Manchester United return to winning ways as Anthony Martial scored twice in a 4-1 triumph over a generous Newcastle United side at Old Trafford.
Having lost 2-0 to then-bottom Watford last time out, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side appeared to be suffering a Christmas hangover when they fell behind to Matty Longstaff’s 17th-minute opener on Boxing Day.
Manchester United’s defence had been given an early reprieve when Dwight Gayle carelessly blazed over when clean through, but Longstaff – scorer of the only goal in the reverse fixture back in early October – made them pay, collecting Joelinton’s layoff before angling a low shot beyond David de Gea.
However, any thoughts Steve Bruce may have harboured of completing a league double over his former club had disappeared by half-time.
Martial drew the home side level when his low first-time shot from Andreas Pereira’s cushioned pass crept in at the near post, the ball squeezing beyond Martin Dubravka to reach the net.
Newcastle then gifted the hosts a second, their attempts to play their way out of trouble only seeing Fabian Schar play a pass straight across his own penalty area to Mason Greenwood, who let loose a thumping left-footed drive that flashed beyond Dubravka with the aid of a slight deflection.
Marcus Rashford climbed above Schar to head home Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s inviting cross and make it 3-1 by the interval, while Martial added a fourth when converting a one-on-one opportunity early in the second half.
The Frenchman was once again the beneficiary of a present from the visitors, played clear by Sean Longstaff’s under-hit back pass. Denied a hat-trick by a post, he was withdrawn with the crowded festive fixture list in mind.
Paul Pogba continued his return from injury by playing the entire second half in what became a procession, with the emphatic result lifting Manchester United up to seventh in the table, just four points behind fourth-placed Chelsea.
What does it mean? Red Devils paper over cracks
A much-needed win for Solskjaer after the embarrassing setback at Vicarage Road, though the Norwegian will be concerned at the way his team started the game.
Matty Longstaff’s precise finish means Manchester United have not kept a clean sheet in the Premier League since beating Leicester City at Old Trafford back on September 14. Long-term growth will require firmer foundations than we have seen so far this season, despite the massive outlay to bring in Harry Maguire and Wan-Bissaka.
Martial strikes it lucky
The former Monaco forward makes a habit of scoring against Newcastle – he has done so now in all three appearances against them.
His opener owed much to the failure of Dubravka to make what appeared to be a comfortable save, though his second was a delightfully deft chip over the advancing goalkeeper when in the clear.
Schar-mful stuff at the back
If Dubravka could have done better with the equaliser, Schar then hurt his team further by inadvertently setting up Greenwood to put Manchester United in front.
However, the Swiss defender was far from alone in having a nightmare after Christmas. Sean Longstaff made his team-mate feel a little better with a shocking error, meaning both claimed unwanted assists.
Key Opta Facts
– Manchester United have won more games (21) and have a higher win percentage (81%) on Boxing Day in the Premier League than any other side. Newcastle United have lost more Premier League Boxing Day games than any other side (14).
– Scott McTominay’s booking for Manchester United after just 24 seconds is the fastest yellow card given in a Premier League match since exact time data has been collected for bookings in the competition (2006-07).
– Newcastle’s Matthew Longstaff is the third player to score both of his first two Premier League goals in two separate appearances against Manchester United, after Fredrik Ljungberg in 1999 and Leighton Baines in 2006.
– Martial has scored in each of his three Premier League appearances against Newcastle at Old Trafford (4 goals in total).
– Manchester United attacker Mason Greenwood has netted eight goals in all competitions this season – the only teenager with more in Europe’s big five leagues is Jadon Sancho (12).
– Manchester United’s Mason Greenwood is just the fourth Manchester United teenager to score in consecutive home matches for the Red Devils in the Premier League, after Ryan Giggs (1993), Wayne Rooney (2005) and Federico Macheda (2010).
A short turnaround for both teams, as they play again on Saturday. Manchester United head to Burnley, while Newcastle host Carlo Ancelotti’s Everton.
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