An 86th-minute header from Scott McTominay sealed a hugely impressive win for Manchester United at Villa Park on Sunday.
Man Utd went ahead in the first half through the in-form Rasmus Hojlund, before a period of sustained pressure from Villa culminated in Douglas Luiz making it 1-1.
Both teams missed decent chances to win the game before McTominay came off of the bench to thump home a stunning clincher.
The win sees Man Utd climb to within just six points of the top four places after a run of three wins on the bounce in the Premier League.
How the game unfolded
Man Utd caused Villa’s backline problems early on with both their pace on the break and their high-pressing. The latter almost resulted in an opening goal in the 11th minute when, after winning possession just outside of Villa’s box, Bruno Fernandes cleverly slid the ball into the path of Hojlund. After controlling, however, Hojlund saw his effort from inside the area deflect wide of the post.
The Danish striker would get his goal just five minutes later. Said goal would come courtesy of a Fernandes corner kick being beautifully headed into the path of Hojlund in the six-yard box, and the striker made no mistake with his volley finish – sweeping home with consummate ease.
Aston Villa fought their way back into the game thereafter, with John McGinn and Ollie Watkins forcing Andre Onana into two smart saves in quick succession.
The home side pressed forward with real intent throughout the remainder of the first half, but Man Utd’s staunch defence kept them largely at bay – restricting Villa to three shots on target despite having 60% of the ball.
That defensive stoutness deteriorated somewhat at the start of the second half thanks to an injury seeing Luke Shaw be replaced by Victor Lindelof. The Swede was almost immediately rinsed by Matty Cash on the right flank, thus allowing Cash to fire a brilliant low cross into the six-yard box. Lindelof’s blushes were spared by Onana however, who saved Watkins’ point-blank effort on goal.
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Villa continued to cause Man Utd problems for the next 20 minutes, and they finally – deservedly – got their equaliser through Douglas Luiz after this period of sustained pressure. Following a melee in the box brought on by a set piece, substitute Moussa Diaby showed immense composure to drill the ball into the path of Luiz, who tapped home from close range.
Man Utd came within a whisker of retaking the lead moments later when Alejandro Garnacho drifted off of the left flank and past two Villa players. His subsequent curling effort on goal, however, drifted just wide of the post.
In the 86th minute, the Red Devils bagged their winning goal. The impressive Dalot whipped a delightful cross into the box from the right flank, and substitute McTominay rose highest to thump home a header from 10 yards out.
GK: Emi Martinez – 5/10 – Couldn’t do much about either goal.
RB: Matty Cash – 6/10 – Got forward well on occasion.
CB: Diego Carlos – 6/10 – Enjoyed a physical battle with Hojlund for most of the game.
CB: Clement Lenglet – 6/10 – Struggled with balls in behind, but dealt well with most things in front of him.
LB: Alex Moreno – 7/10 – Provided space for his teammates by rushing up the left flank at every available opportunity.
CM: Boubacar Kamara – 6/10 – 100% tackles won and completed 94% of his passes. An all-round solid outing.
CM: Douglas Luiz – 7/10 – Another very good performance from the Brazilian. Bagged the equaliser and dictated the tempo of the game well.
RM: Leon Bailey – 6/10 – Caused Lindelof problems in the second half with his direct running.
AM: Jacob Ramsey – 4/10 – A pretty quiet outing considering how much of the ball Villa’s attack had.
LM: John McGinn – 7/10 – Man Utd really struggled to deal with his powerful and aggressive running from midfield.
ST: Ollie Watkins – 5/10 – Missed two fantastic chances before Villa found the equalising goal.
SUB: Moussa Diaby (65′ for Kamara) – 6/10 – Made an immediate impact off the bench by setting up the equaliser.
SUB: Youri Tielemans (72′ for Bailey) – 5/10
SUB: Nicolo Zaniolo (88′ for McGinn) – N/A
SUB: Lucas Digne (88′ for Moreno) – N/A
Manager – Unai Emery – 6/10 – His team are struggling at the moment without their key starting centre-backs. The sooner they’re back, the sooner we’ll see a much improved Villa team once again.
GK: Andre Onana – 8/10 – Made a number of fantastic saves to deny Watkins in particular.
RB: Diogo Dalot – 8/10 – His stunning cross proved to be the difference between the sides. Dalot also played several very clever passes out from the right-back position and won 100% of his tackles.
CB: Harry Maguire – 7/10 – A constant threat from set pieces, bagging an assist for Hojlund’s opening goal.
CB: Raphael Varane – 7/10 – Won five duels and made seven clearances on a busy afternoon in Birmingham.
LB: Luke Shaw – 6/10 – Defended well against Bailey in the first half but worryingly came off injured at the start of the second.
CM: Casemiro – 7/10 – Booked as per, but won 12 duels in the middle of the park and worked extremely hard for his team.
CM: Kobbie Mainoo – 5/10 – Not quite at his brilliant and effective best on Sunday.
RM: Alejandro Garnacho – 6/10 – Showed real quality at times and worked hard to lead the press.
AM: Bruno Fernandes – 6/10 – Worked his socks off throughout, and provided quality on the ball on occasion too.
LM: Marus Rashford – 5/10 – Had the beating of Moreno at times, but lacked any end product.
ST: Rasmus Hojlund – 8/10 – His fifth consecutive Premier League game with a goal, and a deserved goal at that. Hojlund held up the ball well and caused problems with his runs in behind.
SUB: Victor Lindelof (45′ for Shaw) – 5/10
SUB: Scott McTominay (72′ for Rashford) – 7/10 – Scored the winning goal.
SUB: Sofyan Amrabat (92′ for Mainoo) – N/A
SUB: Jonny Evans (92′ for Hojlund) – N/A
Manager – Erik ten Hag – 8/10 – Players he’s trusted through thick and very, very thin are coming good now, and Man Utd are reaping the rewards for the faith Ten Hag has shown in the likes of Onana and Hojlund.