MAN UNITED 4, NEWCASTLE UNITED 1
The only thing consistent about Manchester United’s form is their inconsistency.
In the space of four days, the Reds went from a horror show at Watford to a dazzling display in an emphatic home victory against Newcastle United.
And it was an evening in which all three of United’s front players found the net as the Reds climbed from ninth to seventh place and are only four points adrift of the Champions League places.
Anthony Martial twice found the net and there were also goals for Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford as extended their impressive Boxing Day record at Old Trafford where they have not lost since 1978.
It was not done the easy way, though, as it took falling behind to a Matty Longstaff goal to kickstart the Reds to life as they recorded their biggest win since the opening day of the season when they beat Chelsea 4-0.Embed from Getty Images
Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had no qualms about getting a positive reaction to the defeat at Watford.
He said: “We saw intent straightaway and the attitude was to win the ball and go forward. I was never worried about a reaction.
“We lost one game in August, September, October, November and December and have never lost two in a row.
“Footballers have got to earn it and we earned it. We made them make mistakes and make it hard for them.”
Solskjaer was asked if he apologised for substituting Martial and denying him the chance to complete a hat-trick.
He explained: “The gaffer (Sir Alex Ferguson) took me off many times when I had scored two goals.
“The game was won and we don’t have many forwards and we want them for Burnley in 48 hours’ time.”
Newcastle manager Steve Bruce admitted his side was its own worst enemies.
“We gifted them goals and you cannot make mistakes like that at Manchester United,” he said.
“We made far too many individual errors and you cannot do that against that quality of opposition. We had an awful 15 minutes.”
United, with a 80 per cent win ratio on Boxing Day, the best percentage in the Premier League era, made two changes from the side which lost at Watford.
Greenwood and Andreas Pereira won starting spots at the expense of Daniel James and Jesse Lingard.
Paul Pogba, back from injury, was named on the bench for the second successive game as many had forecasted he would start.
United had Scott McTominay booked after only 24 seconds following a late challenge on Sean Longstaff. It was the fastest caution in a Premier League game since records began in 2006-07 season.
Newcastle had the first clear-cut chance in the 15th minute when Joelington put Dwight Gayle clean through but the striker blazed over.
United did not heed the warning as the visitors took the lead two minutes later through Matty Longstaff.
He began the ball with a long ball to Joelinton who cut the ball back to Longstaff who fired home a low shot as United extended their unwanted club record to 14 Premier League games without a clean sheet.
It was Longstaff’s second goal in only four Premier League starts, his other goal was the winner in Newcastle’s 1-0 triumph against the Reds earlier this season.
United drew level in the 24th minute through Martial.
Luke Shaw began the move on the left and Pereira laid off the ball to Martial whose powerful shot just eluded goalkeeper Martin Dubravka.
Newcastle were architects of their own downfall as Greenwood put United ahead in the 36th minute.
Fabian Schar’s ball out of defence was intercepted by Greenwood whose fierce drive deflected off Federico Fernandez and went in off the crossbar.
It was his eighth goal of the season in all competitions and the only teenager with more goals in Europe’s big five leagues is Jadon Sancho at Borussia Dortmund with 12.
It was proving a nightmare for captain Schar who was booked moments later for a foul on Rashford, from which Pereira’s free kick was brilliantly tipped over by Dubravka.
United extended their lead in the 41st minute when Rashford rose to head home Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s cross from six yards, his 15th of the season, as United’s attacking play was scintillating as they scored three times in 17 minutes.
Solskjaer made a change at the break as Pogba replaced McTominay who picked up an ankle injury in the opening minutes, but appeared to run it off.
Pogba certainly hit the ground running and a drive from 25 yards flashed narrowly wide.
It was not long before United scored a fourth goal in the 51st minute after a further piece of horror defending.
Sean Longstaff’s back pass from halfway was intercepted by Martial who raced clear to dink the ball over Dubravka for his ninth goal of the season.
Martial was within inches of completing a hat-trick when his drive from 25 yards struck the inside of the upright and rebounded to safety.
With the game won, Solskjaer made a second change midway through the second half when Rashford made way for Lingard, quickly followed by Juan Mata taking over from Martial.
Harry Maguire almost made it five following a rampaging burst forward before a 25-yard drive was well saved by Dubravka.