The Red Devils kickstart the Ratcliffe era with a thrilling 3-2 comeback from 2 goals down – Rasmus Højlund ends his goal drought in the Premier League
Manchester United 3 vs 2 Aston Villa: The Legend of the Boxing Day delivers another mayhem at the Theater of Dreams as the Red Devils complete a quaint comeback against an exuberant Aston Villa side. Two goals from Alejandro Garnacho and a winner from Rasmus Højlund were the added ingredients.
Man United came into this game with a 4 game-winless streak, all of which had gone goalless. Villa on the other hand, came in with a draw against Sheffield United and looked to avoid another hiccup in their ambitions to fight for the title. Following this result, they are still very much in the race as they sit 3 points away from Liverpool and a point away from Arsenal who have a game in hand. With that being said, let us jump into the dramatic scenes that unfolded at Old Trafford.
Match Summary: Manchester United 3 vs 2 Aston Villa
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It was an evenly fought battle as both sides gave their all. Aston Villa held the higher ground with 53% but the hosts, Manchester United registered more shots, with 13 in total and 7 on target. Villa could only manage 10 shots and missed one out of the two big chances they created. The Red Shirts looked reasonably hungry for goals as they looked to put an end to their drought but were stopped by the notorious offside flag – over 9 times during the game! The Red Devils tallied a passing accuracy of 80% in contrast to Villa’s 82% and both teams defended well with resembling statistics – 50 total duels won for Manchester United and 49 for Villa.
It took the visitors over 20 minutes before they broke the deadlock with a free-kick from John McGinn that wasn’t even intended to be a shot – another howler from Andre Onana. Five minutes later, Leander Dendoncker flicked one past the Cameroonian keeper on his first start for Aston Villa.
Five minutes into the second half, Alejandro Garnacho’s goal was canceled by VAR but he didn’t hold back as he struck just 10 minutes later and took it upon himself to inspire a comeback by getting the second goal courtesy of a deflection in the 70th minute, making it 2-2. However, what threw Old Trafford into an eternal frenzy was Rasmus Højlund’s winner as he tucked one past the World Cup winner Emi Martinez from a curling corner lobbed towards him.
Erik Ten Hag’s Fighting Spirit
Being two goals down at halftime and also having your future held onto loose strings can be a devastating scenario for any ambitious manager. However, the Dutchman did not hold back from waking his team up in the dressing room – calling on his boys to pull themselves together and fire back. In the post-match interview, he had the following to say:
“You are losing to two set plays, so maybe you are not too focused, but I think already in the first half, we played quite well,” he said.
“We kept trying and I said at half time, ‘Keep believing,’ keep doing what we do, keep doing more, put even more on, and then it’s possible, get to 2-1 and we’ll see what happens.
“I said before the game that we are competitive with Arsenal and Liverpool. If we play our best we can beat anyone. Show character, and today they showed they could do it.
“I’m so happy that the strikers scored. That is what they needed and I know what we are capable of. They are good finishers, [Marcus] Rashford, Garnacho, and Hojlund. We have good finishers, but we have to show it every game. If we have the willingness to score goals, we’ll score goals.”
Rasmus Højlund gets his First Goal
The Big Dane has found himself under a tremendous amount of scrutiny as he bagged a staggering, ‘zero’ goals in the Premier League prior to the game against Aston Villa. However, he couldn’t contain his euphoria following his first goal as he says:
It’s been a while, but I’m happy. I’m the happiest man alive right now,” he said.
“You can see from the celebrations, like Alejandro said, we believed until the end and we showed a lot of character again today. I’ve scored a couple in the Champions League but it’s been a while in the Premier League so I hope I can just build on that and keep going.
“I am happy for the three of us and the attackers as well – today we showed a lot of character and confidence.”
Garnacho To The Rescue (Again)!
The single most influential individual on the pitch was perhaps the Argentine starboy, Alejandro Garnacho. The man had resolved to catalyze the comeback as the trailblazer yet again. During the game, he had an xG of 0.61 but ended up with 2 brilliant goals. He was indubitably the best player on the night and was presented with the Man of the Match award. The man on fire had this to say:
“I said in the training room, just one goal and we’ll be back in the game. I’m very happy for Rasmus also.
“Too many people talk about the strikers at Manchester United and say ‘we never score goals’, but today you see Rashford with assists, with goals. We’re very happy.”