Ten Hag's Reds leave Old Trafford wanting more

Friday 11 November 2022 12:59

'Always leave them wanting more,' is an oft-heard cliche that derives from the world of showbiz. And on Thursday night's evidence, Erik ten Hag's Manchester United would be right at home in the West End.

Who saw that second 45 coming at half-time? Not me, certainly. At the interval, Old Trafford was a nervy, subdued sea of murmurs. Come full-time, it was giddy as a pen of newborn puppies.
Before the Carabao Cup tie with Villa, many fans were focused on the fact that this was the stadium's final fixture before a six-week break for the World Cup. 
That added a poignant layer to Thursday's game – of course, we're all looking forward to the international football, but how we'll miss our beloved Reds during the coldest, darkest month of the year.
90 in 20: United v Villa Video

90 in 20: United v Villa

90 in 20 | Check out extended highlights of United's Carabao Cup tie with Aston Villa in November...

You could feel an unspoken yearning among the crowd: to sign off with a win in M16. Last weekend's defeat at Villa Park compounded that feeling, too. There's been so much positivity around Ten Hag's team in the last few weeks, but a home cup exit would have significantly dampened the mood, pre-Qatar.
Last year, we were eliminated at this stage of the Carabao Cup due to a narrow 1-0 defeat against West Ham. It did not appear a huge blow at the time, due to the positivity around Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's team and Cristiano Ronaldo's return, but a few months later, there was not much to shout about. Never underestimate what a cup run can do for you, whatever the circumstances.
Thankfully, last night we got a cup tie for the ages, as Old Trafford came alive as only Old Trafford can.
Fans of every club think their ground is special, inevitably. But only ours is the biggest club stadium in the UK. And the resultant noise when United are chasing a game is like nothing else in English football.
You get 70-odd thousand people on their feet, growling a kind of expectant, spontaneous, primal roar. The size and swell of the sound can make or break opponents and, last night, it eventually broke a very decent Villa team.

What changed the game? It appeared that our opponents scoring first (and then taking the lead a second time) roused a United side that was dominant in possession but perhaps lacking a predator's ruthless instinct.
And let's not beat around the bush here: Alejandro Garnacho's second-half cameo changed the whole complexion of the occasion. 
Ten Hag: It was a real cup game! Video

Ten Hag: It was a real cup game!

Erik ten Hag explains what he told the Reds at half-time, during his post-match chat with Stewart Gardner...

We know the young winger is talented, but that was by far his best performance in a United shirt. He brought the crowd to its feet on several occasions, and drove the team up the pitch numerous times. One run brought back golden memories of Ryan Giggs's twisty, slaloming swerves between defenders.
Of course, we'll have to be patient with Garnacho. But he turned a big match in United's favour, and that is no small achievement at his age. He also provides another opportunity for us to chant 'Argentina!' when Lisandro Martinez is off the pitch, so that's a clear positive.
A short word for Scott McTominay, too. He might not bring the subtle passes or experience delivered by Christian Eriksen and Casemiro, but his spirit and presence can add so much to United's performances, particularly at Old Trafford. And when he gets to run forward, he can produce exciting moments like the goal he scored last night, or the shot he crashed against the crossbar.
Rashford on an 'entertaining' Old Trafford night Video

Rashford on an 'entertaining' Old Trafford night

Marcus talks through some of the key topics from an action-packed cup tie at the Theatre of Dreams...

Ten Hag is always talking about fight and competitiveness, and surely every manager would love to have a squad full of players imbued with McTominay's levels of desire.

The moment when he cleaned out Ashley Young was a particular highlight. We enjoyed it when Young clattered Angel Di Maria, PSG's former United winger, a few years back, and McTominay's aggression on Thursday underlined what should be obvious: no one deserves special consideration or treatment because of who they've played for in the past, or what they've done. 
The match was there to be won and, throughout, McTominay made it clear he wouldn't be tiptoeing around anyone during his victory mission.

Should Garnacho go to the World Cup?


Erik ten Hag is asked if he thinks our 18-year-old winger is ready to star in Qatar.

United continue to progress, albeit it with the odd setback. But if Ten Hag keeps serving up matches like this one, or the wins over Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham – all at Old Trafford – he won't go far wrong.
It was comedic, and a little sad, to hear a few bursts of the traditional Christmas chant 'The 12 Days of Cantona' during the game. At the time, we weren't sure if we'd even play a match in M16 during Advent, due to the World Cup.
Burnley's visit in the next round of the Carabao Cup means we will now have another home game before Christmas, but it's still a long wait to see the Reds in action at Old Trafford once more.
Thankfully, they left us with a classic comeback and some great memories to sustain us over the next few weeks.

The opinions in this article are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Manchester United.