Højlund's early double seals win for Manchester Utd at Luton

Rasmus Højlund's early double proved enough to secure Manchester United an absorbing 2-1 Premier League victory at Luton Town on Sunday and push them closer to the battle for the top four.

In-form Denmark striker Højlund pounced on a defensive error to give United the lead after 37 seconds and then made it 2-0 with only seven minutes on the clock to put his side in control.

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Højlund has now scored in six successive Premier League games -- the youngest in the history of the competition to do so.

"I think I need to say thanks to my team mates and the coach because they have showed me great confidence and kept believing in me," Hojlund said after the game.

"I knew as well that I could score goals but of course it was annoying I didn't score in the Premier League."

Relegation battlers Luton dusted themselves down though and responded impressively with Carlton Morris's brave header halving the deficit in the 14th minute.

The only surprise in a wide-open game was that there were no more goals as both sides carved out good chances.

Sixth-placed United were guilty of wasting several gilt-edged opportunities in the second half while Luton's Ross Barkley headed against the crossbar in stoppage time.

United's fourth successive league win put them on 44 points from 25 games, five points behind Aston Villa who are fourth. 

Højlund took until December to score his first Premier League goal since United paid £72 million ($90.71m) to sign him from Italian club Atalanta in August.

But he is now paying back that transfer fee, taking the heat off manager Erik ten Hag and helping United make a strong charge towards qualification for the Champions League.

"We recruited him on character and knew he was a strong character," Ten Hag said. "He can perform under stress and that's a skill you need as a United striker.

"You see it now, he has a lot of confidence and I'm sure he will score a lot more."

His opening goal at Kenilworth Road was the typical poacher's effort, seizing on a terrible back pass by Amari'i Bell before rounding keeper Thomas Kaminski to score.

United were completely dominant in the early exchanges and camped in Luton's half and doubled their lead when Alejandro Garnacho volleyed towards goal and Højlund cleverly deflected the ball past Kaminski with his chest.

At that stage United looked capable of running up a cricket score but Luton came to their senses and got back into the game when Morris dived to head in after Tahith Chong's attempted shot at goal bounced up and he beat André Onana to the ball.

With Luton's confidence restored they had chances to level before halftime with Morris and Alfie Doughty both shooting narrowly wide of the target.

Rasmus Højlund has scored seven goals in his last six Premier League appearances.
Photo by Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images

Casemiro was booked for United in the first half and was involved in several other questionable tackles and was substituted along with Harry Maguire at half-time.

United really should have secured the victory in the second half with Marcus Rashford going close, while both Bruno Fernandes and Garnacho failed to convert after going clear on goal with only Kaminski to beat.

Those missed opportunities almost cost United dear as the excellent Barkley almost nicked an equaliser late on.

Luton remain in 17th place with 20 points from 24 games although Everton could climb above them if they get a point against Crystal Palace on Monday.

"You can't give United a two-goal lead like that and we gave ourselves a mountain to climb," manager Rob Edwards said.

"We gave it a good go and believed in what we do. Pleased with how we responded and how brave we were."