X reacts as Man Utd hold off Luton fightback to close in on top four

  • Rasmus Hojlund fired Man Utd ahead with a rapid-fire brace
  • Carlton Morris halved the deficit inside a helter-skelter opening quarter-hour
  • Man Utd are just three points behind fifth-placed Tottenham

Hojlund scored the goals
Hojlund scored the goals / GLYN KIRK/GettyImages

Despite a strong run of recent results, Erik ten Hag previewed Manchester United's trip to Luton Town on Sunday afternoon with a note of caution.

"I think it's too quick to say we have turned a corner," the Dutchman said. "We are not there yet." A brace from Rasmus Hojlund inside the opening seven minutes suggested that Ten Hag's apprehension was misplaced but he knows this group of players all too well.

Carlton Morris halved the deficit in the 14th minute to unnerve Luton's lofty visitors. United waned and wobbled but held on to win 2-1, securing a fifth consecutive victory across all competitions - the club's best run of form in 12 months.

Hojlund has been at the epicentre of this winning run and extended his personal hot streak by scoring in his sixth consecutive top-flight appearance. At just 21 years old, Hojlund is the youngest player to ever achieve such a feat in Premier League history and only the fourth to do so in United's colours. Just 37 seconds had elapsed before Amari'i Bell scuffed the ball into Hojlund's galloping stride, gifting the Dane an easy opener.

During the interminable goal drought which marked the start of his Premier League career, Hojlund seemed to be a shell of his former self. While in Austria with Sturm Graz, Hojlund's manager Christian Ilzer described the striker as "a self-confident boy". "He even seems cocky if you don't know him." That cockiness is coursing through Hojlund again.

Barely five minutes after his well-taken opener, Hojlund was at it again. Alejandro Garnacho's effort was spinning wide when Hojlund adroitly flicked his chest at the ball, doubling his and United's haul.

United appeared to be cruising towards an easy victory but that would be far too straightforward for this chaotic iteration of the Red Devils. Inside the opening 15 minutes, the former United academy graduate Tahith Chong was allowed to spin inside the box and take aim. Morris reacted quickest to the blocked shot, nodding underneath the outstretched arm of Andre Onana.

As has so often been the case this season, onlookers were quick to highlight Onana's inadequacies.

Luton boss Rob Edwards had insisted before the match: "Our long-term aim, as stupid as this may sound, is to try and be mixing it with those big teams." The Hatters held Liverpool to a point in November and caused plenty of problems for Arsenal and Manchester City.

United, knocked firmly off their stride, also struggled. Casemiro set the internet alight with his pantomime protestations against a yellow card he received in the victory over Aston Villa last weekend but his tackling at Kenilworth Road left many pulling the same shocked expression.

Casemiro had already committed three niggling fouls before blatantly tripping Bell to earn a straightforward booking. A gaggle of orange shirts surrounded David Coote when Casemiro lunged into another reckless first-half challenge on Ross Barkley but the referee did not adhere to the crowd's vocal demands of "Off! Off! Off!". Casemiro was duly hooked at half-time.

Pop star Harry Styles was in the Kenilworth Road stands to take in the enthralling contest alongside the former Luton player and manager Mick Harford.

Unlike Casemiro, Bruno Fernandes remained on the pitch and pierced through Luton's stubborn resolve on the hour mark. The Portuguese playmaker rounded the outrushing goalkeeper Thomas Kaminski but couldn't bypass the Go-Go Gadget leg of Arsenal loanee Albert Sambi Lokonga.

Garnacho swiftly had a clean run at Luton's goal but was slowed by Kaminski's glove on this occasion, ensuring that the Hatters remained within one goal of a famous result.

A late onslaught of corners had the travelling support on edge, particularly when Barkley steered a stoppage-time header onto the crossbar.

A hard-fought victory cemented United's position inside the top six and took Ten Hag's team to within three points of fifth-placed Tottenham Hotspur. Aston Villa are five points above the Red Devils in fourth but the race for those precious Champions League places is well and truly on - even if United ever don't ever turn that corner.