- Javier Hernandez comes off the bench to inspire Manchester United to victory
- Mexican scores twice and has another effort deflected in by Aston Villa player
- The 3-2 win puts United four points clear at the top of the Premier League
- Arsenal lose more ground after blowing a two-goal lead for the second time this week
Javier Hernandez has had to be patient this season. Robin van Persie's arrival at Manchester United was followed by a glut of goals that justified Alex Ferguson's $38 million investment in the former Arsenal striker.
Hernandez also made a big impact two years ago as a relatively little-known signing from Guadalajara, being named player of the season as United won a record 19th league title.
But last season was a different story as the Mexico international played a bit-part role and the club's Premier League crown was snatched by crosstown rivals Manchester City.
The 24-year-old came into the 2012-13 campaign fresh after Ferguson demanded he miss Mexico's successful Olympic campaign, but he has started only five matches out of 16 in all competitions.
However, a run of seven goals in his last five games means "Chicharito" will be one of the first names on the team sheet next weekend for United's trip to Norwich.
"When he came to us two years ago, that's what we're seeing again today and, when you score a hat-trick, you pick yourself. I think he'll be playing next week," Ferguson said after Hernandez inspired another comeback victory against Aston Villa on Saturday to put United four points clear at the top of the table.
The "Little Pea" scored three goals in the two come-from-behind wins against Braga that sealed United's place in the last 16 of the Champions League, and he came off the bench to rescue the team from 2-0 down against struggling Villa.
It was the eighth time United have won this season after going behind.
Hernandez is claiming a hat-trick, though his equalizing goal appeared to be off-target before it deflected into the net off Villa defender Ron Vlaar.
Ferguson had to change his preferred attacking formation at halftime, taking off England winger Ashley Young, after Villa took a shock lead with two goals from young Austrian forward Andreas Weimann.
"We do prefer that one striker with one playing behind," the 70-year-old manager said.
"It didn't work today in the first half but when Javier came on and Robin dropped a bit deeper, and Wayne went out to the left-hand side, you had a feeling that if we got a goal we would go on and win it."
Van Persie could not add to his league-leading eight goals this season, but he played a key role as he hit the bar twice in the space of a minute and then laid on a perfect freekick for Hernandez to head an 87th-minute winner.
"It doesn't matter who scored the goals," Hernandez said. "The most important thing is who is top of the league and that we came back from two goals down to win."
It put pressure on second-placed Chelsea and City, who respectively host Liverpool and sixth-placed Tottenham on Sunday.
Seventh-placed Arsenal lost more ground on the leaders after being held 3-3 by London rivals Fulham, as midfielder Mikel Arteta missed a last-minute penalty.
Arsene Wenger's team blew a two-goal lead for the second time this week, having also been held in the Champions League by Schalke.
France striker Olivier Giroud put Arsenal ahead before fellow preseason signing Lukas Podolski added another, but Fulham's former Manchester United striker Dimitar Berbatov continued his career revival as he reduced the deficit and then set up Alex Kacaniklic's 40th-minute equalizer.
The Bulgarian put visiting Fulham 3-2 ahead with a penalty but Giroud leveled before Arteta's spot-kick was saved by veteran Australian goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer -- leaving both teams on 16 points from 11 matches.
"It was frustrating because we had the chances," Wenger said. "We were caught in too comfortable a position. We did the difficult thing, going 2-0 up, but then we lacked defensive urgency."
Everton stayed fourth with a 2-1 victory at Sunderland in manager David Moyes' 400th Premier League game.
In-form Marouane Fellaini leveled Adam Johnson's opener with his sixth league goal this season and then set up striker Nikica Jelavic for the Croatian's fifth.
Fifth-placed West Brom joined the Merseyside club on 20 points following a 2-1 win at Wigan.
James Morrison headed the opener and Gary Caldwell diverting Billy Jones effort into his own net before Arouna Kone reduced the deficit just before halftime.
Stoke moved away from the relegation zone with a 1-0 win at home to bottom club Queens Park Rangers, while promoted sides Reading and Southampton remained in the drop zone after respective draws against Norwich and Swansea.