Erik ten Hag expects Rasmus Hojlund to keep scoring after Manchester United’s £72million man finally broke his Premier League duck to seal a stunning 3-2 comeback win over Aston Villa.
United looked destined for a 14th defeat of the season in all competitions when Aston Villa scored twice in the space of six first-half minutes through John McGinn and Leander Dendoncker to take a 2-0 lead in at half-time as boos rang around Old Trafford at the break.
But with INEOS director of sport Sir Dave Brailsford watching on after Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s minority stake-holding was confirmed, United rallied in the second half with Alejandro Garnacho scoring twice before Hojlund won it in the 82nd minute.
Although the summer signing from Atalanta finished as United’s top-scorer in their short-lived Champions League campaign, he had failed to find the net in 16 matches in domestic competition, but made no mistake when McGinn could only flick the ball into his path eight minutes from time.
“Of course I’ve had several talks with him and every time I’ve pointed out he has scored for Denmark a lot, he has scored in the Champions League, he has demonstrated his ability so you can do it, believe,” Ten Hag said of the 20-year-old Dane.
“I’m sure now he has the first goal he will score more…
“When a striker doesn’t score it’s a problem but he has a strong character, he is so solid, determined. He has a big personality. I think this is what a striker needs. When you keep investing, the goals will come.”
Brailsford’s presence came two days after Ratcliffe’s purchase of a 25 per cent stake in the club – which will come with control of footballing operations – was announced subject to ratification by the Premier League.
The former British Cycling boss would have been worried by how easily Villa scored their goals. McGinn’s free-kick from wide bounced through a crowded box before Dendoncker was left almost unmarked to flick home from a corner.
But asked if Brailsford had seen both the best and worst of his United side, Ten Hag said: “It wasn’t the worst. I think already in the first half we played solidly. It was a little bit slopping to give two goals away but after we changed the pressing slightly and we kept going.
“Already we created chances in the first half, we kept believing in ourselves and that is what I demand. I said at half-time, keep believing and we will win this game.”
Victory would have taken Villa level on points with leaders Liverpool, but despite the disappointment Unai Emery said his side had learned important lessons as they try to mix it with more established sides at the top end of the table.
“We are disappointed after the first half, the first 60 minutes in control of the game and how we conceded the (first) goal with a mistake in the middle,” he said.
“After that the atmosphere was so much better for them, pushing them, they go up and even then we reacted with good chances for John McGinn and Leon Bailey.
“That was the key moment because Manchester United at home, with the players they have and even in the moment they are in, they are not taking the point.
“We have to understand overall the first half of the season we are doing. It has been fantastic, but it could be better.”