The Spaniard, who led Villarreal to the UEFA Europa League title and the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League in the three years he had been away from England, was appointed by Villa to replace Steven Gerrard, who was axed from the job in late October.
Many worried about the decision to throw the 51-year-old into the mix at this point in the season as his first few matches as Villa manager would see him come against some of the league’s heavyweights. After Sunday afternoon, however, those worries would have been assuaged following the string performance his team put up against Manchester United, who came visiting with hopes of maintaining their league resurgence.
Aston Villa’s afternoon came to life after 10 minutes when Jamaican forward Leon Bailey, having been played through by Jacob Ramsey, put the ball past David De Gea low and hard into the bottom right corner in the seventh minute. Four minutes later, they would double their lead through a stunning freekick from French fullback Lucas Digne.
Erik ten Hag’s side came alive around the 25-minute mark and by the 30th minute, they had forced Emiliano Martinez into two saves. The first was from the young Alejandro Garnacho, who has been impressive since being trusted with a starting berth in the past few games. Martinez next saved from Cristiano Ronaldo, Manchester United’s captain on the day.
It was definitely a save that he was proud of due to his international affiliation and choice in the fan-fuelled GOAT debeta of the past 15 years. It was also a save that spurred United to try even harder as Ramsey, who assisted the opener, deflected Luke Shaw’s shot beyond Martinez to give the visiting side hopes of a comeback.
The second half started with United on the front foot but in the 48th minute, Villa had an opportunity for a counterattack.
Ollie Watkins picked up the ball a few yards away from the halfway line and drove all the way to the edge of United’s box. His cutback was side-footed into the top right hand corner of the net by Ramsey, who became only the fourth player in Premier League history to score, assist and score an own goal in the same Premier League match.
Emery will be glad to have gotten what was meant to be a tough return out of the way and will be preparing for a trip to the Amex to face Brighton and Hove Albion in the last league game before the World Cup break.
However, he will be wary of a vindictive Manchester United, who he has to face again next Thursday in the EFL Cup.