Hojlund, Garnacho lead Manchester United over West Ham
MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Alejandro Garnacho scored Manchester United’s second goal, then perched on an advertising board and beckoned Rasmus Hojlund and Kobbie Mainoo to come and sit alongside him.
It was quite the sight to hearten the home fans at Old Trafford: the 21-year-old Hojlund, the 19-year-old Garnacho and Mainoo, 18, sitting in a line and smiling.
The future might be bright for United after all.
Hojlund marked his 21st birthday by scoring for the fourth straight league game and Garnacho got two goals as United beat West Ham 3-0 in the Premier League on Sunday for a second victory in three days.
“The future for Manchester United is very good because we have high potential,” United manager Erik ten Hag said. "I think that picture covers the lot — how they are together and want to play football with adventure and enjoyment. If we keep this process going, I am sure we will achieve high levels.
“We are building a team, we signed young players and give them opportunities. This is a process with ups-and-downs and we have to realize this."
United jumped above West Ham into sixth place in the standings but there's still a six-point gap to Tottenham in fifth, which could yet be enough for a Champions League qualification berth for next season.
United has to believe it can get there.
Especially with Hojlund finally hitting such strong scoring form.
The Denmark striker failed to find the net in his first 14 games in the Premier League after joining from Atalanta in the summer transfer window. Now he cannot stop scoring, his latest coming in the 23rd minute when he collected the ball after Casemiro's well-timed interception in midfield, created some space for himself on the edge of the area and rifled home a right-foot shot into the bottom corner.
“His confidence is growing," Ten Hag said of Hojlund. “He is playing better on the ball, he is a target and he is linking up.”
Argentina international Garnacho doubled the lead in the 49th with a shot that deflected off Nayef Aguerd and wrong-footed replacement goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski, who came on for Alphonse Areola after he sustained a knock to the head. The winger's celebration alongside Hojlund and Mainoo, the teenage central midfielder who scored a late winner at Wolverhampton on Thursday, showed three players United might be relying on for years to come.
Garnacho wrapped up the victory by scoring on the counterattack in the 84th after substitute Scott McTominay dispossessed Kalvin Phillips, a loan signing from Manchester City who also came off the bench and didn't look up to speed after little game time this season.
A negative for United was the sight of Argentina defender Lisandro Martinez being forced off with a right knee injury in the 70th minute. He attempted to play on after appearing to twist his knee when challenging for the ball with West Ham's Vladimir Coufal.
Martinez has only recently returned after four months out following foot surgery.
“It seems bad," Ten Hag said. “We have to wait, make the right diagnosis in the coming days and then we will see. Hopefully it is not too bad, we can only pray. He worked so hard to return.”
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