet yet ag’ain. That’s now one shut out in 16 games in all competitions da’ting back to the end of last seas’on.

This was a slugfest that was always going to deliver a knoc’kout blow, unfortun”ately for Ole Gunnar Solskj’aer it came at the wrong end. A dizz’ying 90 minutes deserved a goal and Villa pu_nished United inabi_lity to defend set-piec_es, a trait dating back to last sea_son and one that rema_ins as costly as ever.


Throw in the Cham’pions League defeat to Young Boy’s and the Carabao Cup exi’t to West Ham and it’s not been a go’od month for United, or for Solskjaer. They’ve dropped five poi’nts from a routine Premier Leag’ue start and are under press”ure already.

Solskjaer had used his prog’ramme notes to stress the im’portance of eradicating the slow starts that continue to plag’ue United and his words shou’ld have been heeded inside 2 min’utes. A sweeping move beginning with Mason Greenwood and invo’lving Luke Shaw and Paul Pog’ba ended with Fernan’des firi’ng a very presen’table chance over the crossbar.

It set the tone for a ma’nic half of football that displa’yed the good and the bad of Uni’ted. They created plenty of ch’ances going forward but wer’e unable to control the game and looked vulnera”ble at the other end.

First, the good. Gree’nwood was a livewire, const’antly threatening the Villa defence in front of the watching England manager Gareth Southgate. Latch’ing on to a Pogba pass, he cut ins’ide Tyrone Mings but his right-foot’ed finish was a weak one. Ferna’ndes and Pogba both saw deflected efforts from the edge of the area fla’sh wide as United tried to sust’ain the pressure.


But Villa were find’ing it too easy to get their own foothold in the game. The belo’w-par Shaw, who was forced off i’njured after half an hour, was stru’ggling to keep up with the surgi’ng Matty Cash and his low cross was som’ehow fired over from inside the six-yard box by Matt Targ’ett.

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