Bruno Fernandes’ stoppage-time penalty miss capped an awful day for Manchester United as they deservedly lost 1-0 at home to Aston Villa.
A point would have taken United top of the Premier League, with Chelsea losing to Manchester City on Saturday, but they could have no complaints about the outcome at Old Trafford despite a dramatic finish.
Kortney Hause looked to have gone from hero to zero when he followed a headed goal at one end with a handball at the other.
But Fernandes, taking the spot-kick ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo, blazed over the crossbar to condemn United – who lost Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw to injury – to a first league defeat of the campaign.
Villa must have wondered if their opportunity for a first win against United in 18 attempts had come and gone when they passed up a trio of huge first-half chances.
Matt Targett wasted the best of them from a low Matty Cash cross, before David de Gea gifted the visitors their next opening, prodding a strong Maguire backpass into Ollie Watkins’ path but recovering to block, and then Ezri Konsa nodded over from beneath the crossbar.
Emiliano Martinez made a smart stop from Maguire’s header two minutes before half-time and a Paul Pogba effort dropped wide, but United otherwise created little.
With Shaw and Maguire off, Watkins ran at Raphael Varane and drew a strong save from De Gea, and the goalkeeper could not get to Hause’s header from Douglas Luiz’s latest dangerous corner two minutes from time.
It looked as though United might still get a reprieve when the ball then struck Hause’s hand in the area, but Fernandes – wearing the captain’s armband in Maguire’s absence – could not hit the target from 12 yards as Ronaldo watched on.
What does it mean? Villa rewarded after late let-off
Villa had only four first-half attempts to United’s 15 but led 1.1 to 0.7 on expected goals, meaning Dean Smith headed back to the dressing room surely the more frustrated of the two managers.
The away team were even better after the break, though, and thoroughly deserved Hause’s winner, even if they were ultimately reliant on an uncharacteristic Fernandes miss – just his second spot-kick failure from 23 attempts as a United player.
Ronaldo off the mark
Two injuries in defence will increase the pressure on United’s superstar forward line to deliver the goods, but they certainly did not on this occasion.
Ronaldo, having scored in three straight games since returning to Old Trafford, failed to hit the target with any of his four attempts, although he presumably still would have backed himself from the spot when Fernandes instead took charge.
Ings a nuisance
Maguire appeared to take his knock in a tangle with Ings as the Villa player appealed for a penalty. An offside flag eased the pressure on referee Mike Dean, but the striker was a pain for the United defence throughout.
While he did not have a single shot, Ings contested a game-high 13 duels (tied with Pogba) and made two tackles and two interceptions, leading from the front.
Key Opta Stats: No clean sheet again for United
– United have conceded in each of their last eight league games at Old Trafford, their longest top-flight run without a clean sheet on home soil since February 1972 (also eight games).
– Villa’s last win at Old Trafford was back in December 2009 (a 1-0 victory).
– United mustered a total of 28 shots without scoring, last attempting more in a home Premier League game without finding the back of the net in October 2016 against Burnley (38 shots in a goalless draw).
– Hause’s winner for Villa was his first away goal in his last 22 league games on the road, since netting against Nottingham Forest in March 2019.
– Fernandes’ only other miss from the penalty spot came in October 2020 against Newcastle in the Premier League.
United are back in Champions League action on Wednesday, hoping to gain revenge over Villarreal following last season’s Europa League final defeat. Villa have eight days before they go to Tottenham.