Manchester United came from two goals down to beat Newcastle United 3-2 at Old Trafford on Saturday. At halftime, manager José Mourinho had looked like a dead man walking, though second half strikes from Juan Mata, Anthony Martial and Alexis Sánchez ensured a dramatic victory for his side.
Newcastle’s early goals hit like a cold water wakeup. The first came just seven minutes in, when some sloppy positional play from Nemanja Matić afforded Ayoze Pérez the room to thread Kenedy through. He jinked away from Ashley Young and curled the ball neatly inside David de Gea’s far post for 1-0.
It took just three minutes for a shellshocked United to be stunned once again. A deep Jonjo Shelvey ball was brought down in the penalty area by Yoshinori Muto, who was given sufficient time on the ball to wriggle free of Ashley Young and stab beyond de Gea. Old Trafford’s eerie silence was punctuated only by the jubilant echoes of the travelling Magpies support. “Sacked in the morning,” they jeered.
Mourinho wasted no time in changing things up, hauling Eric Bailly off for Juan Mata with not even a quarter of the game gone. United’s best chance of the half soon followed, though Marcus Rashford glanced Romelu Lukaku’s excellent deep cross wide of Martin Dúbravka’s goal. He should’ve scored.
United otherwise appeared entirely perplexed, and were lucky not to be three down by halftime. Only a great De Gea save prevented the Magpies from netting another before the break, coming as he sprung to his left to parry a close-range Muto header. Loud boos reverberated around the ground as the referee brought the first period to an end.
United needed a goal early in the second half, and they should’ve had one within six minutes of the restart. Paul Pogba’s swerving drive was pushed into Matić’s path, though unmarked he managed to lift the ball over the crossbar. Another opportunity arrived four minutes later, though Rashford flicked Pogba’s fine cross wide. If impotence characterised the first half, profligacy marked the start of the second.
Mourinho rolled the dice a final time just past the hour, introducing Sánchez in place of the wasteful Rashford. Just a couple of minutes later Mata pulled a goal back, curling an excellent free-kick beyond the sprawling Dúbravka. For the first time all afternoon, Old Trafford believed. But the clock was ticking.
United started to pile on the pressure, and Dúbravka was called into action twice in quick succession to deny Marouane Fellaini and Chris Smalling. There was, however, nothing he could do when Anthony Martial lashed a dipping shot inside the near post with a quarter of an hour remaining. United were back on level terms, and Old Trafford was rocking.
The equalising goal blew the game wide open, and chances flowed at both ends of the pitch. Mohamed Diamé should’ve punished United on a corner, though his free header was cleared off the line by Lukaku. At the other end, the Reds peppered the Newcastle box with crosses, but the final touch was always, agonisingly missing.
Until the very last minute of the 90, that is. A floated Young cross cleared the leaping Martial but not the rooted Sánchez. He expertly guided his header inside the far post, sealing a dramatic comeback and very possibly saving José Mourinho his job. Let’s hope next time it’s not quite so nervy.