Marcus Rashford’s influence increased in Manchester United’s triumph over Aston Villa.


Manchestereveningnews earlier reporter on Thursday that Manchester United battled their way to a vital win against Aston Villa, keeping their chances of qualifying for the Champions League alive. While the home side were on top for much of the encounter, it was United who found a way to take the three points.

The young Danish striker Rasmus Hojlund was on hand to slide home Harry Maguire’s nod-back from a corner and give United an early lead, with Andre Onana keeping the Villans out with some good saves.

However, ater Luke Shaw was taken off at half-time – as a precaution according to Erik ten Hag – Villa kept up the pressure in the second half and eventually drew level through Douglas Luiz. But Diogo Dalot’s superb cross was powerfully headed in by substitute Scott McTominay with just a few minutes remaining to settle the match.

United change confirms pecking order

It was certain Manchester United would make one change for their trip to Villa Park; the only question was who would come into the side for the injured Lisandro Martinez. Raphael Varane was overlooked earlier in the campaign in favour of players better suited to playing on the left side of defence. The solution was to play Harry Maguire there instead.

Varane is still a world-class defender, though it is clear he is on the decline. The best ability is availability, and Varane is still unable to play two games in a week. That won’t be such a problem for the rest of the season, but it is clearly a concern with regard to his long-term future.

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The Rashford powershift grew

It sums up the infuriating enigma of Marcus Rashford that he can be United’s biggest threat and biggest liability at the same time. The 26-year-old looked like he was going to make something happen every time he got on the ball at Villa Park, yet he ended the game without having anything to show for it.

Rashford had Matty Cash stumbling like he was leaving a Dublin nightclub whenever he ran at him down the left wing, but this was another night in which his decision-making and end product let him down.

On countless occasions, he exploited the space he created himself between centre-back and full-back, and on countless occasions, he overran the ball or played it when the momentum was already gone.

At his best, Rashford is still one of the Premier League’s top players, but Ten Hag still has a challenge on his hands if he is to utilise him as part of the functional forward line and not as a one-man army.

The fact that he was the one brought off while Alejandro Garancho stayed on highlighted the power shift that has already taken place. The fact that his replacement netted the winner didn’t help his cause either.

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