LONDON – Rasmus Hojlund had a 21st birthday to remember at Old Trafford, continuing his recent scoring spurt by finding the net in the 3-0 win over West Ham United in the English Premier League on Feb 4.
He opened the scoring in the 23rd minute with a neat bit of play. Casemiro won the ball just outside the box and it broke to the Danish striker, who shaped to shoot with his left but then cut past Nayef Aguerd and fired a shot past Alphonse Areola with his weaker right foot.
After failing to score in his first 14 league games, Hojlund has now scored in four consecutive league matches, making him the youngest Red Devil to score in four straight Premier League appearances.
In all competitions, it is now five goals in his last six games and he is in double figures in his maiden season in Manchester.
United manager Erik ten Hag spoke in the lead-up to the game of how Hojlund “gets angry” when he is not scoring but retained “the resilience and the calmness to perform under that stress”.
There was definitely no hint of anger as he gleefully celebrated his goal by lifting his leg and mimicked playing it like a guitar.
Ten Hag said after the game: “His confidence is growing. He is playing better on the ball, he is a target and he is linking up. It is about togetherness.”
Hojlund said: “It is always special to play on your birthday, but today of course with the win, yeah.
“I have spoken about doing a celebration with my friends and they said about doing the guitar.
“A month ago there was a lot of talk about us (Hojlund and Alejandro Garnacho) not scoring enough goals, but we are both young and growing every day. You can see the connection between us.”
Four minutes after the break, another United young gun got himself on the scoresheet.
Winger Garnacho picked up the ball on the flank, cut inside and let off a shot that took a deflection off the luckless Aguerd and wrong-footed goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski, who came on at half-time to replace Areola. The Frenchman had suffered a nasty knock in the first half.
There was something poignant about the celebration, which saw United’s new guard of Kobbie Mainoo, 18, Hojlund and Garnacho, 19, sit on the advertising boards side by side, arms around each other.
But it was a cruel turn of events for West Ham, who just a minute earlier had a great chance to equalise.
United centre-back Harry Maguire carelessly gave the ball away, allowing Emerson Palmieri to surge forward into the box, but with support charging forward, he elected to shoot woefully wide.
That chance was not an outlier. The Hammers created the game’s first chance after just 11 minutes when United’s ongoing struggles at set pieces continued, with only a good Andre Onana save denying West Ham the opener.
On 69 minutes, it was right-back Diogo Dalot’s turn to save United.
A lovely long ball by Edson Alvarez caught Maguire out and saw West Ham’s top scorer Jarrod Bowen (14 goals in all competitions) bear down on goal but he hesitated before pulling the trigger, allowing Dalot to fly in with a last-ditch saving tackle to block his shot.
United were more clinical with their chances and on 84 minutes they made the game safe as Scott McTominay robbed Kalvin Phillips in midfield and fed Garnacho to score his second.
Meanwhile, Chelsea’s poor run continued as they followed a 4-1 midweek loss to Liverpool with a 4-2 defeat by Wolves on Feb 4.