clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Manchester United 3-2 Aston Villa: The kids are alright

A comeback to remember, and hopefully build on...

Manchester United v Aston Villa - Premier League Photo by Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images

Manchester United fought back to a much-needed 3-2 win against Aston Villa on Boxing Day, their first win over a top-half side in the Premier League and a dramatic turnaround for a side in desperate need of a result.

And Erik ten Hag got more than just that, he got a performance to build on from an inspiring front-three and midfield who shook off an early two-goal deficit after the break to restore hope in what many hope is the start of a new era.

Marcus Rashford played creator from his preferred left-wing role, igniting United in the second half in a moment of true desperation for the side. The comeback effort was also inspired by the strong play from youngsters Alejandro Garnacho and Kobbie Mainoo as well as the veteran presence of Bruno Fernandes as a creator up front.

The first shot on target came from Christian Eriksen, striking the ball first time at the edge of the box, but Emiliano Martinez had only an easy save to make. There were some promising moves with the change at winger, but it seemed everyone wasn’t quite on the same frequency just yet.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t a lot of room for experimentation or growing into the game as Aston Villa took the lead swiftly.

John McGinn steered a free kick cross on goal and past Andre Onana, bending the shot in from a wide angle through the crowd and into the net. It was a curious goal to witness, and there were protests about Villa players in offside positions interfering, but it wasn’t enough for the VAR to erase Villa’s lead.

That poor set-piece effort would be topped by another woeful effort a few minutes later, this time with a Villa player running totally unmarked on the end of an uncontested cross, playing it across to Dendoncker to tap in for 2-0. Villa was flying, and United were collapsing.

United got off to a flying start after the break with Rashford springing a counterattack and setting up Alejandro Garnacho to score. The VAR check afterward would show he was offside, which felt almost as bad of a gut punch as either of Villa’s first-half goals.

Rashford set him up a second time about ten minutes later, and this time there was no question. Garnacho smashed the ball past Martinez, and it was game on for the Reds. It was a fair reflection of how the match had shifted since Villa took the lead. The forward line seemed a massive upgrade to the past few matches, even if Hojlund was still struggling to get shots, and Rashford was a driving part of that.

The goal was the spark United needed, and it wasn’t too long before Garnacho fired in a second to bring the Reds level. He found space inside and smashed it through a crowd of defenders, again punishing the visitors for how open they were. It felt inevitable from then that a third would follow.

And of course, it fell for Rasmus Hojlund. His moment finally came in front of the Stretford End as the ball bounced up nicely for him. He adjusted awkwardly to hit a half-volley off balance into the top left corner, a left-footed strike that surely made Robin van Persie smile from the stands.

There was still quite a job to do with nine added minutes, but United did well to kill the game and seal the three points. It felt a special win, and certainly for now it’s the most important win of the season. Turning things around and finally hitting on a front-three rotation.

The kids can play, let’s hope they keep playing.