Massive Turn-Around At Old Trafford As Hojlund First EPL Goal, Garnacho’s Brace Seal United Comeback

Femi Onasanya By Femi Onasanya - Sports Reporter
6 Min Read

Manchester United overcame a two-goal deficit to upset Aston Villa 3-2 in a thrilling Premier League Boxing Day match that saw Rasmus Hojlund score his first goal in the league on his fifteenth try.

Before Hojlund completed an incredible comeback with his first goal in England’s top flight, Alejandro Garnacho brilliantly braced the hosts back into the game as the title-chasing Lions let up. First-half goals from John McGinn and Leander Dendoncker appeared to prolong the Red Devils’ festive misery.

The main team news out of the Manchester United camp was the recall of Marcus Rashford and Christian Eriksen, while Diego Carlos was added back to the Villa starting lineup in lieu of the suspended Matty Cash.

Ineos director of sport Sir Dave Brailsford was at Old Trafford after it was confirmed that Sir Jim Ratcliffe had purchased a quarter of the team, but he was a sullen figure as Erik ten Hag’s team put on another unsettling first-half performance.

A cagey start to the game saw neither team really take the other by storm, but in the 22nd minute, McGinn’s set piece, when he placed the ball on the left side of the goal rather far from the goal, destroyed the Red Devils.

Man United’s attempts to claim offside against Ollie Watkins, who attempted to get a nick on the ball but was unable to do so, were denied as the Scotsman’s inswinging delivery went past everyone, bounced once, tricked Andre Onana, and nestled into the side of the net.

If Villa’s first goal put Manchester United’s defence in doubt, their efforts to stop Unai Emery’s team from doubling their lead five minutes later were appalling. Clement Lenglet nodded a McGinn corner back into the mix, and Dendoncker was left unmarked to expertly flick the ball home with a backheel volley.

There were three Manchester United bodies on the line, but not one of them was picking up Dendoncker, and soon Ten Hag’s aimless side was met with a symphony of boos.

In the last moments of the first half, Manchester United began to press the matter harder after being finally roused from their stupor. Marcus Rashford’s effort straight at Emiliano Martinez in the 32nd minute was the first.

The majority of the hosts’ forward raids, though, were thwarted by a poor last pass or by Villa’s high line catching the Red Devils’ attackers offside. In added time, Rashford finally managed to get free down the left, but he sliced his close-range attempt wide.

The Red Devils continued to dominate as the second half began, and they believed that the lead had been halved when Garnacho converted into an empty net after Manchester United skillfully played out from the back in the 48th minute.

But it only took a further eleven minutes for the identical combination to provide the same outcome, and this time there was no stopping Garnacho’s goal. Rashford set up the 19-year-old for a first-time finish across goal that brought the home team back into the contest.

Manchester United had been without a goal for seven hours since their 2-1 victory over Chelsea twenty days prior. Lucas Digne hurt himself trying to break the run, but Garnacho’s response put an end to it. However, a minute after the restart, Onana had to use strength to stop Leon Bailey from giving the Lions their two-goal lead again.

Overall, though, Emery’s club was a shell of its former self, and the Red Devils rallied to tie the score in the 71st minute when Garnacho scored his second goal of the game in a fortunate situation.

Lenglet’s toe was nicked by a low cross from Bruno Fernandes on the right side, setting up Garnacho for a centre shot. Garnacho’s strike also caused a major deflection off of Carlos to fool a diving Martinez.

Once more, Villa’s response to the Argentine’s goal was surprisingly brief. In the 72nd minute, McGinn found himself with time and space to shoot goal-bound, but Jonny Evans hacked it clear.

After failing to handle two crosses that resulted in Villa’s two goals in the first half, Ten Hag’s team quickly started to splutter again, and Manchester United completed an incredible comeback with a set-piece of their own.

The damage was caused by another Fernandes delivery from the right; the Portuguese’s corner ricocheted off McGinn’s knee and found its way to Hojlund, who responded brilliantly to side-foot a volley into the net via the post for his first Premier League goal.

Man United’s last game of a wild 2023 is this Saturday away to Nottingham Forest, while Villa’s last game of the year is at home against Burnley on December 30.

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By Femi Onasanya Sports Reporter
Femi is a sport enthusiast, writer and commentator. Passionate about Sports and physical therapy with a flair for writing.