Sunday afternoon saw a quick-fire Manchester United first-half lead ultimately prove too much for a determined Luton Town.

Rasmus Hojlund capitalised on an Amari'i Bell mishap inside the first 60 seconds, before having the ball cannon off him favourably from an Alejandro Garnacho effort to have United up by two on seven minutes. 

Carlton Morris' response on 14' epitomised a determined fight back attitude. That said, the forward's seventh goal of the season wasn't enough to inspire the Bedfordshire side to claim anything from the game. Erik ten Hag's team continue their assault on the top six. 

Here's what we learnt from this entertaining Premier League duel.

  • Hojlund's awakening

As Iker Zamalloa aptly dissected in his piece for Vavel, it looks as if Rasmus Hojlund has found his feet in the Premier League. Getting over an initial cold patch that lasted several months following his arrival from Atalanta in the summer of 2023 - the young Dane has finally looked to click with teammates - especially Alejandro Garnacho.

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Hojlund's offensive initiative following a brief, early Amari'i Bell lapse of concentration, drew stark contrast to the raw player that United had at the start of his Old Trafford spell. Take those early games in the Premier League and put the Copenhagen-graduate in the same position. Then think, would he have scored? 

The double chance against Liverpool in the drab 0-0 at Anfield springs to mind. He's bearing down on goal on the right side of the box and his head is up. However, the finish is lacklustre and straight at a somewhat thankful Alisson. The follow up from the 20-year-old is even tamer.  

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You could think, this game against Luton perhaps had lower stakes - yet with much more time on the ball, early season Hojlund may have been prone to overthinking, or in turn striking too soon instead of artfully rounding the goalkeeper Thomas Kaminski. Even though the second goal was extremely fortunate, and the turning forward likely knew little about it - it's one of those where a striker makes his own luck by being in the right place at the right time. 

It's clear that ten Hag's reasonably cotton wool approach around his young striker has paid off - especially now his confidence has returned with this hot streak of seven PL goals in six outings. Hojlund, and the way he performs when his other forwards aren't too sharp, is going to be a vital cog in United's bid for a top four finish.

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  • Casemiro a lucky boy

Adding to the moderately unlucky blow that was the visitor's second goal, Luton should rightly be incensed that Casemiro somehow didn't see red. The Brazilian's sole yellow card has been contested as 'soft' by many in the United contingent, however that doesn't mean that the slew of dubious challenges that followed should go unpunished.

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In the following sequences, there were at least four more challenges where the former Real Madrid man could've walked - especially the somehow-ignored challenge on Ross Barkley. Such was the clear fortune of United's holding midfielder, that after the half time whistle, ten Hag opted to make a change. 

Add this to referee Michael Coote's involvement getting in the way amidst United's fast break for the first goal, as well as a frustrating lack of injury time - it was a throwback to the Manchester stereotype of old akin to 'Fergie Time' and things of that ilk. Don't get me wrong, United squandered many second half chances, yet Luton would've likely found a better foothold against 10-men at the Kenny.

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When asked about the decisions, Rob Edwards kept a professional lid on his post-match emotions:

"I think the fact that he came off at half time, Casemiro, might tell you what I think about that."

"I haven't seen the first one back, but it's not the right thing to not give the other yellow just because he shouldn't have given the first one. I feel that the second one was (a yellow) and if it was, he should've been off. But it didn't happen and we're talking about hypothetical things here."

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  • Bell deserves praise despite misfortune

If it wasn't clear what sort of club Luton Town are, all you needed to do on Sunday afternoon was search Amari'i Bell into Twitter. While yes, there would've been some comments of frustration around the defender's mishap, they would've also been overwhelmed by statements of praise and support for the Jamaica international.

Bell, a Town player who has been at the club since moving from Blackburn Rovers in July 2021, has had his fair share of ups and downs - yet what was striking at the weekend was his ability to bounce back from such an early error. 

He made it difficult for United at times and provided valuable support to the midfield's efforts as well as the wider push forward. Luton widely demonstrate that players should be held accountable, but within reason. Humility is key, especially for a club that has such a personable, close quarters relationship between fan and player alike. 

 

  • The Adebayo void an obvious disadvantage, yet Hatters fought on valiantly

15 minutes before kick off, Luton's online echo chamber was as rocked as the stadium that saw Elijah Adebayo trudge down the tunnel early. As news filtered through, many pre-match predictions changed, and uncomfortable murmurs arose following the knock that took him out of the warm up.  

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However, as Cauley Woodrow took the in-form striker's place (nine goals in 23 PL games) and Dan Potts filtered onto the matchday's bench - Luton still carried on regardless. Yes, the game plan had to change - you could see how Alfie Doughty's deliveries weren't perhaps catered for the likes of Woodrow or a deeper Carlton Morris at times. Yet, Woodrow ran tirelessly, and Morris still used his attacking guile to get a poacher's goal to give the Kenilworth Road residents hope. 

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Given how Town adapted to a dangerous, yet at times wasteful, United - this loss should still resonate with teams around them in the table. The scoreline didn't flatter the Red Devils, and once again confirms that Luton Town can give even the biggest sides a run for their money in the Premier League.