Manchester United came back from 2-0 down to defeat Aston Villa 3-2 on boxing day in a thrilling end to 2023 at Old Trafford.
It was only once Villa scored their second goal did United kick themselves into action, finishing the first 45 minutes strong, but with no goal to show for it.
Alejandro Garnacho scored early into the second half, but the rule was ruled out for offside. However, he was able to grab one ten minutes later to bring United within one goal of Villa.
It was Garnacho again to pull United level, putting in a Man of the Match performance before none other than Rasmus Højlund finally scored his first Premier League goal to put the club in front.
#1 – Evans needed more than expected
Jonny Evans was signed for Manchester United as an emergency fifth-choice centre-back under Erik ten Hag, but injuries have caused him to play more than expected.
With the Irish veteran starting against Villa, he has now made as many appearances for United this season as he did with Leicester City last campaign, which shows just how much Ten Hag has suffered with injuries.
United have been so leaky with goals, and having a 35-year-old central defender starting twice a week will play a part in that, as it will be becoming harder and harder for the player to play at 100%.
#2 – Set pieces still the crux
Villa’s two goals in the first half both came through clear set-piece tactics which completely threw United and left them exposed.
The first, with Bailey standing offside next to Onana, confused players to the point where McGinn’s free-kick was allowed to sneak past everyone after landing in a very awkward zone.
The second was a simple run at the back post for the corner, once again completely throwing United players in the box and leading to Dendonker knocking the ball in from close range.
#3 – only kicked in after 2-0 down
United only kicked into gear once they went 2-0 down, which is two goals too late, especially when you consider their perilous position both in the table and inside the club.
Some United players are playing for their futures here, with Sir Jim Ratcliffe and INEOS looking to start a completely new era at Old Trafford – and players who don’t look up to scratch will probably be sent down the road.
Ultimately the performance was enough with one of the most Manchester United-style comebacks Old Trafford has seen, but the start is still a serious cause for concern.
#4 – Garnacho’s relentlessness prevails
One piece of praise that always applies to Garnacho is his relentlessness – he plays football at 100 mph, and he never stops regardless of how well or badly the game is going for him.
This applies perfectly to his goal. Where some players may be disheartened by his initial finish being ruled out for offside, but this did nothing for the young winger, who was able to slot in his goal ten minutes later.
Across the whole game, Garnacho was looking to either pass or drive forward and keep the momentum up, leading to his second of the night to put United level at Old Trafford with 20 minutes to play.
#5 – Rasmus Højlund, FINALLY!
United’s final game of 2023 at Old Trafford saw Rasmus Højlund net his first-ever Premier League goal on his 15th appearance in the competition.
It has been one of the biggest talking points this season after the player signed for £72 million in the summer, and despite his Champions League fruits, it has not been working in the domestic competitions so far.
Hopefully, this result can ease pressure and let Højlund play the game he is clearly so good at, with more goals to come in 2024.
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