The final act of a chaotic, breathless night said far more about Manchester United than the simple arithmetic of a fifth successive Premier League victory.
It was a header, applied by Ross Barkley, which hit the top of the crossbar. So don’t be fooled by this. Europe’s most lavishly formed team almost escaped Luton.
For ten minutes, it was their effervescent young forward line that ran the show: Rasmus Hojlund gleefully took advantage of Amari’i Bell’s terrible attempt to control a bouncing ball, took the ball over himself and rounded Thomas Kaiminski to score United’s first. Their 25 percent conversion rate is exceptional. “The real deal,” Gary Neville called the striker who has scored in six consecutive games.
Hojlund provides evidence of the difference confidence makes and how luck can accompany it. He pulled away to score United’s second goal, although he didn’t know much about it, given the power of Alejandro Garnacho’s shot that deflected off him.
The sun was just beginning to set and as the Luton players looked at each other in bewilderment, one really feared for them. But what happened next revealed the uncomfortable truth about United, which five successive Premier League wins cannot completely conceal.
Rasmus Hojlund scored a brace as Manchester United beat Luton Town 2-1 on Sunday.
Hojlund (21 years 14 days) surpassed Joe Willock’s record (21 years 272 days) by scoring twice in the Manchester United clash at Kenilworth Road.
Hojlund opened the scoring in the first minute of the match, finding the back of the net after an error by Amari’i Bell put Hojlund in the goal.
Hojlund extended Manchester United’s lead just six minutes later, deflecting Alejandro Garnacho’s volley attempt.
Hojlund (pictured above) has been in good form for Manchester United, having started his scoring streak on Boxing Day when the Red Devils beat Villa 3-2 at Old Trafford.
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It is the vulnerability to attacks from the center and, in this case, from the flanks. That two goal deficit should have allowed them to take overwhelming control and eliminate all danger on this hectic, bouncy, beautiful little ground. He didn’t do anything of the sort.
The individual controlling the match wore an orange shirt with the ‘6’ on the back and there were moments during the breathless and utterly convincing first half when Barkley played with United’s plush midfield.
The doll that he sold to Bruno Fernandes after half an hour passed almost without warning in the middle of the tumult, but it said that it was a player of a different level than any of those in white.
Things quickly turned into a brutal and forceful experience for Luke Shaw, with some joyous dancing from Cheidozie Ogbene, while Alfie Doughty on the opposite flank was free to cross, again and again.
The three bookings United incurred in the first half screamed slack as Luton attacked them. Shaw extended an arm as Ogbemne threatened to embarrass him. Maguire attacked Carlton Morris as he went to walk past him. Casemiro came on late on Bell and was lucky not to get sent off for running through Barkley’s back.
These are highly experienced and widely listed players who just so happened to put their team in positions of vulnerability with their poor decision making, lazy, off-kilter passing and lack of anticipation.
The rowdy United contingent sang about their team in a way that suggested they were back and on the rise. But watching Maguire meekly pass a ball out of defense directly to Barkley, who brought on substitute Cauley Woodrow, deconstructed the notion.
Manchester United is currently sixth in the Premier League standings.
Carlton Morris managed to score the consolation goal for Luton Town in the 14th minute.
Luke Shaw had to go off injured in the 45+2 minute of Sunday afternoon’s match.
Ross Barkley hits the crossbar after rising above his defender to head the ball.
So did Barkley’s sweet turn on Kobbie Mainoo. So did Luke Shaw’s powerful response after United academy graduate Tahith Chong’s shot on the turn deflected towards Carlton Morris, who responded first to head into the Luton goal.
Maguire and Casemiro did not appear in a second half in which Luton looked for more and were exposed in a way that United failed to take advantage of. Karminksi had a lot to do with that.
The goalkeeper touched the ball with his glove when Garnacho seemed to surround him and recovered to stop the striker’s shot, which he collected and headed back towards the goal. Karminski also denied Hojlund a hat-trick from close range, while Fernandes shot wide after taking advantage of a poor free kick from the goalkeeper.
And then came the final corner, with Barklay rising to head in a lofted corner, providing a level of technical excellence that was missing from United for much of this match. Ten Hag’s players didn’t celebrate or punch the air when the whistle blew. They knew.
Thomas Kaminski did well to deny Hojlund a hat-trick after the youngster bagged a brace.
Manchester United captain Bruno Fernandes was mocked by home fans on Sunday afternoon.