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Four returning players have transformed Manchester United into a different team

The Brummie behind Darren Fletcher had long since gone quiet. He had started the game chirping, "Who the f--k are Man United?" He ended it sat in silence amid the raucous rendition of "We're not famous any more" from the away end.

Winning without performing is the hallmark of a successful season for United and they were outperformed at Villa Park. Two months ago, United would have lost with such a performance.

Yet United are no longer a condemned team. Villa fans will have felt that sinking feeling of surrendering the initiative only for a late United goal before. There has been Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in the 85th minute, an Alpay own goal in the 90th, Ruud van Nistelrooy in the 82nd, Cristiano Ronaldo in the 81st, Nemanja Vidic in the 85th, Javier Hernandez in the 87th and now Scott McTominay in the 86th.

READ MORE: United keeping tabs on Leverkusen pair

READ MORE: United player ratings vs Villa

United have scored nine winning goals in the last 20 minutes this season. Three have come in added time and both deciders against Villa were past the 80-minute mark. That's another hallmark.

Villa could have ended last night 11 points clear of United. Today, everyone expects United to reel them in. It is premature to describe United's form as ominous but they are on the charge.

United had to bank between 12 and 15 points from their five league fixtures this month and the maximum is doable, with Luton Town away and Fulham at home to come.

Erik ten Hag's assertion they would be a different team with their best players available stacks up. United had their best week of the season against Wolves and West Ham, two creditable wins with the former enriched by United's finest 45 minutes of the season.

Beating Villa trumped both and

Read more on manchestereveningnews.co.uk