Manager Steven Gerrard hailed Reggae Boy Leon Bailey a “game-changer” after the winger played a key role as Aston Villa rallied from two goals down at the break to force a 2-2 draw against Manchester United in a tour match here Friday.
Bailey reduced the arrears soon after coming on as a second-half substitute at a rain-soaked Optus Stadium, and Calum Chambers headed a stoppage-time equalizer that cost Manchester United their 100 per cent pre-season record under new manager Erik ten Hag.
Villa ended their tour of Australia unbeaten.
Gerrard said Bailey, who suffered an injury-hit season after joining from German club Bayer Leverkusen, had sent a “massive signal” to be in the first team.
“It was more than an impact. He changed the game, showed energy, speed, a hunger to cause problems, and he’s come back in pre-season a different player,” said the former Liverpool star.
“Not just from a technical point of view – his demeanour, his body language. I think he’s trusting his body more, so we need to keep him healthy.
“So far, for Leon, he’s sending me a massive signal that he wants to be in the 11, so he needs a strong two weeks [ahead of Villa’s season opener at promoted AFC Bournemouth on August 6].”
The 24-year-old Leon Bailey replaced Danny Ings at half-time and was the catalyst for turning things around for Gerrard’s side.
The Jamaican international scored just four minutes after the break, cutting inside Victor Lindelof and curling a shot into the bottom corner. He later provided a cross following a corner for Chambers’ equalizer.
Bailey had earlier come close to forcing an equalizer, but Harry Maguire slid back to turn away his goal-bound effort after the Jamaican had skipped past goalkeeper David de Gea.
The draw in Perth kept up Villa’s unbeaten run in Australia following wins over Brisbane Roar and Leeds United.
London-born England winger Jadon Sancho, 22, whose parents come from Trinidad and Tobago, gave United a 25th-minute lead before a Matty Cash own goal on 42 minutes doubled the advantage as he turned a Marcus Rashford effort beyond the reach of his goalkeeper Emi Martinez.