Erik ten Hag commended Scott McTominay as a role model for others after the substitute secured Manchester United’s morale-boosting victory against fellow Champions League contenders Aston Villa.
The match at Villa Park on Sunday, pitting the fifth against the sixth, saw Rasmus Hojlund, who scored the winner in their previous encounter on Boxing Day, netting in his fifth consecutive Premier League game.
Following the 17th-minute opener, United struggled to maintain their momentum, allowing Villa to eventually equalize in the second half through Douglas Luiz.
However, the Red Devils displayed resilience, and McTominay’s powerful header in the 86th minute, from Diogo Dalot’s cross, sealed a 2-1 victory. This marked McTominay’s fourth Premier League goal this season coming off the bench.
“This season, last season as well (McTominay made an impact), so I think he’s an example for many other players nowadays,” Ten Hag said.
“There are not many players who can come from the bench and bring this energy. He’s ready for every minute, always contributing to the team. Football is a team sport and we forget that often.
“But Scott is the example, always giving the spirit, in the week when he is training, doing the right things, working on himself, gives max.
“He’s ready for one minute, he’s ready for 90 minutes, he’s always ready. I think it’s great to have such a player.”
United relied on luck for significant portions of the game, and Ten Hag suggested that Luiz’s celebratory shimmy after scoring fueled his team’s determination in a victory that revitalizes their pursuit of Champions League qualification.
McTominay once again the goalscoring hero for United
With this win, the Red Devils are now five points behind Villa in fifth place and six points behind Tottenham, who occupy fourth place.
“I think we can beat any opponent away or home,” the Dutchman said.
“But sometimes away we have to believe it more because then we could have won in Arsenal, where actually we deserved to win.
“We could have won in Liverpool and it’s about belief and I think this team today believed they could win this game and that’s why I think, in the end, you win the game.”
Asked about the impact of this result on the race for Champions League football, Ten Hag said: “We have to catch up.
“We are firstly in February, many games to play, but we are returning. But, still, a long way to go and we have to improve our game.
“But, of course, we are pleased that we get a series of wins.”