February 12th 2024.
The game was at a crucial point, with Manchester United's Champions League hopes on the line. A loss or even a tie against Aston Villa would put them in a tough spot. With 20 minutes left on the clock and the score tied at 1-1, it seemed like both teams had settled for a draw. In a surprising move, coach Erik ten Hag decided to substitute Marcus Rashford with Scott McTominay. It felt like a mutual agreement between the two clubs to share the points.
With Villa constantly breaking through United's defense, McTominay's presence in midfield provided some much-needed reinforcement. But it was not just his addition that made a difference. McTominay replaced Bruno Fernandes in the attacking midfield position, while Rasmus Hojlund took his spot. This tactical change allowed Fernandes to move to the right flank and for Garnacho to switch to the left. Although Rashford's substitution may have weakened their attacking threat, it allowed them to gain control of the game and limit Villa's chances.
Ten Hag later explained that the decision to slow down the pace of the game and disrupt Villa's defense was what led to McTominay's winning goal. He praised the midfielder's ability to find scoring opportunities and acknowledged that the team had struggled with their counterattacks. The coach also mentioned that the players' offensive mindset may have caused some issues, and bringing in an extra midfielder was the solution to that problem.
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