Ole Gunnar Solskjaer tries to deflect mounting pressure by blaming Aston Villa players for Bruno Fernandes' costly penalty miss

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·8-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Bruno Fernandes blazes penalty over the bar as Manchester United lose to Kortney Hause header - REUTERS
Bruno Fernandes blazes penalty over the bar as Manchester United lose to Kortney Hause header - REUTERS

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sought to deflect mounting pressure by accusing Aston Villa players of haranguing Bruno Fernandes before his costly penalty miss and blaming VAR failings for the goal that sent Manchester United crashing to a third defeat in four matches.

Fernandes fluffed a chance to rescue a point for United at Old Trafford when he blazed a 93rd minute penalty high into the stands shortly after Kortney Hause had headed an impressive Villa side in front.

Solskjaer argued that the goal should have been ruled out for a perceived foul by Ollie Watkins on goalkeeper David De Gea before the United manager turned his ire on Villa players for apparent gamesmanship before Fernandes’ penalty miss, only his second in 23 attempts for the club.

Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez appeared to urging Cristiano Ronaldo to take the penalty instead of Fernandes as a number of Villa players, including Hause, Douglas Luiz, Tyrone Mings and Matt Targett crowded around the United midfielder.

“What I didn’t enjoy and didn’t like was the way they crowed the referee in the penalty spot and tried to affect Bruno,” Solskjaer said. “It clearly worked for them but that’s not great to see but they achieved what they needed to.”

Solskjaer defended his decision to let Fernandes take the penalty over Ronaldo - Getty Images
Solskjaer defended his decision to let Fernandes take the penalty over Ronaldo - Getty Images

Of Hause’s goal, the United manager added: “On the corner you see the inconsistencies again with VAR and decision making because Watkins is clearly standing on or is touching David as the header has gone so he is offside or it is a foul.

“The linesman did well, he reported it or called it in to VAR but they turned the decision down and it is a goal unfortunately so bad decisions again.”

Solskjaer also defended his decision to let Fernandes take the penalty over Ronaldo, who did not look happy at being overlooked.

“This is going to be the headline isn’t it!” Solskjaer said. “You know Bruno has been excellent and Cristiano is probably the one that has scored the most penalties in England before. We have got great takers here and it is just a missed opportunity for us to get a point.

“You will be making all these assumptions now on the reaction of players. But you know Bruno has been excellent. He is such a good penalty taker and today you’d back him with your mortgage I would guess.

“That’s football. He’ll step forward every day of the week for the club and the team. Sometimes it just doesn’t go your way. That is part and parcel of what we are doing. It is such a fine line between heaven and hell and unfortunately today he missed.”

To compound United’s misery, Solskjaer lost England defenders Luke Shaw and Harry Maguire to injury, with the pair due to be scanned in the next 48 hours. “We will have to use today, tomorrow and Monday or when we get the scans done and see how we are,” he said.

Dean Smith paid tribute to an outstanding display from his Villa side. “People will look at it and say it is a big win but for me it is more a big performance,” the Villa manager said. “I thought we deserved the win. We stood resolute. We wanted to be brave.”

Match analysis: Questions asked over United's ability to sustain a title challenge after defeat to Villa

For a man who says he is not interested in excuses, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been getting plenty in of late. Yet no number of diversion tactics were going to mask the reality that Manchester United were witless and deservedly beaten here by an enterprising, aggressive, well coached Aston Villa or that a third defeat in four matches is cranking up the pressure on a manager who is facing a battle to avoid another autumn of discontent.

Solskjaer could really have done with Bruno Fernandes not ballooning a 93rd minute penalty high into the stands and thereby fluffing the chance to rescue a point, as an unimpressed Cristiano Ronaldo watched on, shortly after Kortney Hause had headed Villa in front. But set against the rich cohesion of Dean Smith’s 3-5-2, this was another of those games that left you wondering what Solskjaer’s vision for this scratchy, disjointed United is meant to be.

If you did not know better, you could have sat through this and believed the Norwegian had only inherited one of the expensively assembled squads in history in the summer; a man still working out how best to knit it all together.

Yet it is close to three years now since he took charge and the fault lines really feel embossed when so many individual talents fall flat and there is no single moment of brilliance to puncture those periods of mediocrity.

United had one tactic - a ball in behind for their best player on the day, Mason Greenwood - but beyond that there was little to no variation in their play and for examples of what genuine fluidity and creativity looked like we turned instead to Villa.

Smith said Villa’s bravery was epitomised in the 17th minute when one wing back, Matthew Cash, teed up the other, Matt Targett, who should have scored, but their sense of adventure only grew from that moment. What a chance, though. It stemmed from a fine ball in behind Luke Shaw by John McGinn, who, with Douglas Luiz, upstaged Fred and Scott McTominay in midfield with their diligent, intelligent use of the ball and positioning.

Cash, a rampaging presence from full back all afternoon, whizzed on to the ball and powered a cross to the far post where Targett fired over from a couple of yards when it seemed easier to score.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer consoles Bruno Fernandes at the final whistle - Getty Images
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer consoles Bruno Fernandes at the final whistle - Getty Images

United’s best chance came a minute later when Greenwood, released by Paul Pogba, cut inside Tyrone Mings and directed a weak shot straight at Emiliano Martinez when he could have squared to Fernandes. In the main, though, so many star names disappeared. Pogba was peripheral, Ronaldo largely anonymous.

Solskjaer’s hand was not helped by the enforced substitutions of Shaw in the first half and Harry Maguire in the second with injuries in front of the watching England manager, Gareth Southgate. But the one substitution he did make of his own choosing had an influence at the opposite end of the pitch to what he had hoped and intended.

It was Edinson Cavani who lost Hause at a corner in the 88th minute, the Villa defender timing his run perfectly to shake off Cavani and send a thundering header from Luiz’s superb ball past David De Gea.

Solskjaer felt Ollie Watkins had impeded De Gea and the goal should have been chalked off, and there were certainly shades of Leicester being denied a goal against Brighton in similar circumstances the previous weekend, but by the end it felt like more excuses from Solskjaer.

The goal was no less than Villa deserved. Solskjaer clung to United’s 60 per cent possession and the 28 shots they mustered but the best chances fell to Villa. A poor back pass from Maguire put De Gea under pressure and the United goalkeeper inadvertently teed up Watkins as he lunged to reach the ball and was grateful the resulting shot came straight back at him.

Later in the second half, Watkins rounded Raphael Varane from Luiz’s fine through ball and forced an excellent save from De Gea.

Maguire’s header from a Fernandes free-kick was well kept out by Martinez, Pogba headed just wide and Greenwood shot straight at Martinez a couple more times but that was it until the opportunity of a late reprieve came when Hause, in a rare lapse of concentration, handled a menacing cross from Fernandes.

It was tough on Hause who, along with Ezri Konsa and Mings, had provided such solid foundations at the back from which Villa could attack.

United had been largely confounded by Villa’s system but suddenly Fernandes had the chance to salvage a point. The Portuguese had scored 21 of his previous 22 penalties for United so the smart money was on him finding the net, even if there was an added element of intrigue given that Ronaldo was having to defer to his compatriot on Solskjaer’s say so.

Martinez actually seemed to be urging Ronaldo to take the penalty and appeared to mouth the words “I want you” in the direction of the Portugal forward as Villa players crowded around Fernandes in a bid to unsettle him.

Solskjaer took exception to such gamesmanship but, having complained on the eve of the game that his team were denied too many clear penalties, he then watched in horror as Fernandes blazed the ball high over the crossbar. One suspects Ronaldo will be on penalty duties next time around.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting