Javier Hernandez came off the bench to net twice and inspire United to a 3-2 victory at Villa Park
Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson says that Javier Hernandez is challenging Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie for a regular place in his starting line-up after the Mexican inspired a brilliant comeback at Aston Villa.
United had trailed 2-0 after Villa forward Andreas Weimann scored either side of half-time on Saturday, but Hernandez came off the bench to net twice, as well as playing the crucial role in the other goal, as Ferguson's team clinched a 3-2 win which sent them four points clear at the top of the Premier League.
The Mexico striker was only denied a hat-trick because Ron Vlaar was credited with an own-goal after Hernandez's shot deflected in off the Villa defender.
United have a host of attacking options, but after such an influential display Ferguson insists Hernandez deserves to go from super-sub to starter.
"Javier did his natural thing. He's fantastic in the penalty box and his movement and quickness in space has got him the goals," Ferguson said.
"He had a good summer break and it's made a difference to him. What we saw today is what we saw from him two years ago.
"When you score goals, you pick yourself and I think he'll be playing next week.
"We never gave in, we hit the bar twice and once we got the second goal I think we really came alive.
"It was a fantastic game. I thought that Christian Benteke was brilliant for Villa but when we need to do it, we do it."
Ferguson also confirmed the club's medical staff will assess an injury to Rooney after he was substituted 11 minutes before the end of the match.
The United forward has been named in Roy Hodgson's England squad for the friendly against Sweden in Stockholm next week, but Ferguson refused to confirm whether he would miss the match.
"He got a knock on his ankle and he has some ice on it at the moment. We will see what he is like in the morning," Ferguson added.
Meanwhile, Villa manager Paul Lambert insisted the performance of his young side would serve the club well for the future even though they threw away a two-goal lead.
United maintained their excellent record at Villa Park, having not lost there in the Premier League since the start of the 1995-96 season, to leave the hosts dangerously close to the relegation zone.
But Lambert was pleased with the way his young side performed.
"They are young lads but they are getting better. The front three are a handful. It bodes well for future," Lambert said.
"I'm proud. I thought they were outstanding. I couldn't ask for anymore. But that's why Manchester United are a top side. They do it week in week out.
"We have been playing well for a couple of weeks and hopefully the confidence will be there in abundance after that.
"The Premier League is really tough and we are a young side but they kept on going.
"I couldn't fault them for the way they played. The crowd are your gauge. I am absolutely gutted to lose because they gave me everything they had."
Lambert also hailed Austria international Weimann and Belgium forward Benteke for the way they troubled United's defence.
"One thing is Andreas is a natural finisher. Benteke was incredible for the build-up as well," Lambert said.
"Andrea is a young lad but he seems to have been around for years. The future is very good."