MARCUS RASHFORD celebrated his World Cup call up by leading Manchester United’s stirring fight-back.
Gareth Southgate’s number two Steve Holland was in the stands at Old Trafford just hours after the Three Lions party for Qatar had been confirmed.
The Red Devils forward is part of it for the first time since his Euro 2020 heartache – in recognition of his recent return to form.
And he vindicated Southgate’s decision by pulling his team level with a well taken goal – before goals from Bruno Fernandes and Scott McTominay completed the turnaround late on.
It capped a breath-taking second half which was in stark contrast to a desperately poor opening 45 minutes.
And United claimed their revenge over Villa just four days after Unai Emery’s men had beaten them at Villa Park in the Prem.
Both managers made seven changes from that game and among those dropping out was Cristiano Ronaldo – who was not in the United squad due to illness.
Goalkeeper Martin Dubravka, who arrived at Old Trafford from Newcastle in August – was handed his Red Devils debut.
Meanwhile England’s Harry Maguire was handed only his second start since early September – and was desperately in need of minutes.
Maybe the teams knew each other too well after meeting only four days earlier because there was little of note in the opening exchanges.
Tyrell Malacia scooped a cross over which Diogo Dalot met with a header on the bounce but it was deflected narrowly over the bar.
There was no great urgency from either side to win this tie in the opening half hour.
A trademark Douglas Luiz corner needed a clearance off the line by Scott McTominay – although Dubravka will feel he had it covered anyway.
Minutes later, another one was only half cleared and former United man Ashley Young whistled a volley over the bar.
Yet after a thoroughly forgettable first half, the game sprang into life after the break.
Jacob Ramsey found space in the middle and played a perfect pass in to Ollie Watkins who had drifted off the shoulder of Maguire.
He showed the class which once put him in the England frame to race clear and lift the ball brilliantly over Dubravka.
Yet the home side were furious claiming there had been a handball by Boubacar Kamara in the build up.
With no VAR in operation, the goal stood and United showed their frustration by hitting back within a minute.
The smoke from the flares set off in the away end had still not cleared when Dalot played a lovely pass to find Fernandes who had drifted into space.
He rolled the ball across the box for Anthony Martial to slot home a simple equaliser.
The French ace was left out of his nation’s World Cup squad this week – maybe this will have put a smile back on his face.
After such a dismal first half – suddenly the game was alive and the visitors were back in front just after the hour.
Leon Bailey had only just replaced Ramsey when he was picked out at the back post by Young’s cross.
His header back across goal was not going in before Dalot stuck out a leg and diverted it into his own net.
That was three goals in 17 minutes – and there was almost another one soon afterwards.
Malacia picked out Rashford with a long ball and he took it past Tyrone Mings before blasting his effort just wide.
The England hopeful was not to be denied though – as he flicked on another pass from the full-back into the path of sub Christian Eriksen.
When Villa failed to clear he pounced on the loose ball and took advantage of a slip by Mings before stabbing a shot low into the corner.
Fernandes forced a low save from Robin Olsen as United chased a winner while the Swedish keeper also kept out Maguire’s thumping header.
But when Olsen fluffed his clearance sub Alejandro Garnacho pounced and played it into Fernandes.
The Portuguese shot was on target but a deflection off the hapless Mings sent it flying into the corner.
McTominay rattled a shot against the bar but wrapped up the scoring late on when he touched home Garnacho’s cross.
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