Erik ten Hag praised his Manchester United team for their belief after they staged a stunning second half comeback to beat Aston Villa 3-2, with the manager adding that he is looking forward to working with the club’s new 25% shareholder, Sir Jim Ratcliffe.
Rasmus Højlund’s strike on 82 minutes – his long-awaited first Premier League goal – proved the winner. It came in front of the watching Sir Dave Brailsford, who will take a place on United’s board and report to Ratcliffe, whose stake in United was finally confirmed on Christmas Eve.
Ten Hag was asked what he thought Brailsford and Ratcliffe would make of the fightback. “I don’t know. You will have to ask them,” he said.
The Dutchman denied the protracted deal, which took 13 months to complete, had affected his side. “I don’t think it has had an impact on the players. I was kept informed in the whole process, first by Richard Arnold [former CEO] and then Patrick Stewart [acting CEO], so I knew what was going on. We’re looking forward. I think it is positive for the club that they are stepping in.
“They have a lot of experience in sport at the highest level – F1, a cycling team, football clubs. They can only help us and support us to get our targets. They want to work with us and we want to work with them.”
Ten Hag’s team was jeered off at the break after a dismal half that ended with them two behind after goals from John McGinn and Leander Dendoncker. But a double from Alejandro Garnacho and Højlund’s clincher gave United a first Premier League victory in four games. “At half-time I said to the team: ‘Keep believing, and keep doing what we did.’ We needed to put more and more pressure on. At 1-2 when we added pressure and you see what happened,” the Dutchman said.
Højlund said: “I am the happiest man alive right now. You can see from the celebrations as well.”
United move up to sixth, five points behind Tottenham in fourth, while Villa slip three points behind the leaders, Liverpool. Unai Emery, the Villa manager, said: “I told the players that the first part of the season was fantastic but I want more.”