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Alejandro Garnacho inspires Boxing Day comeback win for United

Alejandro Garnacho for Manchester United
Alejandro Garnacho with a brace extends Erik Ten Hag lifeline as United boss amid mounting scrutiny.

In a game of two halves, Manchester United came from two goals down to secure a 3-2 win against Aston Villa, extending the Red Devils’ unbeaten run at Old Trafford on Boxing Day to 20 matches (W17, D3).

Having never won in six visits to Old Trafford, Unai Emery had arguably his best chance so far to break that duck with his high-flying Aston Villa side, and after a 50-50 start, the Midlands outfit were gifted the opening goal. Midway through the half, John McGinn’s free-kick into the box was crying out for a Villa player to get on the end of it, but in bizarre circumstances, neither Villa nor United players got a touch and it nestled in the back of the net.

A theme of Erik ten Hag’s United side this season has been conceding twice in quick succession, having done so in their losses against West Ham United and Bournemouth earlier this month.

That theme continued as McGinn swung a corner into the box, but this time Clément Lenglet was unmarked at the back post to head it into the six-yard box where Leander Dendoncker flicked it in to give Villa a two-goal lead.

United responded well after the double blow, but a Marcus Rashford shot that was comfortably beaten away by Emiliano Martínez was the closest they came in a disappointing first half for the Red Devils, causing boos to ring around Old Trafford at HT.

Ten Hag would no doubt have demanded a response from his United players during the break and they almost immediately pulled a goal back, or so they thought.

A quick counterattack saw Rashford break through the lines and square it to Alejandro Garnacho, who ran through on goal, rounded Martínez, and squeezed the ball in. Yet after a lengthy VAR review, the goal was chalked off for a narrow offside call.

United continued to produce chances and managed to pull a goal back just before the hour mark. Bruno Fernandes won the ball on the halfway line and released Rashford, whose ball across the face of goal was tapped in by Garnacho. The Argentine then had the ball in the back of the net for a third time in the evening, 10 minutes later, this time, pouncing on a loose ball to draw level and set up a tense final 20 minutes.

The Red Devils continued to probe and a Fernandes corner into the box deflected off a Villa player and sat up for Rasmus Højlund to volley home and send Old Trafford into raptures – marking his first-ever Premier League goal.

The Danish international’s first league strike was the winning goal for United, relieving mounting pressure on Ten Hag before they come up against Nottingham Forest on Saturday. Meanwhile, Emery will be disappointed in his Villa side after letting a two-goal lead slip as they prepare for a return to Villa Park to host Burnley on the same day.

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