Scott McTominay kept Manchester United's hopes of finishing in the Premier League top four alive as the midfielder's late goal secured a vital 2-1 win against Aston Villa on Sunday. Eric ten Hag's side desperately needed a win at Villa Park to close the gap in the race to qualify for next season's Champions League. United took an early lead through the in-form Rasmus Hjolund before Douglas Luiz equalized in the second half. This set the stage for United's second late winner against Villa this season as McTominay came off the bench to head home with just four minutes remaining.
United remain in sixth place after their fourth consecutive win in all competitions, but they are now just five points behind fifth-placed Villa and six behind fourth-placed Tottenham.
While it is still a tough challenge for United to finish in the top four, they have at least given themselves a chance with their serious success in the West Midlands.
The important thing is that after failing in most of the operations, they are finally succeeding in the attack.
Hjolund's winner against Villa on Boxing Day started a run of six goals in seven matches for the Denmark striker.
After failing to score in any of his first 14 matches in the Premier League, the 21-year-old has become the second youngest player to score in five consecutive matches in the competition after Nicolas Anelka for Arsenal in 1998 .
Höglund now has 11 goals in 29 matches in all competitions in his first season since signing from Atalanta.
Inspired by the excellent form of Hjönlund and Alejandro Garnacho, United had scored 15 goals in their last five games in all competitions.
Garnacho was inches away from the early opener with a long-range drive that hit the post.
Villa failed to heed the warning and Hjolund made them pay in the 17th minute.
Bruno Fernandes's corner was headed down by Harry Maguire and Hjolund was barely onside and calmly fired past Villa keeper Emiliano Martínez from six yards.
Villa responded strongly as John McGinn's powerful blast drew a good save from Andre Onana.
Ollie Watkins missed a golden opportunity to equalize when he ran onto McGinn's pass and fired straight at Onana.
Villa kept coming and Jacob Ramsey was wide of the target with a curler after progressing into the United area.
McGinn almost caught Onana with a clever free-kick, which the United keeper struggled to save at his near post.
United had led at half-time in their last 141 Premier League matches since 2014 and were unbeaten.
Victor Lindelof replaced Luke Shaw at left-back for United at the interval and Villa immediately attacked the out-of-favour Swede.
Onana put United ahead with a comfortable save to block Watkins' close-range shot from Matty Cash's low cross.
Ramsey's poor touch after Leon Bailey's pass split the United defense left a golden opportunity begging for a Villa equaliser.
Fernandes should have done better by wildly hitting Garnacho's cutback.
This proved to be a crucial miss as Villa scored the equalizer in the 67th minute.
United failed to deal with a corner and when Onana saved Clement Lenglet's close-range flick, Raphael Varane could only lob the ball past Bailly.
The Villa forward played a perfect pass to Luiz and the Brazilian fired wide from five yards before celebrating brilliantly past Onana.
Garnacho almost restored United's lead with a brilliant run and strike, but Martínez made a strong save.
Onana got some revenge for Luiz's wild celebration when he saved the midfielder's poor effort.
And United snatched three invaluable points in the 86th minute when McTominay jumped highest to meet Diogo Delot's cross, who headed past Martínez with a thunderous header.
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