Scott McTominay kept Manchester United's hopes of finishing in the top four of the Premier League alive as the midfielder's late goal sealed a crucial 2-1 win over Aston Villa on Sunday. Erik 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 Hojlund before Douglas Luiz leveled in the second half. That set the stage for United's second late winner against Villa this season, when 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 Villa in fifth and six points behind Tottenham in fourth.
Although a top four finish is still a tough ask for United, they have at least given themselves a chance with their great success in the West Midlands.
Significantly, they are finally flourishing in attack after failing for much of the campaign.
Hojlund's winner against Villa on Boxing Day has kicked off a run of six goals in seven games for the Danish striker.
Having failed to score in any of his first 14 games in the Premier League, the 21-year-old has become the second-youngest player to score in five consecutive games in the competition, after Nicolas Anelka for Arsenal in 1998.
Hojlund now has 11 goals in 29 games in all competitions in his debut season after signing for Atalanta.
Inspired by the dazzling form of Hojlund and Alejandro Garnacho, United had scored 15 goals in their previous five games in all competitions.
Garnacho was inches away from an early opener with a long-range drive that whistled past the post.
Villa ignored the warning and Hojlund made them pay in the 17th minute.
Bruno Fernandes' corner was headed under by Harry Maguire and Hojlund narrowly pushed offside past Villa keeper Emiliano Martinez from six yards.
Villa responded strongly when John McGinn's powerful strike drew a fine save from Andre Onana.
Ollie Watkins squandered a golden opportunity to equalize when he raced onto McGinn's pass but shot straight at Onana.
Villa kept coming and Jacob Ramsey was narrowly off target with a curler after bursting into the United area.
McGinn almost beat Onana with a clever free-kick, forcing the United keeper to save at his near post.
United are unbeaten in their last 141 Premier League matches when leading at half-time, dating back to 2014.
Victor Lindelof replaced Luke Shaw at United's left-back during the break and Villa immediately attacked the out-of-position Swede.
Onana kept United ahead with an instinctive save to deny Watkins' close-range shot from Matty Cash's low cross.
Ramsey's poor touch left a golden chance for a Villa equalizer to beg for after Leon Bailey's pass split the United defense.
Fernandes should have done better than smashing wildly over Garnacho's cutback.
It turned out to be a crucial miss, as Villa rightly equalized in the 67th minute.
United failed to convert a corner and when Onana saved Clement Lenglet's short tap, Raphael Varane could only slide the ball towards Bailey.
The Villa striker collected a perfect pass to Luiz and the Brazilian struck the ball from five yards before flamboyantly celebrating for Onana.
Garnacho almost restored United's lead with an excellent run and strike, but Martinez made a full-force save.
Onana got a measure of revenge for Luiz's provocative celebration when he saved the midfielder's well-worn effort.
And United grabbed three priceless points in the 86th minute when McTominay rose highest to meet Diogo Dalot's cross with a thundering header that flashed past Martinez.
(This story has not been edited by DailyExpertNews staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)
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