Manchester United returned to second place in the Premier League table after being briefly vacated earlier on Sunday, dispatching Newcastle United 3-1 at Old Trafford. Marcus Rashford opened the scoring with a fine individual effort before Allan Saint-Maximin equalized for Newcastle. Daniel James got the winner in the second half before Bruno Fernandes made the result safe from the penalty spot.
Any expectations of Newcastle sitting deep for 90 minutes and letting United have the ball were quickly put to bed. The visitors’ aggressive early pressing forced more than one mistake from the hosts — the goalkeeper, defenders, and central midfielders were all guilty of getting caught on the ball in the opening exchanges.
David De Gea was called into action early, mostly to clean up messes that United created for themselves. The Spaniard was again not comminading enough in clearing his area, and when the ball fell to Joelinton, the striker’s shot took two deflections and it needed De Gea to be at his lightning-quick best to shift his body and palm the ball over the bar.
After 30 minutes, Marcus Rashford decided that he had seen enough. Receiving the ball on the left-wing, United’s most (only?) reliable forward nutmegged one defender, sprinted on to the ball, cut inside another, and fizzed a shot into the near post that was hit with too much vim to give the goalkeeper a chance.
United weren’t necessarily playing well, but individual quality had given them the lead.
Seven minutes later, United gave that lead up in predictable fashion. A Newcastle corner taken short was lofted into the box, and Harry Maguire’s weak header put the ball right on the boot of Allan Saint-Maximin. The Newcastle number 10 blasted the ball into the roof of the net to draw the Magpies level.
United went into the break with the scores level, and on the basis of the opening 45 minutes, they could have no complaints. Not that they let that get in the way of letting Newcastle dominate the early exchanges after the break, of course — Newcastle had two good chances within the first five minutes after the break.
But much like in the first half, United took the lead somewhat against the run of play. Nemanja Matić received the ball on the edge of the box, and was given time to turn and run into the box. His low pass across the area was just touched on by Bruno Fernandes, and found its way to the so-far ineffectual Dan James. James needed no invitation to continue his recent goal-scoring streak, and lashed the ball into the near corner of the net to put United back in front.
At the 70th minute mark, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made his first change of the match, sending on Mason Greenwood in place of the disappointing Anthony Martial. Notably, Greenwood was deployed through the middle.
In the 73rd minute, United were bailed out again by the reliability of Rashford and Bruno. Rashford was brought down while driving at the Newcastle back line, and the referee rightly pointed to the spot. Up stepped Bruno Fernandes to do what Bruno Fernandes does — no messing about, 3-1 United.
With the result safe, United fans were treated to a lovely bonus. In the 89th minute, Juan Mata came on for James, and 17-year-old Shola Shoretire came on for his professional debut in place of the relatively seasoned Rashford. A great moment for the academy graduate, and a nice ending to an uneven game.