Manchester United 3 Newcastle United 1
- Paul Tierney
Newcastle remain just three points above the Premier League’s bottom three after a disappointing second-half display against Manchester United at Old Trafford.
The Magpies arguably had the better of the opening 45 minutes and, after falling behind to Marcus Rashford’s fizzing strike, they deservedly headed into the break on level terms thanks to Allan Saint-Maximin’s wonderful volley.
However, Daniel James re-established the hosts’ lead ten minutes after the restart and, from that point on, there only ever looked like being one winner. Bruno Fernandes put the outcome beyond doubt from the penalty spot as Newcastle faded badly, the Red Devils threatening to add to their advantage during the closing stages.
The Magpies had two sights of goal early on with Man United looking sloppy trying to play out from the back. Just four minutes in, the ball bounced kindly for Joelinton inside the penalty area, and after recovering from a poor first touch, the Brazilian let fly with a vicious effort which deflected off Victor Lindelöf and forced David de Gea into an instinctive stop. The hosts’ ‘keeper then gift-wrapped Joelinton possession with a dreadful pass across the face of his own goal. The Magpies’ No. 9 opted to square for Jonjo Shelvey, who skied a first-time strike from 20 yards.
With Miguel Almirón also looking lively – the Paraguayan’s 25-yard shot tested de Gea at the near post – Newcastle could certainly argue they shaded the opening exchanges. With exactly 30 minutes played, though, they found themselves trailing, as Rashford turned Emil Krafth inside-out down the visitors’ right before firing the ball past Karl Darlow – who would have felt he could have done better.
The United stopper would have felt relieved, then, when Saint-Maximin blasted Steve Bruce’s side level just six minutes later. Seconds after bringing de Gea into action with a curling strike, the Frenchman was on hand to volley home after the Red Devils failed to deal with the resultant corner, which the Magpies had initially played short.
A similar scenario brought about the first opportunity of the second half, which again fell Newcastle’s way. The hosts failed to clear their lines, Saint-Maximin picked up the pieces, but this time de Gea was equal to his effort. There was plenty of power to the shot, but sadly it lacked a little bit of placement.
A sense of déjà vu continued as Man United re-took the lead in the 56th minute. Having looked largely untroubled since the start of the half, the Magpies allowed Nemanja Matic room to manoeuvre inside the penalty area and the Serbian’s pass across the centre was missed by Jamal Lewis. Wide-man James gleefully pounced and rifled a low shot beneath the body of Darlow and into the net.
Having looked a little ponderous up until that point – despite their lead – the Red Devils started to play with a real energy. Anthony Martial was unfortunate not to put further daylight between the two sides within minutes, cleverly weaving his way into the box before forcing Darlow into a smart parry. The United ‘keeper then kept out a Rashford effort as the gaps started to appear and Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s men moved through the gears.
They got their third with 15 minutes to play. A set-piece situation of the hosts’ own strained Newcastle’s rearguard and there were few complaints when Joe Willock dived in at Rashford’s feet and conceded a penalty. Cue Fernandes; having seen Darlow equal to his spot kick at St. James’ Park back in October, the clinical Portuguese made no mistake this time over.
From that point on, it was a case of damage limitation for Bruce’s charges. They managed to avoid it, though only just, with substitute Mason Greenwood coming close and Darlow having to scoop a goalbound Harry Maguire header over the crossbar.