Ten Hag hails culture change after United’s late win

LONDON (AP) — For Erik ten Hag, the goal that sent Manchester United into the World Cup break on a high note is the perfect symbol of the progress his team has made in recent months.

In the final Premier League game before the tournament in Qatar, substitute Alejandro Garnacho came off the bench to score a stoppage-time winner that secured a 2-1 win at Fulham on Sunday as United strengthened their grip on the fifth square.

Despite a poor start under Ten Hag which saw United lose their opening two games, the side are now just three points behind fourth-placed Tottenham with one game less.

And the football is also improving, despite the absence of a number of starters, including Cristiano Ronaldo, who missed a second game in a row with undisclosed illness but is expected to be fit for the Champions League. world.

“I think we have a base. We are going in the right direction, I think the culture has changed,” Ten Hag said when asked to sum up his first spell in charge. “The attitude, the mentality has changed and that’s good. I also think now that we are improving our football base. We have a better mentality and (what) you see today, I think, is the symbol of that, when you win in the last seconds of the match.

The goal was also quite pronounced by Garnacho, who has been criticized in the past for his attitude in training but showed his sublime skill by playing a clever one-two with Christian Eriksen on the edge of the box before rushing in the area to sneak. at home ahead of Bernd Leno just before the final whistle.

“We saw in training that he is a big, big talent,” Eriksen said. “He’s starting to learn the movement of the game – when to dribble, when to pass but he’s a great talent.”

Eriksen had put United ahead after 14 minutes following a well-worked quick break as the Denmark international was present at the far post to head a deflected shot from Bruno Fernandes into an empty net.

Fulham were without star striker Aleksandar Mitrovic with a foot problem but still managed to tie United up for much of the game and scored a deserved equalizer when former United winger Daniel James made a low center from close range.

But as Fulham pushed for a winner, United’s strength on the block proved decisive and Garnacho’s goal gave Ten Hag a solid platform for the second half of the season. United had just suffered a loss to Aston Villa last weekend but are now just six points behind crosstown rivals Manchester City in second place and 11 behind leaders Arsenal.

“We are now united, we stand together,” Ten Hag said. “The locker room, the staff, the directors, the whole club and the supporters. There is a solidarity and I am really happy with this development.

EMERY BOOST

Unai Emery has given Aston Villa all the lift in the Premier League.

Emery have won two from two since taking over from sacked Steven Gerrard as Villa recovered from a first-minute conceded goal to beat Brighton 2-1 early in the game.

It was Villa’s first away win of the season and follows the 3-1 win over Man United on Emery’s debut last weekend.

“It was a tough game, tough defensively (and) we had to be together,” Emery said. “We had a few players but really, I think the work was fantastic.”

Danny Ings scored both goals for Villa, equalizing with a first-half penalty and then scoring the winner in the 54th minute with a deflected low shot that snuck inside the near post.

It was a shaky start for Villa, however, as Emery’s insistence on playing at the back almost cost his team dearly. As Brighton put goalkeeper Emi Martinez under pressure, the Argentine’s short pass to Douglas Luiz was won by Alexis Mac Allister, who scored home after just 49 seconds for his fifth goal of the season.

It was Brighton’s fastest ever goal in the Premier League, but the side remained in seventh place with the loss. Villa climbed to 12th.

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