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DREAMLUND Luton 1 Man Utd 2: Hojlund brace secures all three points but Red Devils lose heads in feisty clash

Rasmus Hojlund became the youngest ever player to score in six consecutive league games

ERIK TEN HAG has Rasmus Hojlund and ref David Coote to thank as Manchester United survived the fire and brimstone of Kenilworth Road to chalk up a fourth straight Premier League win. 

Hojlund secured his first Premier League brace in the opening seven minutes – taking his hot streak to seven goals in six appearances.

But Coote’s failure to send off Casemiro for a clear and obvious second yellow-card offence was key to keeping United’s ability to keep their heads above water as Luton whipped up a tempest at their tight home ground.

United are now unbeaten in seven games in 2024, winning six, and are just five points off the Champions League places.

But Ten Hag had to haul off Casemiro and Harry Maguire at half-time after the Hatters had dominated much of the first period, replying through a Carlton Morris header.

Rob Edwards’ Luton will fall into the relegation places if Everton avoid defeat at home to Crystal Palace on Monday, but there was plenty here to encourage the Luton boss that his side can survive in the top flight.

There was a proper culture clash in the directors’ box, as pop star Harry Styles shared peppermints with Luton legend Mick Harford, a man probably even harder than Nobby Stiles.

It all started to go pear-shaped for the Hatters in the warm-up when leading scorer Elijah Adebayo suffered an injury and was replaced in the starting line-up by Cauley Woodrow.

Then they fell behind after just 37 seconds when a disastrous attempt at a square pass from Amari’i Bell gifted Hojlund a clear run at goal, with the in-form Dane rounding keeper Thomas Kaminski to score.

After failing to score on his first 14 Premier League appearances, Hojlund had now netted for the sixth game in a row.

United scented blood and were soon two-up, with another freakish Hojlund goal.

This time a Luke Shaw corner was cleared as far as Alejandro Garnacho, whose wayward volley was met by United’s alert centre-forward, swivelling to chest it into the net.

But Luton have a habit of clawing back deficits here and on 14 minutes, they were back in the contest.

Former United man Tahith Chong had a shot deflected off Maguire, the ball looping up to the far post where Morris reacted quicker than Shaw to nod past a flapping Andre Onana.

Suddenly, Luton were dominating possession and causing problems for Ten Hag’s side.

Shaw was booked for cynically flooring Chiedozie Ogbene and then Maguire’s dozy free-kick on the edge of the United box went straight to Ross Barkley, who fed Woodrow for a shot which was deflected wide.

United were now being subjected to the full-immersive Kenilworth Road experience, as the Hatters responded to the urgings of their fired-up supporters inside this tightest of top-flight arenas.

Casemiro had just been booked for bringing down Bell when he had a wild lunge at Barkley.

Coote instantly awarded a foul but bottled a second yellow, when it felt obvious he would have cautioned the Brazilian had he not already been in the book.

The home support was justifiably seething and were angrier still when Maguire executed a cynical body-check to floor Morris – who had recently driven one just wide.

On a rare United attack, Rashford had a decent penalty shout turned down but Alfie Doughty steered an effort just wide after some more eye-catching work from Chong.

Shaw was forced off injured in first-half stoppage time, replaced by Victor Lindelof.

It was testament to Luton’s relentless pressure that Ten Hag made his half-time double substitution, Casemiro hooked in favour of Scott McTominay and Maguire replaced by Jonny Evans.

The Dutchman clearly feared a second yellow card for either Casemiro or Maguire had they stayed on.

Still, Luton continued to pour forward at the start of half, without testing Onana, and on a United counter-attack, Rashford was denied by a tumbling Kaminski.

The Hatters keeper was soon caught horribly ought of his ground, and was in the process of being rounded by Fernandes, when Albert Sambi Lokonga came to his rescue with an excellent saving tackle.

United were looking steadier now – Evans steadying the defence, Mainoo outstanding in midfield and Hojlund producing some excellent link play up front.

Kaminski was saved by the Bell soon after when a brilliant Rashford pass released Garnacho, who dribbled past the keeper twice only to have his shot blocked by the Luton defender.