Hojlund fires Man Utd to comeback win over Villa

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Written By Maya Cantina

Rasmus Hojlund scored his first Premier League goal as Manchester United fought back from two goals down to record a sensational victory in a thrilling Boxing Day encounter with Aston Villa at Old Trafford.

In United’s first game since Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s 25% purchase of the club, and with future director and current Ineos head of sport Sir Dave Brailsford in the directors’ box, Erik ten Hag’s side produced one of those ‘back-from-the-dead’ endings for which they are so famed.

After John McGinn and Leander Dendoncker had given Villa a deserved half-time advantage, United rallied after the interval and refused to let their heads drop even after Alejandro Garnacho had a goal disallowed by VAR for a marginal offside decision.

It was the 19-year-old Argentine who led the fightback, scoring twice in a game for the first time in his career to turn the game on its head.

Villa did their best to stem the wave of home attacks.

But, just as Midlands rivals Nottingham Forest discovered here in August, United retain some of the old doggedness from the Sir Alex Ferguson days.

And, for the home fans at least, there could be no more fitting scorer than Hojlund, who reacted quickest and rammed the ball home after Bruno Fernandes’ corner had struck McGinn and bounced free inside a packed penalty area.

The relief for Hojlund and his team-mates was clear to see, with goalkeeper Andre Onana racing the full length of the pitch to join in the celebrations as Ten Hag bounced in delight, his fists clenched in evident celebration.

Garnacho turns the game on its head

Alejandro Garnacho celebrates scoring against Aston Villa

Brailsford made his name with the theory of ‘marginal gains’ which brought him such success on the cycling front.

Small events also make big differences in football. With the game at 2-2 and Old Trafford in a frenzy, Villa launched a counter.

McGinn collected possession and took aim inside the penalty area. The shot was goalbound but veteran central defender Jonny Evans – who would not even be playing without the huge run of injuries that has decimated Ten Hag’s squad and cost him the services of international duo Luke Shaw and Sofyan Amrabat from the squad beaten at West Ham at the weekend – stuck out his left leg and turned the ball away.

It allowed the hosts to maximise their profit from Garnacho’s double, securing a win that leaves them just three points behind Manchester City, albeit the new world champions have two games in hand.

In a team that has found it hard to score goals, Garnacho picked exactly the right time to locate his shooting boots.

The youngster’s pace and movement has been a problem for many defences this term. Tonight, he also had an end product.

The first was a relative tap-in as Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford combined, just as they had done for his disallowed goal, to set Garnacho up.

The second required more involvement, as Garnacho initially fed Fernandes, whose low cross bounced back to the winger, whose shot struck a defender and looped in.

From delight to despair for Villa

Aston Villa players react to conceding three goals in the second half

Whilst Brailsford was looking down on proceedings from the top row of the directors’ box, sat alongside interim chief executive Patrick Stewart, Ten Hag seemed like a man on his own as that torrid first half unfolded, his hands stuffed in his coat pocket, the Dutchman seemingly incapable of doing anything to change his side’s miserable fortunes.

Just in front of Brailsford sat former United keeper Edwin van der Sar, thankfully making a positive recovery from his recent brain haemorrhage.

Van der Sar knows Ten Hag and Andre Onana well from his time as Ajax chief executive. He has huge faith in Onana’s abilities.

One can only wonder what he must have made of Villa’s opener as McGinn’s free-kick was allowed to bounced into the six-yard area and into the far corner, Onana rooted to his position and none of his defenders stepping in to clear.

Five minutes later, Villa profited from more abysmal defending as Clement Lenglet was allowed to run unmarked to the far post to head McGinn’s corner back into the danger area, where Dendoncker flicked home the visitors’ second.

The boos were audible – and were repeated at the half-time whistle as Ten Hag strode down the touchline, a now familiar scowl on his face.

By that point, Emiliano Martinez had saved twice from Rashford and also denied Hojlund.

As United chased a way back into the game, Martinez looked like a composed figure. His crunching tackle on Rashford to win the ball epitomised the effort Villa were putting in to secure a rare Old Trafford win that would have taken them second.

But it was another, younger, Argentine, who was to have the last laugh, with Hojlund supplying the key moment at the end to start paying back that £64m transfer fee that has hung like a noose round his neck since his summer move from Atalanta.

Player of the match

HøjlundRasmus Højlund

with an average of 7.31

Manchester United

  1. Squad number11Player nameHøjlund
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  2. Squad number17Player nameGarnacho
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  3. Squad number35Player nameEvans
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  4. Squad number37Player nameMainoo
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  5. Squad number14Player nameEriksen
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  6. Squad number8Player nameBruno Fernandes
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  7. Squad number10Player nameRashford
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  8. Squad number20Player nameDiogo Dalot
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  9. Squad number29Player nameWan-Bissaka
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  10. Squad number19Player nameVarane
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  11. Squad number53Player nameKambwala
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  12. Squad number39Player nameMcTominay
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  13. Squad number46Player nameMejbri
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  14. Squad number44Player nameGore
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  15. Squad number21Player nameAntony
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  16. Squad number24Player nameOnana
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Aston Villa

  1. Squad number7Player nameMcGinn

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  2. Squad number32Player nameDendoncker

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  3. Squad number31Player nameBailey

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  4. Squad number1Player nameE Martínez

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  5. Squad number4Player nameKonsa

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  6. Squad number12Player nameDigne

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  7. Squad number6Player nameDouglas Luiz

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  8. Squad number17Player nameLenglet

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  9. Squad number3Player nameDiego Carlos

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  10. Squad number41Player nameJ Ramsey

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  11. Squad number11Player nameWatkins

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  12. Squad number15Player nameÁlex Moreno

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  13. Squad number19Player nameDiaby

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  14. Squad number22Player nameZaniolo

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  15. Squad number47Player nameIroegbunam

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  16. Squad number24Player nameDurán

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Man Utd

Formation 4-2-3-1

  • 24Onana
  • 29Wan-Bissaka
  • 19Varane
  • 35Evans
  • 20Dalot
  • 37MainooSubstituted forMcTominayat 81′minutes
  • 14EriksenSubstituted forGoreat 90+4′minutes
  • 17GarnachoSubstituted forMejbriat 90+5′minutes
  • 8Bruno FernandesBooked at 73mins
  • 10RashfordSubstituted forAntonyat 80′minutes
  • 11HøjlundSubstituted forKambwalaat 89′minutes


  • 1Bayindir
  • 15Reguilón
  • 21Antony
  • 28Pellistri
  • 34van de Beek
  • 39McTominay
  • 44Gore
  • 46Mejbri
  • 53Kambwala

Aston Villa

Formation 4-2-3-1

  • 1E Martínez
  • 4KonsaBooked at 87mins
  • 3Diego CarlosBooked at 74mins
  • 17Lenglet
  • 12DigneSubstituted forMorenoat 50′minutes
  • 32DendonckerSubstituted forIroegbunamat 86′minutes
  • 6Douglas Luiz
  • 31BaileySubstituted forZanioloat 77′minutes
  • 7McGinnSubstituted forDuránat 86′minutes
  • 41J RamseyBooked at 45minsSubstituted forDiabyat 77′minutes
  • 11Watkins


  • 14P Torres
  • 15Moreno
  • 16Chambers
  • 19Diaby
  • 22Zaniolo
  • 24Durán
  • 42Marschall
  • 47Iroegbunam
  • 78Proctor


Craig Pawson



Match Stats

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Match ends, Manchester United 3, Aston Villa 2.

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