Soccer-Rangnick struggling for positives after United let victory slip at Villa


Soccer Football - Premier League - Aston Villa v Manchester United - Villa Park, Birmingham, Britain - January 15, 2022 Manchester United interim manager Ralf Rangnick before the match REUTERS/Ian Walton

BIRMINGHAM, England (Reuters) - Manchester United manager Ralf Rangnick said it was hard to find positives after his side failed to capitalise on their best 30 minutes of his watch in a 2-2 draw with Aston Villa in the Premier League on Saturday.

United, without the injured Cristiano Ronaldo, dominated most of the first half at Villa Park and were 2-0 up after 67 minutes thanks to a double by Bruno Fernandes.

But Aston Villa's debutant Philippe Coutinho came off the bench to inspire a home comeback, setting up a goal by Jacob Ramsey and then equalising to leave United stunned.

After winning his first two Premier League games in charge after taking over from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as interim manager, Rangnick's side have picked up five points from their next four games and still have not won away under the German.

They remain seventh in the standings, a point behind Tottenham Hotspur who have two games in hand.

Rangnick's side dominated Villa early on as Rangnick's pressing game gave them the platform to dominate.

But they were unable to maintain the intensity.

"It is very difficult to find positives after these 95 minutes," Rangnick said. "I felt it was the best game since I came here in the first half for 30 minutes we dominated. We took some steps forward but have a few things to do better.

"The plan was to press them in the midzone and we did that very well in the first 30 minutes, and control the ball, and those were the positives. When you are 2-0 up you have to defend better than we did in the last 15 minutes."

Villa were much improved in the second half but Rangnick said United should have taken the three points home.

"It feels like a defeat, to be honest," he said. "In the last 15 minutes we were not as compact and conceded two goals."

Villa manager Steven Gerrard conceded he had an "honest" discussion with his players at halftime after a disappointingly lacklustre opening half in which his side were off the pace.

"It took some honesty at halftime because we have to demand more from the players," Gerrard said. "For the first 25 minutes we were second best and didn't do what we wanted to do.

"Credit to them they were better than us. We were passive and second best and deserved to be in the position we were."

The introduction of Gerrard's old Liverpool team mate Philippe Coutinho off the bench for his Villa debut with 20 minutes remaining helped turn the match with the Brazilian setting up Jacob Ramsey and scoring the equaliser himself.

"Phil has played a cameo and we got two goals. You don't lose talent, he just needs to be in a place where he feels loved and supported. He's 29 and still has that hunger," Gerrard said of Coutinho who is on loan from Barcelona.

"Once he's fitter and stronger I've no doubt he will score goals for this team."

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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