Super. Sub. Scotty.
Manchester United’s “break-glass-in-case-of-emergency” plan did the trick again on Sunday as the Reds picked up another win against Aston Villa. His late goal made it a 2-1 win at Villa Park after a worrying start to the second half had fans feeling a result could go the other way. A strong start and a strong finish proved enough however, and United are looking up toward the top four with some hope of completing a climb into the UEFA Champions League by the end of the campaign.
Erik ten Hag sent out a mostly unchanged side from the one that downed West Ham United 3-0 at Old Trafford a week ago, though of course Lisandro Martinez was forced out after suffering a knee sprain which will keep him out until the final month of the season.
The front three in particular have done well together, helping United find results in recent weeks in an effort to turn the season around. Rasmus Hojlund in particular has turned on of late, scoring four in four successive Premier League fixtures, and it wasn’t long before he made it five in five.
In the 17th minute a corner found the head of Harry Maguire, and while he couldn’t put the force on it to have a go at goal he was able to redirect it into the path of the on form Danish striker, who buried the chance to give United the lead.
It’s another positive sign that United are scoring off of set piece opportunities, but above all the confidence and composure of the young striker is a big reason to be positive about the future.
Unfortunately the goal woke up Aston Villa more than it inspired the Reds. There were several opportunities to create in transition, but there was a lack of control and calm to stead the ship and add to the lead. Villa took advantage, with Leon Bailey and Jacob Ramsey making themselves menaces on their respective wings for Dalot and Shaw to deal with.
While the match remained scoreless going into the break, the momentum shift was a sign of things to come, and worse United would have to deal without Luke Shaw at left back. He left with seemingly a minor knock at halftime to be replaced by Victor Lindelof.
After the restart it took some time for Villa to find an equalizer, but it felt inevitable all the way up to the finish. A set piece rejected but sent back into the crowd by Moussa Diaby found Douglas Luiz, who placed it in the top right corner past Andre Onana for 1-1.
United struggled to regain control, and really never did, but they were able to strike back through super sub Scott McTominay. He arrived to replace Marcus Rashford in the final minutes, and immediately became a strong option in transition. Garnacho passed on an opportunity to set him up, shooting himself and denied by Emiliano Martinez, but a few minutes later he was found by Diogo Dalot to head home the winner.
IT'S HIM AGAIN. Scott McTominay with a HUGE late goal for Man United! pic.twitter.com/km2Yl5o3ff— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) February 11, 2024
Scotty has been clutch in these moments before, but this season has made himself useful as a chaos-fueled second striker off the bench. His contributions are more than welcome, and this time around gave United their third successive Premier League win.