It was a tale of two halves as Manchester United came from two goals down to beat Aston Villa 3-2 in the Premier League on Boxing Day.
Man Utd were undone by two set pieces in the first half with John McGinn scoring from a free-kick out wide before Leander Dendoncker made it two from a corner.
The Red Devils thought they had pulled one back shortly after half time but Alejandro Garnacho’s effort was ruled out for offside. However, Garnacho did get his goal just before the hour mark and then added another to pull Man Utd level. And then came the moment for Rasmus Hojlund, scoring his first Premier League goal to win the game for Man Utd.
Here’s how the players rated at Old Trafford:
◎ HT: Man Utd 0-2 Aston Villa
◉ FT: Man Utd 3-2 Aston Villa
Unai Emery's side had won all 12 previous Premier League games this season in which they had taken the lead.
Rasmus Højlund stole all three. pic.twitter.com/LkWOACZ6J2
— Squawka Live (@Squawka_Live) December 26, 2023
Andre Onana – 6 – It appears Onana may have been put off by the presence of Bailey in the set piece for the opening goal, perhaps affected by the Jamaican’s whispers before he ran off. He was left flatfooted as the ball went into the net, which was also the case for the second. Produced a good save on Bailey in the second half but wasn’t really worked other than that.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka – 8 – Excellent up against Ramsey on the right, defending well in the one-on-ones despite not having the best support from his winger.
Raphael Varane – 7 – Dealt with what was thrown at him and kept Watkins quiet but he was one of the defenders standing still for the second goal.
Jonny Evans – 7 – Good defending to help out Dalot after a mistake, but seemed caught unawares as Dendocker moved in front of him. Worked well with Varane to render Watkins ineffective and produced a great block on the line when McGinn looked ready to put Villa 3-2 up.
Diogo Dalot – 8 – Gave an opportunity to Villa with a poor pass, but recovered from that defensively. Got forward quite a bit and was involved in the build up to Garnacho’s disallowed strike, truly thriving in the second half.
Kobbie Mainoo – 7 – Looks like he was the want meant to mark Lenglet for the second goal but he got caught in the crowd trying to follow him. Did look more comfortable in open play, helping Man Utd fight the midfield battle.
Christian Eriksen – 7 – Messed up a fast Man Utd counter with a mis-touch early on but brought out a few good passes as the Red Devils tried to get back into things after going 2-0 down. He helped to control the midfield in the second half.
Marcus Rashford – 8 – Made some good runs off the ball in the first half, but there were signs of frustration showing when it didn’t work out. Forced Martinez into a good save with a quick driven effort, but blasted one well wide from an angle. Great first-time pass to Garnacho, who had just strayed offside. There was another pass to Garnacho that did lead to a goal, right into his feet, and he really trouble Villa in the second half. This was a positive step.
Bruno Fernandes – 8 – Defended well from open play, sitting just in front of the back four at times, but his midfield influence was missed early on. Fluffed a shot having been played through by a great pass from Eriksen, though he did step things up when Man Utd went 2-0 down, producing some good passes and attacking movements. It was his pass into Rashford that put Man Utd on the attack for their disallowed goal. He was involved again when Man Utd did score, robbing the ball from Luiz before passing into Rashford. When he wants to play he can do great things.
Alejandro Garnacho – 9 – Started well with his direct running including in the quick break that Eriksen ended, but he was quiet for a period and messed up a break of his own with a poor pass. As Man Utd turned things up he got more involved, and he ran the attack in the second half. Good finish in the early stages of the second half, calmly taking the ball around his compatriot Martinez, but he had just mistimed his run. He then timed his run perfectly to pull one back and got the equaliser too after really positive attacking play. He lifted the mood at Old Trafford.
Man Utd have scored for the first time in 451 minutes of football across all competitions.
— Squawka Live (@Squawka_Live) December 26, 2023
Rasmus Hojlund – 7 – He was playing without confidence in the first half and you could tell, not attempting a first-time effort when the ball was played into him, and looking weak in trying to hold the ball up at times. Good link up with Fernandes in build up to Man Utd’s disallowed goal which appeared to boost him and he got more involved. And he finally got his first Premier League goal, reacting quick to the ball rebounding to him – he took that one first time. “I’m the happiest man alive right now, you can see on the celebrations as well,” he told Amazon Prime Sport.
Antony (for Rashford 81) – N/A – A late sub.
Scott McTominay (for Mainoo 81) – N/A – A late sub.
Willy Kambwala (for Hojlund 89) – N/A – A late sub.
Dan Gore (for Eriksen 90) – N/A – A late sub.
Hannibal Mejbri (for Garnacho 90) – N/A – A late sub.
Emiliano Martinez – 6 – Didn’t give Man Utd any hopes of scoring in the first half but was sold the dummy by Garnacho for the disallowed goal. Played the sweeper keeper role, including when he clattered Rashford outside the box (having very clearly got the ball first). Well beaten by Garnacho twice for actual goals as well as the Hojlund winner.
Ezri Konsa – 4 – Shifted out at left-back in the absence of Matty Cash, Konsa was clearly targeted by the Man Utd attack and they had luck down his flank, often leaving spaces. He struggled as Man Utd found their confidence.
Diego Carlos – 3 – Sometimes pushed into midfield to defend high and did his job well in the first half, but his pass to Luiz was a little weak to set up the turnover for Man Utd’s first goal. Was also lucky to be saved by the offside flag having struggled to deal with Hojlund, bringing him down in the box and then deflected the ball past Martinez for the equaliser.
Clement Lenglet – 6 – He was the man to try and break the Man Utd lines from deeper with his passing, and he showed a good range. It was also his wonderful run and header at the back post that set up Dendoncker’s goal. Was just overrun in the second half.
Lucas Digne – 6 – Did okay up against Garnacho but had to come off injured having tried to defend the Argentinian’s goal that was eventually disallowed.
Leon Bailey – 6 – Enjoyed himself against Dalot on Villa’s right in the first half and must have said something to Onana that put the goalkeeper off for the opener. But he was virtually non-existent after the break before coming off.
Leander Dendoncker – 6 – Showed great reflexes to flick a boot for second, and looked decent in that midfield protector role in the first half. But like the rest of his team, he struggled in the second half.
Douglas Luiz – 4 – Slow on the ball and unaware of Fernandes in the move that led to Man Utd’s first goal. This was a bit of a poor showing from the Brazilian who has gained a lot of fans for his performances.
Jacob Ramsey – 5 – Up against Wan-Bissaka he looked good in the early stages but was well-matched for most of the game, struggling to get involved.
John McGinn – 7 – Brought two Villa goals with excellent set piece delivery. The first evaded everyone and went into the back of the net for his goal, before beating all the defenders to the back post for Lenglet to set up the second. He was the unfortunate one to rebound the ball to Hojlund for the winner, and didn’t help in open play in the second half.
Ollie Watkins – 4 – If you missed the starting XIs, you could have been forgiven for thinking Watkins was rested, because he really wasn’t involved. It’s not that he was bad, it’s that there was no service to him, and he was marked expertly by Varane and Evans.
Alex Moreno (for Digne 50) – 3 – He seriously struggled against Garnacho, allowing the Argentinian to flex his muscles and dominate.
Moussa Diaby (for Ramsey 78) – 5 – Managed to get one run in but couldn’t bring Villa back.
Nicolo Zaniolo (for Bailey 78) – 5 – Unable to turn the tide.
Tim Iroegbunam (for Dendoncker 86) – N/A – A late sub.
Jhon Duran (for McGinn 86) – N/A – A late sub.