Diogo Dalot believes super sub Scott McTominay’s never-say-die approach is the kind of mentality Manchester United need if they are to qualify for the Champions League.
A bumpy, injury-hit start to the season saw pressure mount on manager Erik ten Hag as his side were eliminated from Europe and stumbled on the domestic front.
But there have been signs of improvement since the turn of the year, with United’s unbeaten start to 2024 continuing with a late, hard-fought Premier League win at Villa.
Douglas Luiz deservedly cancelled out Rasmus Hojlund’s opener, only for substitute McTominay to meet Dalot’s excellent cross with a thundering header to make it 2-1, four minutes from time.
“I think every time he comes on the pitch, he has that mentality of trying to score goals and trying to help the team,” United right-back Dalot said.
“We need this type of mentality at this club and I think he is the perfect person to show this season that even coming from the bench, he always has a good impact.”
McTominay’s goal was his seventh in the league this season and fourth as a substitute – a league-high tally from the bench only matched by Brighton striker Joao Pedro.
The bullet header allowed sixth-placed United to reduce the gap to Villa in fifth to five points, with Tottenham a point better off in fourth.
“I think it is a really important win,” Dalot said of the push for Champions League qualification.
“We knew that today was like a final for us; pretty much every game will be for us now if we want to get top four.
“We prepared well and I am very happy with the way we performed and how we fought until the end to get the win.
“It was registered (how important the Villa match was) at the start of the week when we started preparing for the game.
“I think we had a full week of concentration and everybody tuned into what we could expect today.
“It is exactly how we prepared and how we tried to be, but like I said, we fought until the end and we really deserved the three points.”
United did, though, have to ride their luck at times.
Dalot praised goalkeeper Andre Onana for his performance – “he’s been fighting for it”, he said – and went onto highlight the impact of United’s forwards.
“When we start scoring goals, you can see how fresh they are and how motivated they are and we are very happy that they are scoring goals,” the Portugal international said.
“(Hojlund) brings calm and that’s what wins games and gives you more confidence.
“He has adapted to the team really well and we have adapted to him really well. Hopefully, he can score a lot more goals.”
Hojlund’s fifth goal in five Premier League appearances continued a run that started with his winner in 3-2 Boxing Day turnaround against Villa.
Unai Emery’s side came away with nothing from those matches and midfielder Jacob Ramsey bemoaned a lack of killer instinct on Sunday.
“We want to win games and we’ve not been great at home recently but we can take positives from the performance,” he said.
“Manchester United are a big team and we were dominant today. We were just lacking the last ball in the final third.”