He didn’t know it at the time but, as Erik ten Hag looked across the home dressing room during the interval of his side’s Premier League meeting with Aston Villa, the message he was about to deliver would be a symbolic one for Manchester United.

“I said at half-time: ‘Keep believing and we will win.'”

With his team two goals down and their supporters mutinous, Ten Hag’s words not only proved decisive to his team in their eventual thrilling victory, but were extra pertinent to Rasmus Hojlund as he scored the winner and served a reminder to the whole club about their eventual aims under new owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe.

There was added significance to this success because they did it in front of Sir Dave Brailsford – the Ineos head of sport who, along with former Juventus chief executive Jean-Claude Blanc, will take up a seat on the football club board when Ratcliffe’s purchase is confirmed in six-to-eight weeks’ time.

“I don’t know. You’ll have to ask them,” said Ten Hag, when asked what Brailsford and his colleagues thought of the performance.

“I said before the game that we were competitive with Arsenal and competitive with Liverpool so if we play our best we can beat anyone.”

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