Aston Villa 1 Manchester United 2

Sunday 11 February 2024 18:51

Scott McTominay’s late bullet header secured Manchester United’s third consecutive Premier League win, as the Reds beat Aston Villa 2-1 away to close the gap on our fifth-placed hosts to five points.

It was McTominay's eighth goal of the season, making this the best scoring campaign of his career to date. United had earlier taken a 17th-minute lead when Rasmus Hojlund scored for the fifth Premier League game in a row, before Villa made early second pressure pay with Douglas Luiz's equaliser, netted with a quarter of the game left.

But Erik ten Hag had spoken ahead of kick-off about the importance of everyone stepping up again to continue recent momentum and that was the response that the players gave, pushing until the end to reclaim the lead.

Harry Maguire put in a big shift in both penalty areas, setting up Hojlund’s opener and defending resolutely at the other end, while there was another mature and assured performance in central midfield from Kobbie Mainoo - his eighth successive Premier League start. England manager Gareth Southgate was watching from the stands after speaking highly of the 18-year-old in recent days.
Rasmus Hojlund celebrates his fifth goal in as many Premier League games.

Making a really promising start, United were denied twice by inch-perfect defensive interventions from Villa centre-back Diego Carlos inside the opening 12 minutes. The first one cut out Alejandro Garnacho’s low cross bound for an unmarked Hojlund. Not long after, it was a last-ditch tackle from the Brazilian as the Reds’ Danish striker shaped to shoot after nicking possession himself on the edge of the Villa box and then being found by Bruno Fernandes.

Garnacho showed neat footwork with United’s next opportunity, cutting in from the right flank with a clever stepover and firing just wide from outside the box with his left foot. But we didn’t have to wait much longer to go ahead. As Fernandes’s corner came into the box, it was a magnificent leap from Harry Maguire at the far post, heading the ball back across goal where Hojlund was waiting unmarked on the edge of the six-yard box. Played onside by Ollie Watkins, it was a simple finish for a player absolutely flying with confidence. It was Hojlund’s goal, but Maguire was showered with plaudits from team-mates for his crucial role.

Andre Onana had experienced a quiet opening quarter of the game, but the United goalkeeper was called into important action twice in quick succession midway through the first half. Our number 24 showed strong hands to parry John McGinn’s powerful 20-yard drive behind for a corner. Then, he was both sharp off his line and brave in rushing out to close down Ollie Watkins after the Villa forward had been put through on goal by McGinn.

Looking for a way back, the hosts continued to attack and Jacob Ramsey looked a threat drifting in from their left. As the first half progressed, one such instance saw the Villa youngster prepare to unleash a shot from a dangerous position, but Maguire expertly closed him down to block. United then repeatedly closed ranks and shut the door to go into the break deservingly 1-0 ahead.

Onana’s third brilliant save of the match came almost immediately after the restart, with Matty Cash advancing down Villa’s right and finding Watkins in the middle. His first-time effort from six yards was instinctively blocked by the Reds stopper getting his body in the way. It was part of a wider spell of consistent pressure from Emery’s side at the start of the second half and Diogo Dalot was well placed to stop Ramsey’s scuffed 61st-minute attempt heading towards the far corner just in front of the goal-line.

The danger from Villa’s next chance looked to have been averted when Onana’s sharp reflexes denied centre-back Clement Lenglet from point-blank range. But the ball was quickly recycled by the home side and Luiz was in the right place at the right time in the middle of the United box to turn in Leon Bailey’s ball back in from the flank.

As the clock hit 70, Garnacho was inches away from restoring our lead in spectacular fashion by driving in from the left, leaving Villa defenders in his wake, and firing low and hard just past the reach of Emiliano Martinez - and, agonisingly, the far post as well. Garnacho had another speculative effort blocked a few minutes later, with Casemiro also ambitiously trying his luck from distance but the Brazilian was unable to test Martinez.
The second half had been played at a frantic pace and both sides looking for a late winner set up a grandstand final 10 minutes. Garnacho forced Martinez into a low save but couldn’t get the required power on his shot to beat his fellow Argentinian.

Much to the jubilation of the United bench and the vocal travelling support, Villa’s resistance was broken four minutes before the 90 was up. Mainoo’s skill under pressure high on the right kept the ball away from two opposing defenders, before he laid it back to Diogo Dalot. The Portuguese defender's delightful first-time cross was then gratefully met by McTominay rising highest in the box, heading in to put us back in front at such a crucial time in the game.

There was still time for Villa to test Onana a couple more times, with the United goalkeeper saving and importantly holding headers from Watkins and later Cash. Dalot also blocked a fierce effort from Ramsey as the Reds successfully navigated the remainder of the game through to the end.
Who was United's Man of the Match against Aston Villa?poll

Who was United's Man of the Match against Aston Villa?


Aston Villa: Martinez; Cash, Carlos, Lenglet, Moreno (DIgne 87); Kamara (Diaby 65), Luiz; Bailey (Tielemans 73), McGinn (Zaniolo 87), Ramsey; Watkins

Unused substitutes: Olsen, Pau Torres, Kesler-Hayden, Iroegbunam, Rogers

Luiz 67

Lenglet, Cash, Diaby

Onana; Dalot, Maguire, Varane, Shaw (Lindelof 46); Casemiro, Mainoo (Amrabat 90+2); Garnacho, Fernandes, Rashford (McTominay 73), Hojlund (Evans 90+2)

Unused substitutes:
Bayindir, Eriksen, Antony, Forson, Amad

Goals: Hojlund 17, McTominay 86

Booked: Casemiro, Mainoo

Match videos:

  • Highlights: Aston Villa v United Video

    Highlights: Aston Villa v United

    Watch the best bits from our trip to Villa Park...

  • What Onana did right Video

    What Onana did right

    Niall McCaughan and Wes Brown dissect what impressed them about Andre Onana's performance against Aston Villa...

  • Ten Hag: We have to keep this going Video

    Ten Hag: We have to keep this going

    Erik ten Hag says his team must continue to fight for results, after our crucial victory at Villa Park...

  • Ten Hag's post-match press conference Video

    Ten Hag's post-match press conference

    Press conference | Erik is asked about Scott McTominay's impact, Luke Shaw's withdrawal and more...

  • Maguire: We stuck together Video

    Maguire: We stuck together

    Harry Maguire identifies team spirit as a key trait in our victory at Villa Park...

  • Ten Hag: We have to make the next step Video

    Ten Hag: We have to make the next step

    Erik ten Hag hopes his team's progress will continue against Aston Villa...

  • Going through the gears Video

    Going through the gears

    Watch the Reds up the intensity ahead of kick-off at Villa Park...

  • Arriving for action Video

    Arriving for action

    The Reds turn up at Villa Park ahead of our approaching Premier League clash...