Home » Three things we learned as Manchester United come from behind to beat Aston Villa 3-2

Three things we learned as Manchester United come from behind to beat Aston Villa 3-2

by Derick Kinoti


Manchester United hosted Aston Villa at Old Trafford, fresh off their weekend 2-0 loss against West Ham.

Undoubtedly keen on getting his side back to winning ways, Erik ten Hag started Andre Onana in goal, with a defensive four of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Raphael Varane, Jonny Evans and Diogo Dalot ahead of the goalkeeper.

Kobbie Mainoo was given the nod as United’s deepest-lying man in the middle of the park, in a trio also consisting of Christian Eriksen and Bruno Fernandes.

Rasmus Hojlund led the line with Marcus Rashford and Alejandro Garnacho on either side of the Dane. Here are three things we learned from Manchester United’s 3-2 victory vs. Aston Villa.

Extremely poor first half

United went into the break two goals down after goals from John McGinn and Leander Dendoncker.

For Villa’s first, McGinn fired a ball inside the box that somehow eluded every United defender to fly into the back of the net, past a helpless Onana who could only stare as Unai Emery’s men took the lead.

McGinn’s effort seemed like a cross and there was a lengthy VAR check to determine whether the likes of Ollie Watkins were interfering with play.

As it turned out, VAR found no faults, the goal stood and the referee allowed play to carry on.

The second goal was a result of United’s poor defending and organisation at the back. A cross was floated to Clement Lenglet at the back post after the Frenchman broke free from his marker.

With time and space, Lenglet had the opportunity to pick out Dendoncker who also shook off the United defenders. The Villa midfielder connected with the ball to guide it into the net, for his side’s second.

To say it was a calamitous opening 45 minutes for the Red Devils would be an understatement.

Villa were clearly the better side and created the best goalscoring opportunities. Jacob Ramsey and Leon Bailey on either flank constantly gave Wan-Bissaka and Dalot something to think about.

United seemed to struggle to match the physicality injected by McGinn and Dendoncker in the middle of the park.

Ten Hag’s stars struggled to break down Villa’s resolute and compact defence. Rashford had a few chances to bring United back into the game but the Englishman’s shots were saved by Emi Martinez, who didn’t have too much to do overall.

United’s dismal performance was highlighted by just how defeated and dejected Ten Hag looked on the touchline whenever Villa grabbed a goal.

No doubt the Dutchman was left disappointed by what he saw.

Garnacho can offer something on the right

After his awful display against West Ham on Saturday, Antony was benched by Ten Hag and Rashford included in the starting XI.

Many would have expected Rashford to start on the right but Ten Hag instead opted to deploy Garnacho on the right flank and Rashford on the left, where he is undoubtedly more comfortable.

This season, United have struggled in the right position. Combine Antony’s unimpactful performances with the fact that Sancho has missed a number of months after being exiled and it makes sense why United have nothing to work with in that area of the pitch.

However, Garnacho showed positive glimpses that can maybe be explored further and leveraged to help make United a far more threatening and formidable unit.

The Argentine provided depth well and showed an ability to go both on the inside and the outside.

Garnacho took his man on anytime the opportunity presented itself and in some instances, had the beating of his defender to get into the United box.

The Carrington academy graduate also put in some nice crosses for Hojlund and Rashford.

Garnacho thought he halved the deficit four minutes after the break when Rashford squared the ball to him before he brilliantly rounded off Martinez and scored.

However, VAR intervened and determined that the 19-year-old was offside. His goal was subsequently chalked off.

Garnacho would get his reward not long after however just before the hour mark. Fernandes pinched the ball off a Villa player in midfield and then set Rashford on his way.

Unselfishly, Rashford located Garnacho with the low cross and the latter made no mistake as he calmly slotted it in.

Garnacho would go on to grab his brace and draw United level in the 71st minute. His shot inside the box struck Diego Carlos to take a big deflection and beat Martinez.

The most positive and biggest takeaway from Garnacho’s contributions is that for the first time in a long time, there was some threat coming from the right side. Hopefully, it’s something Ten Hag and his coaching staff can build on.

There certainly seems to be more promise in using Garnacho from the right in comparison to fielding Antony who does next to nothing during the time he’s on the pitch.

Players have not downed tools

This campaign, the United players have time and time again been accused of downing tools and not playing for the manager.

Not to say there have been games in which effort has not been enough, but against Villa, one thing that looked for sure is that there is still some fight within the ranks.

After Garnacho’s double, Hojlund completed a sensational comeback by grabbing United’s third.

More significant is that it was the Dane’s first Premier League goal after so many near misses.

You need only look at just how Mainoo pumped the crowd when he was coming off and Hojlund’s ecstatic reaction to finally get on the scoresheet in England’s top flight and you’ll know there’s still a belief in Ten Hag’s project at Old Trafford.

The players showed character to come back from two goals down against high-flying Villa when it could have been easier to just accept the defeat while lying down. This is the bare minimum expected of any professional, especially for a player on United’s payroll.

Previously, there were suggestions that a faction of the dressing room had fallen out with Ten Hag but the players on the pitch seemed eager to heed their boss’ instructions and do everything to get something from the match.

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