Zlatan Ibrahimovic returns as United trounce Newcastle
Premier League, Old Trafford - Manchester United 4 Newcastle United 1
Zlatan Ibrahimovic came off the bench for his first appearance since April as Manchester United hit back to complete a 4-1 win over Newcastle at Old Trafford.
United had trailed to Dwight Gayle's 14th minute opener, but goals from Anthony Martial (37'), Chris Smalling (45+1'), Paul Pogba (54') and Romelu Lukaku (70') helped United to remain eight points behind leaders Manchester City, who won 2-0 at Leicester City earlier in the day.
The home side looked ponderous and disorganised in the first half of an entertaining affair, with the visitors threatening during several fast-paced breaks.
Gayle scored his first goal of the season with an inch-perfect tap-in after fourteen minutes, benefiting from excellent service from Deandre Yedlin - and some questionable defending. Victor Lindelof was particularly liable, slipping to give Gayle time and space.
It was the first goal United had conceded at home this season, and the first time David De Gea’s net had been breached from open play at Old Trafford since New Year's Eve 2016.
Manchester United found their equaliser when the retuning Pogba floated a wonderful cross onto the head of Martial: the French forward vindicated Jose Mourinho’s decision to start him with his fifth goal of the season.
Paul Pogba - Manchester UnitedGetty Images
The home side went ahead from another cross: this time it was Ashley Young who assisted Chris Smalling just before the break.
United were much improved in the second half, extending their lead through a well-created counter attack. Inside the box, Lukaku chipped the ball to Rashford, who in turn headed down directly into the path of an oncoming Paul Pogba, for a simple tap-in.
Lukaku ended his seven-game goal drought after a one-two with Nemanja Matic put him in plenty of space in the box.
Romelu Lukaku of Manchester United celebrates with team mates after scoring his sides fourth goal during the Premier League match.Eurosport
Late substitute Zlatan Ibrahimovic - playing for the first time since rupturing his ACL seven months ago - nearly made it five for the home side with a typically athletic scissor kick, which Rob Elliot tipped wide.
Newcastle occasionally threatened to earn a consolation - Jonjo Shelvey came close with a strike form distance - but United fully retained control in the second half.
Dwight Gayle of Newcastle United celebrates with team mates after scoring his sides first goal during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Newcastle United at Old Trafford on November 18, 2017 in Manchester.Eurosport
The win moved Mourinho’s side into second place in the league, eight points behind Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.
TALKING POINT: Are Manchester United back in the title race?
The win launched Mourinho's side into second place once again. Will they be the closest competitor for City in this campaign? Will the race be close? It looks a difficult road back, but at least they have Zlatan back on board.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Paul Pogba
After missing seven league games through injury, Pogba was sublime upon his return. His movement was excellent and some of his passes were stunning. Quite simply, he makes this team tick.
14 - GOAL: Newcastle break down the right and Yedlin cuts the ball back to Dwight Gayle perfectly. Gayle taps it in off the post!
37 - GOAL: Pogba beats his man on the flank and floats in a beautiful cross from the edge of the box and Martial puts his head on it!
45+2’ - GOAL: Young swings a cross to the back post and Chris Smalling rises majestically! Elliot has no chance to reach the header.
45+3’ - Newcastle have a brace of great chances to equalise! Ritchie sees a point-blank shot saved by De Gea and Gayle puts the rebound wide!
54 - GOAL: A brilliantly created counter attack goal. Lukaku charges into the left side of the box and picks out Rashford in the air. Rashford dinks the ball into the path of Pogba, who has a very easy tap-in to finish the job.
70 - GOAL: Lukaku's drought is over! As are Newcastle's chances of getting a point! Lukaku charges in from the left, plays a one-two with Mata and has plenty of time to fire into the net from around six yards.
Manchester United have won 23 and lost only one of their last 33 home league matches against Newcastle.
Manchester United conceded at home for the first time this season, and the first time at home from open play since New Years Day 2016.
Rafa Benitez has won five and lost sic encounters with Jose Mourinho.