Marcus Rashford made way for Scott McTominay in what was anything but a straight swap for Man Utd against Aston Villa.
Manchester United wanted to maximise Alejandro Garnacho’s threat on the inside as part of their tactical reshuffle that contributed to Scott McTominay’s winning goal against Aston Villa. McTominay replaced Marcus Rashford in the 73rd minute and rose to nod in the winning goal 13 minutes later and secure United’s fourth successive win.
The choice of midfielder to replace a winger potentially signalled a pragmatic shift from manager Erik ten Hag but McTominay played behind striker Rasmus Hojlund as Bruno Fernandes moved to the right-hand side and Garnacho switched to the left wing.
“Alejandro from the right was playing a lot inside, which was part of our plan,” Ten Hag explained. “So Bruno can do that role very good, it fits to his abilities. He can also do the defending work, we know he has a good partnership with Diogo and Kobbie as well.
“With Scott, you bring fresh legs, energy in the pressing, in the defending part but one who can mark the box and score a goal.”
United’s victory marked their first away win at a top-eight Premier League team since October 2021. United are already two away wins shy of the eight they totalled last season though the manner of their triumph at Villa was fortuitous.
Villa had 10 attempts on target to United’s five and Andre Onana’s goal led a charmed life before Douglas Luiz equalised in the 66th minute.
“We looked at it, we could have done more like we pressed in the first 20 minutes and by making better decisions on the ball,” Ten Hag acknowledged. “We went in every situation for goal, instead of keeping the ball.
“We are 1-0 up and when you can’t go for goal, recognise the situation, make decisions, keep the ball, drag them out and find the right moment to speed up. Clever players, they read the game.”
Ten Hag has stressed time and again United are capable of beating any opponent and he referred to their performances in the 3-1 away defeat at Arsenal in September and the goalless draw with Liverpool at Anfield in December.
“We can beat any opponent away or home but sometimes away we have to believe it more,” he added, “because we could have won in Arsenal, where we deserved to win.
“We could have won in Liverpool, it is about belief and this team today believed they could win this game and that’s why in the end we win this game.”