Date: 13th February 2024 at 11:57am
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Manchester United’s win at Villa Park on Sunday finally ended a run of failing to beat the top eight teams away from Old Trafford that stretched back over two years.

Scott McTominay’s winner may have done more than just end an unwanted statistic it also gave Erik ten Hag’s side a much-needed lifeline in their bid to take part in next season’s Champions League.

The Reds now sit five points behind fifth placed Aston Villa and six points behind Spurs in who are in fourth place in the Premier League table, a not insurmountable gap, but one that’s not going to be closed easily.

Ten Hag can take comfort from the fact that while he’s still missing the likes of Lisandro Martinez and Mason Mount, he has been able to call on many players who’d been out earlier this season.

Back in December the manager noted:  “But everyone understands when you have such key players who are not available, it will have a negative effect on results. Still, we are in a place where we can change this story, change this season.

“I am confident, when the players are back, we will have a good and strong squad. Liverpool were top of the league (last weekend), so we were competitive with them… This team, this squad, is strong when everyone is on board and we can beat anyone.”

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With the likes of Casemiro and Kobbie Mainoo back in the side – after missing much of the start of the season through injury – and Rasmus Hojlund in a rich vein of form, there’s every reason for the manager to be somewhat confident his side can continue their recent winning run.

It won’t be easy and with Luke Shaw coming off as a ‘precaution’ against Aston Villa, there’s still some work to be done in terms of balancing the squad and choosing the right players to cover for those who are injured.

Harry Maguire gave the manager one less headache with a player of the match performance at Villa Park which shows that despite the fact if Martinez was fit, there’s a good chance the England international wouldn’t start, he’s still more than capable of doing a job when called upon.

Ten Hag now has to work out how best to shuffle his pack in the race for Champions League football, starting this weekend with a tricky trip to Kenilworth Road.


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