Despair then delight at Old Trafford as United beats Villa in 1st game after deal. Liverpool top – Metro US

Despair then delight at Old Trafford as United beats Villa in 1st game after deal. Liverpool top

Britain Soccer Premier League
Manchester United’s Alejandro Garnacho, second left, celebrates after scoring his side’s first goal during the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester United and Aston Villa at the Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, England, Tuesday, Dec. 26, 2023. (Martin Rickett/PA via AP)

MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Welcome to Manchester United, Jim Ratcliffe.

In the space of 90 minutes, and in front of soon-to-be director Dave Brailsford, Old Trafford witnessed the best and worst of Erik ten Hag’s team.

Two days after confirmation that British billionaire Ratcliffe will buy a stake of up to 25% in the club, United trailed by two goals inside 26 minutes against Aston Villa and was booed by the home crowd on Tuesday. Ten Hag’s players then produced a spectacular second-half comeback to win 3-2 and spark celebrations rarely seen at its famed stadium during a troubled season so far.

“We said ‘Keep going. Believe it, in ourselves.’ That is what I demand from the team,” Ten Hag said afterward. “We said it before the game and during halftime, ‘Keep believing and we will win this game.’”

Going into the game on the back of a run of four matches in all competitions without a win or a goal, United took to the field for the first time since Ratcliffe, one of Britain’s richest people, secured an agreement worth around $1.6 billion to buy into the club he has supported from childhood.

Brailsford is the director of sport for INEOS Sport, which Ratcliffe owns, and on Tuesday it was confirmed he will be a director of United once the deal is completed.

He got a taste of the sense of frustration among the 20-time league champions’ fans — with United last winning the title in 2013 — and the animosity toward American owners the Glazer family, who put the club up for sale last year.

Ratcliffe will take charge of soccer operations as part of his investment and Brailsford is expected to play a big part in a new structure.

While it will take more than one win to turn a season around that has already seen United eliminated from the Champions League and the English League Cup, the atmosphere in the second half was a taste of what can be achieved by bringing the good times back to Old Trafford.

“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,” Ten Hag said. “They can only help us and support us to get our targets. We are looking forward. They want to work with us and we want to work with them.”

Villa went ahead through first-half goals from John McGinn and Leander Dendoncker.

Alejandro Garnacho sparked United’s revival with two goals in the second half and Rasmus Hojlund scored his first league goal to win the game.

Third-place Villa had been unbeaten in 10 games going into the match.

“Two weeks ago I was asked if we were contenders to the title and said no, and was thinking the same as I am now,” Villa manager Unai Emery said. “Today we missed an opportunity to have that consistency against one of the top ten teams. This can happen.”

United moved up to sixth place, three points behind defending champion Manchester City in fifth. City has played two fewer games than United.


Liverpool is back at the top of the league and Darwin Nunez is again among the goals.

Nunez ended a 12-game scoring drought to set up Jurgen Klopp’s team for a 2-0 win against Burnley and overtake Arsenal in the standings.

Liverpool moved two points clear of second-place Arsenal, which has a game in hand against West Ham on Thursday.

Nunez curled a shot from distance beyond Burnley goalkeeper James Trafford in the sixth minute at Turf Moor, having failed to find the back of the net for his club since Nov. 1.

Having drawn back-to-back league games against Manchester United and Arsenal, Liverpool failed to make the most of its dominance as it saw two goals disallowed and Mohamed Salah hit the bar.

Substitute Diogo Jota eventually ended any concerns of a Burnley equalizer with a goal in the 90th.

“We’ve created a lot of chances recently and haven’t used an awful lot of them but in the end it’s about performing,” Liverpool manager Klopp said. “We’ve played four games in 10 days and you just have to get through it.”


Chris Wood came back to haunt Newcastle and hand Nuno Espírito Santo his first win as Nottingham Forest manager.

Wood, who joined Newcastle in January 2022 and was sold to Forest 18 months later, struck a hat trick in his team’s 3-1 win in the Premier League at St. James’ Park on Tuesday.

“I’m just happy to stick them away. That’s what I’m here to do and I’m just happy I could,” the striker said.

Wood was one of Newcastle’s first signings after the club was bought by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund in 2021. He moved from Burnley for around $32 million, but was loaned to Forest 12 months later after scoring five goals in 39 appearances.

He completed a permanent move to Forest in June this year in a deal worth $19 million.

Newcastle has now lost five of its last seven games in all competitions and has only had one win in the league during that run.

“It was a difficult afternoon,” Newcastle manager Eddie Howe said.

It was Nuno’s second game in charge at Forest after replacing former manager Steve Cooper before Christmas.

“I think the boys played very well,” Nuno said. “It’s amazing so let’s enjoy it.”

Newcastle took the lead through Alexander Isak’s first-half penalty, but Wood evened the score just before halftime. He went on to score two goals and complete his hat trick after the break.


Back-to-back wins for Luton have boosted the relegation-fighting club’s chances of survival. But Rob Edwards’ team had Sheffield United to thank for the 3-2 win at Bramall Lane after the bottom-place team scored two own-goals in the space of four minutes.

Jack Robinson and Anis Ben Slimane put through their own net in the 77th and 81st minutes to hand 18th-place Luton the win that moved it to within a point of Everton in 17th.

Alfie Doughty had given Luton a first-half lead in the 17th. Oliver McBurnie leveled in the 61st and Anel Ahmedhodzic put Sheffield United 2-1 up in the 69th. But the own-goals turned the game around as Luton followed up its 1-0 victory over Newcastle with another win.


After a tough start at Bournemouth, Andoni Iraola is on a roll with six wins in seven games.

Goals from Justin Kluivert, Dominic Solanke and Luis Sinisterra secured the latest — a 3-0 win against Fulham.

Iraola arrived from Rayo Vallecano in the offseason with a big reputation, but won only one of his first 11 league games in charge.

That run is a distant memory now as Bournemouth has risen up to 10th in the standings.

The form of Solanke has been a big factor in that turnaround with eight goals in his last seven games.

James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson

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