Steven Gerrard aims to keep Philippe Coutinho happy after draw against Man Utd

Coutinho assisted before scoring the equaliser on his return to the Premier League

Simon Peach
Saturday 15 January 2022 21:07

Steven Gerrard wants to keep Philippe Coutinho smiling after the Aston Villa debutant secured a hard-fought 2-2 draw that left Manchester United interim boss Ralf Rangnick deflated.

Saturday evening’s Premier League encounter looked to be going the same way as their FA Cup tie at the start of the week, with Villa looking sharp but ultimately lacking a cutting edge against the Red Devils.

A howler from Emiliano Martinez allowed Bruno Fernandes to open the scoring, with the Portuguese skipper adding another just as Villa threatened to level.

Gerrard turned to former Liverpool team-mate Coutinho and got a dream response, with the Brazilian star involved in the move that ended with Jacob Ramsey scoring before turning home the youngster’s cross to seal a draw.

“It was a really strong cameo and obviously no surprise because we know he carries extreme quality,” the Villa boss said.

“(He was) involved in both roles, so it’s a fantastic cameo performance from Phil and obviously there’ll be many more big moments, I’m sure, moving forwards.

“The important thing now is that we get him recovered and he has a full week’s training.

“He gave me today – from a bench – exactly what I wanted and it’s certainly no surprise the huge quality he brought to the game.”

Fellow new signing Lucas Digne also impressed on a day when Brazilian flags and Coutinho scarves were on sale outside Villa Park.

There were huge cheers when he was introduced to the fans before kick-off – quite a different reception to what he has been getting at Barcelona.

“Look, you can’t underestimate in football being happy going to work and enjoying your football and smiling and enjoying your team-mates and the crowd and getting love and support,” Gerrard said.

“We all enjoy that in football. He’s been full of energy, he’s smiling away. There’s still room for him to get fitter and stronger, which is the exciting thing.

“But you’ve seen clearly today that he still possesses quality and he’s shown signs of that in training as well.

“There’s no pressure on Phil. I only want him to be the best version of himself and enjoy his football and that’s the support that I want to give him.”

As for United, the manner of the draw left Rangnick feeling like his side had lost at the end of a week in which injured absentee Cristiano Ronaldo questioned the group’s mentality.

“We were 2-0 up after 77 minutes and had 15 minutes to play,” the interim boss said.

“In most parts of the game we were compact, we could defend in the midway block, but in those 15 minutes, we conceded two goals in four minutes.

“I haven’t seen them so far on video and they were both similarly prepared and happened in a similar way.

“Of course it’s extremely disappointing now to speak about the positives but I think we had quite a few positives today.

“In the first half, the first half-hour, we dominated the ball, we also kept them away from our own box. In the first 30 minutes we didn’t concede one single shot on our goal.

“But again, it’s about playing in that way and as compact as we did in the first half hour and in parts of the second half.

“But we have to do it in a longer period of time, so right now it definitely feels like two lost points and it almost feels like a defeat, to be honest, after being 2-0 up.”

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