Ten Hag: Villa game showed our attacking identity

Friday 29 December 2023 22:30

Erik ten Hag has hailed Manchester United’s “attacking identity” after our comeback win over Aston Villa on Boxing Day showcased the team at its fast-paced, dynamic best.

Speaking in his press conference before Saturday’s Premier League trip to Nottingham Forest, the manager acknowledged that the Reds have not always hit such heights this season and that winning is always the most important objective.

But he pointed to the three-goal blitz against Villa at Old Trafford on Tuesday as a template for how he wants his team to play when possible. 

"We have to win every game. And I think sometimes we have been pragmatic,” he said. “But, for instance against Villa, you see our style, you see our identity, how we can play, how quick we can play, and also how we can build up from the back."
Highlights: United v Aston Villa Video

Highlights: United v Aston Villa

Watch the best of the action from United's exhilarating Boxing Day affair against the Villans...

After falling 2-0 behind at half-time, Alejandro Garnacho netted twice after the break to level the score, and the Argentina winger was only denied a hat-trick by a tight offside call after a brilliant team move. Rasmus Hojlund then registered his first Premier League goal late in the game to clinch all three points in a thrilling night at the Theatre of Dreams.

While goals have been harder to come by at times this season, the Villa game showed how threatening and incisive our attack can be at its best, with Marcus Rashford also in fine form on the left and Antony making an important contribution as substitute. 

“I think the whole frontline played very good, and invested in lots of runs behind, and the timings were so good, and I think it was continually a threat for the opponent,” Ten Hag said after the game.

With the attack warming up and injured players returning to the ranks to swell Ten Hag’s options, the aim is to build on Tuesday’s performance and strive for greater consistency in performances and results.


Our video below highlights some of the best examples of attacking team play so far this campaign, illustrating attacking contributions from all areas of the pitch and giving us plenty of reasons for optimism as we enter the second half of the season.

Some of the clips did not result in goals but demonstrated the front-foot style and dynamic passing and movement that the team is striving for.

For example, the video begins with that disallowed Garnacho goal against Villa, as Diogo Dalot gains possession in the left-back area and forms a passing triangle with Christian Eriksen and Marcus Rashford, to get the ball out of his feet and feed Bruno Fernandes. The captain deploys a one-two with Hojlund before sending Rashford away down the left flank; when our no.10's first-time delivery finds Garnacho, the young striker confidently rounds the visitors' goalkeeper Emi Martinez before firing into the net.

 Although the finish was eventually ruled out by a marginal VAR decision, the build-up epitomised Ten Hag’s mantra that we “attack as a team”.

Breathtaking team moves in 2023/24 Video

Breathtaking team moves in 2023/24

From Boxing Day to Burnley away, enjoy this season's best examples of free-flowing football from Erik ten Hag's men...

It's a similar story with the other bookend in our compilation, as we round off the video with an attack at Turf Moor. This time, Dalot is operating at right-back as the offensive starts, initially playing a pass over the top to Fernandes. Quickly realising his route down the right wing is closed off, the skipper uses some neat interplay with Hannibal and Victor Lindelof to keep the ball and return it safely to Dalot.

When a further touch from Lindelof brings his fellow centre-back Jonny Evans into the picture, it's the latter's lofted delivery that drops perfectly - like a golfer finding the green - for Fernandes to thunder home a right-footed volley.

It was another glorious move involving half of the outfield players and this time, the goal stood, separating the sides in our 1-0 win over Burnley. Here's to more like that one, and the other examples of attacking play in our showreel above, as we head into 2024.