Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford stole the show as Manchester United moved back up to second in the Premier League table with a 3-1 victory over struggling Newcastle United at Old Trafford.
The visitors made the brighter start but were stunned on the half hour mark when a piece of individual magic from Rashford saw him finish off a solo run with a low shot that somehow beat Karl Darlow at his near post.
Newcastle responded and six minutes later Allan Saint-Maximin rifled a wonderful half volley into the roof of the net after Harry Maguire’s weak header from a right-wing delivery had fallen perfectly for the Frenchman.
The Magpies were the better side after the interval too, but once again the home team stole in front with a goal out of the blue. Daniel James was left in acres of space and duly punished Steve Bruce’s men with a clinical finish on 57 minutes.
The goal finally sparked Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side into life and they added a third 15 minutes from time when Fernandes converted from the spot after Rashford was felled.
The result means the Red Devils edge back above Leicester City on goal difference and are 10 points behind leaders Manchester City, who won at Arsenal.
Newcastle remain 17th and are now just three points above Fulham who currently occupy the final relegation place.
Man United will now look to finish off their Europa League Last 32 tie at home to Real Sociedad on Thursday before a tricky trip to Chelsea on Sunday. Newcastle host Wolves on Saturday.
Dan James celebrates, Manchester United v Newcastle, Old Trafford, February21, 2021
Image credit: Getty Images
TALKING POINT - Man United too strong despite a very slow start
This was far from vintage Manchester United, but they have such an array of attacking talent that a solid Newcastle performance was undone by the magic of individuals. Solskjaer won’t be happy with his team’s overall display, but it’s all about winning at this stage of the campaign and it’s always the sign of a top side that they can pick up victories when they are far from their best.
Man United remain some way off neighbours Man City at the summit, but are still in contention in case Pep Guardiola’s men do have some sort of blip. Perhaps more significantly, the Red Devils are nine points ahead of champions Liverpool and six ahead of fifth-placed Chelsea. Finishing in the top four will be a minimum target and they are very much on course at this juncture, clocking up 14 more points than at this stage last term.
As for Newcastle, this will be hard to take. They were the better team in the first half and just after the interval, but lack real quality in their attack to score the goals that would lift them out of danger. Fulham have put a run together that means the Magpies will now be glancing over their shoulders nervously and it’s looking very much like Bruce’s side will face a real scrap for survival.
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MAN OF THE MATCH - Marcus Rashford (Man United)
The forward led by example when United were very sluggish. Got the ball rolling with a superb solo goal and won the spot kick for the third goal that ensured there was no nervy finale.
Man Utd: De Gea 6, Shaw 7, Wan-Bissaka 7, Lindelof 7, Maguire 6, Fred 7, Matic 7, James 8, Fernandes 7, Rashford 8, Martial 6. Subs: Greenwood 6, Shoretire n/a, Mata n/a.
30’ - GOAL! Man Utd 1-0 Newcastle (Rashford): Rashford nutmegs his man on the left and drives into the box. He cuts back inside again and fizzes a low drive beyond Darlow at his near post.
36’ - GOAL! Man Utd 1-1 Newcastle (Saint-Maximin): Saint-Maximin half volleys Maguire's attempted header clear beyond De Gea after United failed to deal with a Newcastle set piece routine from the right.
57’ - GOAL! Man Utd 2-1 Newcastle (James): James is left in acres of space on the right side of the box. A low ball from the left from Matic works its way through to James, who takes a touch before rifling a low shot beyond Darlow.
75’ - GOAL! Man Utd 3-1 Newcastle (Fernandes): Fernandes coolly tucks his spot kick into the corner to give the hosts a cushion. The penalty was awarded after Rashford was tripped in the box.
Rashford's opener was his 40th goal in all competitions since the beginning of last season, with only Raheem Sterling (44), Harry Kane (45) and Mohamed Salah (47) managing more amongst all Premier League players.
Fernandes has scored and assisted in a league game for the seventh time this season; the most of any player across the top five European leagues in 2020-21.
Since his Premier League debut in February 2020, Bruno Fernandes (11) has himself scored more goals from the penalty spot than any other team besides Man Utd in the competition (Chelsea and Leicester, 9).
James has scored five goals in 13 games for Manchester United this season, one more than he managed in 46 games across all competitions last season.
Manchester United have scored 53 goals in 25 games in the Premier League this term – their most at this stage of a top-flight campaign since the 2012-13 season (60), which was the last time they won the title.