MANCHESTER, England — Two days after British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe struck a deal to take a minority stake at Manchester United, his right-hand man Dave Brailsford saw the best and worst of the team who clawed back from two goals down in a 3-2 win over Aston Villa.
Brailsford, INEOS’s director of sport who has been named a director of United since the Ratcliffe deal was done, sat in the director’s box for Tuesday’s much-needed victory, signalling a fresh start that manager Erik ten Hag said he welcomes.
“We are looking forward, I think it’s positive for the club that they are in the stepping in,” Ten Hag told reporters. “They have a lot of experience in sport on the highest level, F1, the cycling team (INEOS Grenadiers), other football clubs, so it can only help and support us to get our targets.
“So we are looking forward. They want to work with us and we want to work with them.”
Tuesday’s encounter was truly a game of two halves as fans at Old Trafford booed United off the pitch at halftime. A remarkable turnaround saw Alejandro Garnacho net a brace and Rasmus Hojlund break a Premier League scoring drought of 1,027 minutes with the winner in the 82nd minute.
The team were serenaded with delighted singing and a standing ovation at the final whistle.
“So we said: keep going and believe it, in ourselves,” Ten Hag said. “And I said that is what I demand from the team, I said it before the game, I said it during halftime, keep believing and we will win this game.”
Hojlund, who signed for United from Italian side Atalanta in August, scored five goals in four Champions League games but his inability to connect in the Premier League had raised some eyebrows.
“Yes, of course,” Ten Hag said, on keeping Hojlund’s confidence up. “I had several talks with him and every time I pointed out ‘Hey, you scored for Denmark, a lot. You scored in the Champions League. So this demonstrated ability. So, you can do it. So believe in it, and it will come’.
“I’m sure now the first goal is in he will net more.
“When strikers don’t score, it’s a problem, but he has a strong character, he is so resilient, he is so determined, he has a big personality and I think that is what a striker needs.”
United climbed two spots up to sixth in the standings on 31 points with the victory.
Ratcliffe will take a 25% stake in United, in a deal announced on Christmas Eve, and pledged to invest $300 million in the club to try to revive their fortunes. The deal is subject to a regulatory sign-off. — Reuters