Report and free match highlights as Man Utd blow the race for Champions League football wide open with a 2-1 win at Aston Villa; Rasmus Hojlund scored again to give United the lead; Douglas Luiz equalised after constant Villa pressure; Scott McTominay scored a late winner
Monday 12 February 2024 06:29, UK
Scott McTominay's late winner earned Manchester United a first away league victory against a top-nine side under Erik ten Hag, as Aston Villa were beaten 2-1 to blow the race for Champions League football wide open.
In-form United started fast at Villa Park and took a deserved lead through Rasmus Hojlund's fifth goal in five Premier League games.
Villa dominated the big chances but found Andre Onana in inspired form, with the United goalkeeper making four big saves, including two from Ollie Watkins.
The pressure eventually told as Douglas Luiz fired home from Leon Bailey's cross with over 20 minutes to go - but United had the last laugh.
Substitute McTominay headed Diogo Dalot's first-time cross in from close range with four minutes of normal time to play to earn United a precious three points, which moves them within five points of fifth-placed Villa.
"It's a massive win for us," said Ten hag to Sky Sports after the game. "We get closer and that's the aim for today, that was absolutely our target and we did it. The way we did it, I liked it.
"I never think negative scenarios. I think positive. We know we have to catch up and we are not there yet. We are in a good mood and keep this process going.
"There is much room for improvement, if we do this and there are more games to play, let's see where it goes."
Villa controlled the first-half possession but United looked dangerous on the break early on. Bruno Fernandes fed Hojlund in the penalty area only for the striker to sky his close-range effort, while Alejandro Garnacho blasted a long-range effort wide.
Then came the opening goal as Fernandes' corner found Harry Maguire - who had escaped Boubacar Kamara's clutches - at the far post, leaving the onside Hojlund the simple task of tapping home.
Villa's response to the early setback was excellent. John McGinn forced an acrobatic tip over from United goalkeeper Onana, who was also equal to Watkins' one-on-one inside the box as the hosts opened up Ten Hag's side in a sweeping move.
Jacob Ramsey, who had a bright game in midfield, then put an effort from inside the box wide as Villa ended the opening period strongly.
Man Utd took the influential Luke Shaw off at half-time due to injury and it took just three minutes for replacement Victor Lindelof to make a big error.
The Swede gifted the ball to Matty Cash deep in the United half and he squared to Watkins who looked certain to score - but once again hit Onana.
Ramsey had two more chances, failing to trap Bailey's incisive pass for a one-on-one, before seeing a low shot blocked by Dalot on the line.
Eventually, the pressure told. Onana made another point-blank save from Clement Lenglet from a corner but, after United cleared, Bailey put the ball back in the mixer for Luiz to fire high into the net.
United tried to respond straight away as Garnacho fired wide of the near post after a mazy run - but Villa stepped back on the throttle.
Luiz had a big chance following Dalot's poor clearance but the midfielder failed to make a big connection. Substitute Moussa Diaby then curled over as Villa looked dangerous on the counter-attack.
Back came United as Garnacho fired straight at Emiliano Martinez after another solo run. But United's late winner came from a familiar source.
Dalot's instinctive cross was headed home by McTominay from close-range, which could be a massive goal in the context of the top-four race.
Aston Villa: Martinez (6); Cash (7), Carlos (6), Lenglet (6), Moreno (7); Luiz (7), Kamara (5); McGinn (6), Ramsey (7); Bailey (7), Watkins (5)
Subs used: Diaby (7), Tielemans (6), Zaniolo (n/a), Digne (n/a)
Man Utd: Onana (8); Dalot (7), Maguire (8), Varane (7), Shaw (6); Casemiro (6), Mainoo (6), Fernandes (7); Garnacho (7), Hojlund (7), Rashford (7)
Subs used: Lindelof (5), McTominay (7), Amrabat (n/a), Evans (n/a)
Player of the match: Harry Maguire (Man Utd)
Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag to Sky Sports:
"I liked especially the first 20 minutes, after that we were dropping too much. We had our moments in the counter attacks, but at 1-1 we had to fight back.
"It was really high intense, and you could see how many players were fatigued by the end. It was so open and it could have gone two ways. They had the mentality to win this day, especially the substitutes.
"Scott, he's great. He can score many goals, he's always coming in positions to score goals. We had some problems, it was too much like a tennis match. Every game we went for goal instead of waiting for the right decisions. With McTominay, he can get in the box and could score goals.
"Our defensive organistaion in the first part was very good, on the ball we were calm. Once we were winning, we changed our mindset. You can do this when the game is going to an end to play out the result. In the first 20 minutes we scored, why not keep going?"
Aston Villa manager Unai Emery to Sky Sports:
"We did a good plan. We controlled the game, we avoided the transitions. We didn't concede a lot of chances to them and we got control of the game, not only controlling possession, we were even having chances. And we didn't score some clear chances.
"I am very proud of our work and our players. We are being more consistent in the league matches. But it is a tough evening for us and tough to accept. But that's football, we have to score more.
"We had the chances and sometimes we are being clinical, sometimes we have days like today. Against Manchester United you can lose, because they're clinical, but this is the way.
"I'm very proud of our work today, the players are proud. At the end we didn't win because we weren't clinical."
Sky Sports' Paul Merson on the form of Man Utd striker Rasmus Hojlund:
"I like him. He's a young kid, 21 playing for one of the biggest clubs in the world. If there was one thing you could bottle up in football, you ask anyone, it's confidence.
"In those first 10 games, when he was going without a goal, he was snatching at everything. And he's got it.
"If that ball at Villa comes in at the start of the season, he would've hit it as hard as he could. But he places it under the goalkeeper. He's a good player, I think he will be a superstar."
Sky Sports' Roy Keane:
"He's on fire, it took him a few months to get up to speed. He's part of a settled team now and he's got confidence.
"I believe every time he walks on the pitch, he thinks 'I'm going to score a goal for Man Utd'. It's a good return, considering the first few months he had. He's showing good form.
"You look at the lack of strikers at Man Utd. So the manager has been forced to play him week in and week out. The fact he's had to do that, and Ten Hag hasn't had the option to take him out and give him a rest, is a big help."
Aston Villa return to Premier League action on Saturday. They travel to Fulham on February 17; kick-off 3pm.
Man Utd are back on Super Sunday next weekend. They travel to Luton in the Premier League on February 18, live on Sky Sports; kick-off 4.30pm.
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