Manchester United – Newcastle: The Red Devils started slowly but were worthy winners, even at 3-1, by the time the full-time whistle went at Old Trafford on Sunday.
[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]
Marcus Rashford and Allan Saint-Maximin traded first-half goals to send the game to halftime at 1-1, but Daniel James and Bruno Fernandes took the game back and put it away in the second half.
The result sees Manchester United retain 2nd place in the Premier League table, though they remain 10 points back of leaders Manchester City with 13 games left to play. Newcastle, on the other hand, remain 17th and are now just three points clear of Fulham in the relegation zone.
3 things we learned: Manchester United – Newcastle
1. Man United sleep-walk through long periods: As good as Bruno Fernandes has been this season (he’ll probably win Player of the Year), Manchester United still need more from him as no one else in the team is willing or able to take control of a 50-50 game and tilt it in their favor. Fernandes does so nearly every other game, but when he doesn’t (like on Sunday), Man United rarely look convincing or confident. Fortunately for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side, Newcastle were happy to self-destruct and hand Manchester United an insurmountable advantage, without having to be brilliant brilliant, as the game wore on.
2. And for that, second place would be an achievement: In the eight years since Sir Alex Ferguson retired, Manchester United have finished in the top-three only twice and the top-two just once. They were 3rd last season after being 6th the season prior. Back-to-back seasons in the top-three would be a massive improvement in consistency, especially considering the above point. This has the feel of a foundational season for Solskjaer and Co., and that’s something that’s been missing for quite some time. They might not be getting better each and every week, but they’re finding different ways to win for the most part, and there’s real value in that.
3. Saint-Maximin a different level than Newcastle: … and probably headed for a different club in the summer. Gut feeling: Everton qualify for Europa League in 2021-22, which puts a bit more money into the budget and the Toffees pony up $50 million for Saint-Maximin, who is, with all due respect to Newcastle, far too good to play for a 17th-place side.
Newcastle were the better side for the opening 25 minutes, even if not by a massive margin, though Manchester United were never truly bothered or under duress. The Red Devils held the Magpies at bay as they found their way into the game and took the lead right on the half-hour mark.
Marcus Rashford darted down the left flank and cut inside just as he caught a brief sight of goal inside Karl Darlow’s near post. Rashford hit it low and hard and Darlow was beaten where no goalkeeper ever wants to let one in.
Newcastle didn’t shrink from the challenge, though, and Saint-Maximin had them back on level terms within six minutes. After winning a corner kick, Newcastle played it short and lofted a ball into the box from deeper in midfield. It was initially headed clear, but only as far as Saint-Maximin near the penalty spot, where he took it on the half-volley and smashed it into the ceiling of David de Gea’s goal.
[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]
Manchester United began the second half much better than they did the first half, and they were rewarded with a goal to regain the lead in the 57th minute. Nemanja Matic split a pair of defenders atop the penalty area and sent a pass across the box to find Daniel James, who hammered another low strike past Darlow at his near post.
Fernandes bagged the insurance goal from the penalty spot in the 75th minute, after Rashford was tripped by Joe Willock. Fernandes avenged his only fail penalty attempt in the Premier League this season by beating Darlow, who denied him back in October.