Sports, Football

‘I missed the Premier League’

Published : 16 Jan 2022 08:04 PM

Steven Gerrard hailed Philippe Coutinho’s dream debut for Aston Villa as the Brazil star's late equaliser capped a thrilling fightback from two goals down against Manchester United in Saturday’s 2-2 draw.

Four years after he last played in the Premier League with Liverpool, Coutinho made an instant impact on his return to England following his loan move from Barcelona this week.

Coutinho came off the bench midway through the second half with Villa trailing 2-0 after Bruno Fernandes's double for United.

The 29-year-old provided the assist for Jacob Ramsey to give Villa hope with 13 minutes left.

Coutinho then converted Ramsey's cross five minutes later to ensure Gerrard's side made amends for their FA Cup third round exit at United on Monday.

It was the perfect way for Coutinho to celebrate a welcome return to the English top-flight four years after leaving Liverpool to join Barca.

"I missed these games and the Premier League. I'm very happy to be here with my new teammates," Coutinho told Sky Sports.

"It was a good start, we kept believing until the end, but we didn't lose."

Asked if he was nervous before making his Villa debut, Coutinho said: "Yes, a little bit, I don't speak English very well, I prefer to be on the pitch than talking all the time.

"I'm happy, it was the first game and I want to work hard to improve and be in better shape."

Coutinho has endured a difficult time at Barca and spent 2019-20 season on loan at Bayern Munich, but Gerrard is confident he can bring the forward back to his best after playing with him at Liverpool.

"It was a good start. We've brought a quality footballer to the club. We need to get him up to speed in terms of his match sharpness," Gerrard said.

"We certainly deserved to be trailing at the break. I had to tell a few home truths and the reaction was fantastic.

"We conceded against the run of play but didn't feel sorry for ourselves, we continued to show character and believe.

"The substitutions really brought something to the game. The two goals we scored were fantastic."

United have now gone two league matches without victory after losing to Wolves in their previous top-flight game.

With United languishing in seventh place, there will be fresh questions about interim boss Ralf Rangnick.

Rangnick had already endured reports that United's players were unimpressed with his coaching methods and his backroom staff.

Fernandes owed his first goal to a howler from Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez, who let his free-kick spill into the net.

The Portugal playmaker's second goal was the kind of eye-catching finish that made his name when he arrived at United from Sporting Lisbon in January 2020.

But United couldn't hold the lead in another blow to their bid to qualify for next season's Champions League via a top four finish.

"It is difficult to accept this result after being 2-0 up and in quite a few spells of the game, I think it was the best performance since I arrived," Rangnick said.

"In the first half an hour, we completely dominated and controlled the game on the ball. But again, when you are 2-0 up and throw away two valuable points, it almost feels like a defeat."