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Aston Villa 1-2 Manchester United

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Aston Villa 1-2 Manchester United

Aston Villa 1-2 Manchester United. Scott McTominay’s 86th-minute header gave Manchester United a priceless victory at Aston Villa as they fight for Champions League qualification.

United appeared to be clinging on for a point as Villa created a succession of chances after Douglas Luiz cancelled out Rasmus Hojlund’s first-half strike.

But McTominay settled a thrilling contest when he got in front of Matty Cash and rose to meet Diogo Dalot’s right-wing cross.

United manager Erik ten Hag punched the air in delight as his side moved to within five points of their hosts, who remain fifth, and six adrift of Tottenham.

It was the Red Devils’ fourth successive victory in all competitions – their best run of the season.

The result was harsh on Villa, though. They were thwarted on numerous occasions by United keeper Andre Onana, and despite the urgings of the home support were unable to draw level a second time.

In the high-ability world of elite sport, confidence plays such a key part.

When Hojlund lined up for the reverse fixture between these sides on 26 December, he was yet to score a league goal and his overall contribution was coming under major scrutiny.

Wind the clock forward seven weeks and the 21-year-old is the second youngest player in Premier League history to have scored in five successive games, behind only Nicolas Anelka.

The Dane had already passed up one opportunity, created for him by Alejandro Garnacho, when he was given another by Harry Maguire.

The finish was not a tricky one, with Hojlund unmarked and only six yards out. But he needed a striker’s instinct to be in position to take advantage of Ollie Watkins’ failure to react to the possibility of Maguire heading Bruno Fernandes deep corner into the danger zone.

Hojlund now has 11 goals in all competitions and is on the kind of run Marcus Rashford was last season as he propelled United towards the top four.

After they dropped so many needless points over the first half of the campaign, it is going to take more than a single striker to steer them into next season’s Champions League.

McTominay is certainly doing his bit. Two goals to turn what seemed like a defeat against Brentford on its head, two more – including the winner – against Chelsea, and now this.

The Scotland midfielder had all the desire needed to dominate Cash in their aerial duel. Villa boss Unai Emery’s look of despair as the ball flew past Emi Martinez and into the roof of the net said everything about the importance of the goal.

With just over 20 minutes to go, as the visitors got themselves into a tangle trying to play out from the back, Watkins set off on a sprint as the ball rolled back to Onana. As the United keeper deliberated, Watkins closed in. Onana hurriedly tried to clear, Watkins blocked it and the ball rolled out for a goal-kick. The Holte End erupted.

In terms of the actual game, it was a footnote, but the action and response to it said everything about the desire of the Villa players and their connection with the fans. That has not always been a given in recent times but the supporters are understandably responding positively to the team Emery has assembled.

Such has been United’s dominance in recent meetings between the sides, Villa were attempting to record successive home league victories against them for the first time since 1977.

Had Cameroon reached the Africa Cup of Nations semi-finals, and thus denied the visitors of Onana, they might well have got it. At times, it felt like he was a one-man blockade.

John McGinn thought his vicious 20-yard effort was going in but Onana managed to tip it over the bar. Minutes later, the Villa skipper played Watkins in only for the goalkeeper to advance smartly to block at close range.

Leon Bailey thought he had left Jacob Ramsey with only Onana to beat inside the box but somehow the youngster could not collect the pass and the ball rolled through to the United keeper. Onana even denied Clement Lenglet with a magnificent reaction save in the moments before Luiz finally found the target with an instinctive close-range effort.

At that point it seemed if anyone was going to win, it would be Villa.

But McTominay provided a sickening conclusion from their perspective. They have slipped out of the top four, and three home defeats in a row show Villa Park is no longer the fortress it has been for most of this season.

The fans are still with their team, though. And that could take them a long way.

source – BBC

English Premier League

Luton Town 1-2 Manchester United

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Luton Town 1-2 Manchester United

Luton Town 1-2 Manchester United. Rasmus Hojlund scored for the sixth successive Premier League game as Manchester United survived a Luton Town display of fierce determination to stay in contention for the top four with victory at Kenilworth Road.

United’s £72m summer signing from Atalanta has hit a red-hot streak after early struggles in front of goal and scored twice in the first seven minutes to set up a fourth successive league win for Erik ten Hag’s side.

The 21-year-old pounced on Amari’i Bell’s error after only 37 seconds to round keeper Thomas Kaminski and score, adding a second in the seventh minute, instinctively diverting Alejandro Garnacho’s shot into the net.

Luton Town, in an uproarious atmosphere, responded with defiance and character, Carlton Morris swiftly giving the Hatters hope with a header as United struggled to cope with the intensity of the home side, especially in the opening half.

United lost defender Luke Shaw to injury before the interval, while Harry Maguire and Casemiro also went off at the break, but for all Luton’s second-half endeavour it was the visitors who created the better chances, Kaminski denying Garnacho, Bruno Fernandes, Rashford, and a Hojlund hat-trick.

However, there was one more nervous moment for the visitors in stoppage time when Ross Barkley’s glancing header clipped the top of the crossbar.

The win means United are now only five points behind fourth-placed Aston Villa.

United needed leaders to see them through an encounter that became an ordeal for long spells, especially in the opening half, and they emerged from unlikely sources as another important three points were secured.

While experienced players such as Casemiro, so lucky to avoid a second yellow card, Maguire and Raphael Varane struggled and were exposed by the sheer energy of Luton’s approach, it was match-winner Hojlund and outstanding 18-year-old Kobbie Mainoo who stepped up.

Hojlund has really come to the fore in recent weeks, now getting the goals all his hard work – even early in the season when they were in short supply – deserve, his first a composed piece of work and his second quick thinking as United established early control.

The Denmark forward showed commendable hold-up play, a willingness to engage in the physical exchanges with Luton’s defence, and was only denied a treble by Kaminski’s block before he departed to a standing ovation from United’s away support.

Mainoo, meanwhile, rose above the blood and thunder with rare composure for one so young. United have a gem on their hands.

The visitors improved after the break and even though Luton pressed, they were the more dangerous side, Kaminski and Albert Sambi Lokonga denying Rashford before a combination of the goalkeeper and Bell thwarted Garnacho.

In the end, Hojlund’s early goals were enough as United extended their winning run.

Luton lost another home game to one of the Premier League’s big guns but once again more illustrious visitors to Kenilworth Road were made to fight every inch of the way.

United joined Manchester City and Arsenal in chalking up a narrow wins while Liverpool were held to a draw – and it is no surprise when Luton’s approach in this wonderfully hostile environment is taken into account.

The Hatters could have been forgiven for thinking their day was done when they conceded two goals in only seven minutes but, galvanised by the home support, Rob Edwards’ side responded superbly and were right back in it after Morris’ goal.

The reborn Barkley prompted from midfield with confidence while Lokonga was one of the game’s outstanding performers.

Luton faded after the break but showed enough to suggest they can make a real fight of things before the relegation places are decided, the standing ovation at the final whistle merited for their efforts.

Barkley almost snatched a point when his header glanced off the bar in the closing seconds but it was not to be for battling Luton.

source – BBC

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English Premier League

Sheffield United 0-5 Brighton

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Sheffield United 0-5 Brighton

Sheffield United 0-5 Brighton. Brighton thrashed 10-man Sheffield United, who stayed bottom of the Premier League and conceded five goals at home for the third consecutive game.

The game swung in the 12th minute when United’s Mason Holgate caught Kaoru Mitoma in midfield with a horrific challenge just below the knee.

The Everton loanee was shown a yellow card, but the decision was upgraded to a red after intervention from the video assistant referee (VAR).

Against 10 men, Brighton attacked at will, taking the lead through Facundo Buonanotte, who bundled in a corner.

Danny Welbeck doubled the advantage, firing in a rebound after keeper Wes Foderingham denied Mitoma.

The hosts thought they had pulled a goal back just before the break through Ben Osborn, but his hooked volley has ruled out for offside.

Brighton got a deserved third midway through the second half when United defender Jack Robinson diverted Mitoma’s cross into his own net.

Simon Adingra added two late goals, burying Pascal Gross’ cutback and benefiting from a looping deflection.

Sunday’s victory was only Brighton’s second in the league in 2024, although they have won twice in the FA Cup, including a 5-2 triumph over United at Bramall Lane in the fourth round.

Even before Holgate’s sending-off Roberto de Zerbi’s side were routinely carving forward.

Adingra, back from winning the Africa Cup of Nations with Ivory Coast, had a cross deflected off Anel Ahmedhodzic and narrowly kept out by a diving Foderingham.

At 2-0, Yasser Larouci twice cleared off the line for United, denying Mitoma and Gross from close range. Foderingham also smartly kept out Welbeck and Mitoma either side of half-time.

Brighton’s win is their biggest away from home in the top flight, and they have scored four or more goals seven times in all competitions this season.

Seventh-placed Brighton face teams from the bottom half of the table in their next five games.

They host Everton on Saturday, a game De Zerbi will expect to win.

source – BBC

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English Premier League

Manchester City 1-1 Chelsea

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Manchester City 1-1 Chelsea

Manchester City 1-1 Chelsea. Rodri dramatically rescued a point with a late leveller for Manchester City to deny Chelsea victory and maintain his side’s long unbeaten home record.

City still lost ground in the title race after seeing Liverpool and Arsenal both post emphatic wins earlier on Saturday, but this has to go down as a point gained given how close they came to defeat.

Raheem Sterling had given Chelsea the lead just before half-time, finishing off a brilliant counter-attack by meeting Nicolas Jackson’s cross, cutting inside Kyle Walker and curling his shot home.

The visitors looked threatening on the break all game, with Jackson earlier spurning an even better chance from Malo Gusto’s cross when a heavy touch allowed Ederson to smother his shot, and City’s keeper also denied Sterling a second from point-blank range.

City were racking up the chances too, but seemed unable to take any of them, or even seriously test Chelsea goalkeeper Dorde Petrovic despite piling on the pressure in the second half.

Erling Haaland was the main culprit, with his worst miss coming when he somehow headed wide from a delicious Kevin de Bruyne cross.

The defending champions were facing their first home league defeat since November 2022, until Rodri struck with seven minutes to go.

After Walker’s shot was deflected into his path on the edge of the box, Rodri fired in a ferocious first-time strike that was going in anyway but took a touch off Chelsea substitute Trevoh Chalobah on its way into the net.

The draw sees City drop to third in the table, four points behind leaders Liverpool but with a game in hand – they can close the gap, and leapfrog second-placed Arsenal, if they beat Brentford here on Tuesday.

Chelsea, who were minutes away from a third successive away win, stay 10th, but head to Wembley for next weekend’s Carabao Cup final on the back of one of their best displays of an erratic campaign.

source – BBC

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