- Matty Longstaff broke the deadlock for the visitors in the 17th minute of the league clash at Old Trafford
- The Red Devils were behind for just seven minutes as Anthony Martial equalised with effort from outside box
- Mason Greenwood put Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side ahead in the 36th minute of the match on Boxing Day
- England international Marcus Rashford scored Manchester United’s third goal moments before half time
- Martial scored his second goal of the game and the hosts’ fourth just six minutes after the restart
For too long now Manchester United have struggled to break down opponents who defend deep.
Here at Old Trafford on Boxing Day and approaching the halfway point of the season, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side finally discovered the code that allowed them to make the most of their superiority as they celebrated their biggest Premier League win since the opening day of the season.
It needed a scare to wake them from a Christmas slumber when Matty Longstaff – the homegrown hero who scored Newcastle’s winner against United in October – struck again. And Newcastle certainly contributed to their own downfall with Longstaff’s brother Sean, Fabian Schar and goalkeeper Martin Dubravka all guilty of mistakes.
Anthony Martial scored his second goal of the game and the hosts’ fourth just six minutes after the restart on Thursday
Martial celebrates after making it 4-1 against Newcastle in the Premier League fixture at Old Trafford on Boxing Day
England international Marcus Rashford scored Manchester United’s third goal with his head moments before half time
But United will hope this represents a breakthrough after a stop-start first half of the campaign. They have had fewer problems beating Manchester City, Leicester, Chelsea and Tottenham, not to mention taking points off Liverpool – all teams they can hit on the break.
But picking apart less ambitious opponents has been an issue with just 12 points taken from 13 games against teams below them in the table before this. Indeed, United had only beaten one of the 12 sides against whom they have had more than 50 per cent possession.
This was much better and made all the more rewarding for Solskjaer because the four goals were shared out among his three principal attackers, Anthony Martial – who scored twice – Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood.
Rashford is joined by his Manchester United team-mates after adding a third goal in the 41st minute of the encounter
Manchester United’s English striker Mason Greenwood shoots to score their second goal of the match in the 36th minute
Forward Greenwood celebrates putting Manchester United in front in the first 45 minutes by sliding on his knees
Solskjaer started with Paul Pogba on the bench again with one eye on the Frenchman’s fitness after a three-month injury lay-off and another on United’s second festive fixture at Burnley 48 hours later.
‘It’s too early for him to do too much,’ said the United manager, who selected Adreas Pereira ahead of Pogba, Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata in the No 10 role. ‘Paul has worked really hard but it’s been a long lay-off. We’ll have to drip-feed him in and gradually play him more and more. I’ve got a team in my mind for Burnley but in football you’re never surprised if something different happens.’
Newcastle face an even quicker turnaround before playing Everton at home on Saturday and Steve Bruce made three changes to the side that beat Crystal Palace at the weekend.
Bruce dropped Andy Carroll and Jonjo Shelvey to the bench in a line-up that saw Dwight Gayle make his first start under the former United skipper and Matty Longstaff only his third appearance since that dramatic Premier League winner against United in October.
Manchester United forward Martial equalised for the Red Devils just seven minutes after they fell behind in the first half
Martial celebrates with his team-mate Andreas Pereira after equalising against Newcastle on Thursday,
Martial curled an effort towards Newcastle goalkeeper Martin Dubravka’s near post and the ‘keeper was unable to keep it out
MAN UTD (4-3-2-1): De Gea 6.5; Wan-Bissaka 7, Lindelof 6.5, Maguire 7, Shaw 7; McTominay 7 (Pogba 46, 6.5), Fred 6.5; Greenwood 7, Pereira 6.5, Rashford 7 (Lingard 63, 6.5); Martial 8 (Mata 67, 6). Subs: Romero, Jones, Young, James.
Scorers: Martial 23, 51, Greenwood 36, Rashford 41
Booked: Pereira, McTominay
Manager: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer 7
NEWCASTLE UTD (3-5-2): Dubravka 5; Schar 5 (Krafth 88), Fernandez 6, Lejeune 6; Manquillo 6, M Longstaff 7, S Longstaff 5, Almiron 6.5 (Yedlin 63, 6),Willems 5.5; Gayle 5 (Atsu 59, 6), Joelinton 7. Subs: Darlow, Carroll, Shelvey, Hayden.
Scorer: M Longstaff 17
Booked: Schar, Yedlin
Manager: Steve Bruce 5
Referee: Kevin Friend
It wasn’t the strongest Newcastle line-up and one that encouraged United to attack, as they did from the start here. Once again, however, they lacked the guile to unlock a team that chose to sat deep and defend. The nearest they came to finding a way through was during a period of early pressure that yielded three corners after Rashford’s free-kick and Harry Maguire’s header were deflected behind.
If United should have learned anything from the defeat to Newcastle earlier in the season, it was possession counts for little against opponents who pose a threat on the break.
They were almost caught out again after quarter of an hour when Greenwood lost possession in the Newcastle half, and Joelinton and Gayle broke over halfway pursued by a posse of United players.
The two Newcastle strikers were in danger of getting in each other’s way before Joelinton slipped the ball through to send Gayle clear on goal, but he showed the confidence of a man who hasn’t scored since May by lifting his shot over with only David De Gea to beat.
United didn’t heed the warning and paid the price when Newcastle threatened in similar fashion two minutes later with Matty Longstaff the unlikely goalscorer again.
This time Fred gave the way away and Gayle played it to Longstaff who lifted a pass into Joelinton in the box. The Brazilian held off Maguire and laid the ball into the path of Longstaff. The 19-year-old had showed excellent finishing to beat De Gea last time and he did it again, allowing the ball to run across him to evade Luke Shaw’s block before drilling a diagonal shot into the bottom corner.
Newcastle youngster Matty Longstaff celebrates after putting his side in front early on in the Premier League encounter
Matty Longstaff broke the deadlock for the visitors in the 17th minute of the league clash at Old Trafford on Boxing Day
Matty Longstaff celebrates in front of the home supporters after stunning the Old Trafford crowd early on in the match
United were facing an all too familiar scenario and at that stage few would have predicted that victory would be all but sewn up by half-time as they struck three times in the space of 17 minutes.
The first arrived after Shaw managed to smuggle the ball out to Pereira through a ruck of Newcastle players on the left flank. The Brazilian touched it into Martial’s path and he whipped a right foot shot inside the near post. Martin Dubravka saw it coming and got a touch, but will be disappointed that he didn’t do more to keep it out.
The keeper was partly at fault again for United’s second in the 36th minute. Florian Lejeune played the ball back to Dubravka who hurried the ball out to Fabian Schar under pressure from Martial. The Swiss defender was still recovering from a yellow card challenge by Pereira moments earlier and would probably have preferred the ball to go to someone else.
Manchester United forward Rashford tries his luck with a free-kick during the opening exchanges of the league match
Newcastle’s Joelinton in action with Manchester United’s Aaron Wan-Bissaka during the first half of the league encounter
Schar played an awful square pass into no man’s land 25 yards from the Newcastle goal and Greenwood was onto it in a flash. The teenager took one touch before letting fly and it took a deflection off the lunging Federico Fernandez before going in off the underside of the crossbar with Dubravka beaten.
The third goal, four minutes before half-time, was a killer for Newcastle and not only because they felt aggrieved that referee Kevin Friend had allowed the move to continue in the first place.
McTominay caught Matty Longstaff in the face with his fingers but Friend waved play on while the Newcastle midfielder lay prone on the turf. Pereira played the ball out to the right to Aaron Wan-Bissaka and he brushed past Jetro Willems before crossing to the back post where Rashford rose above Schar to head home his 15th goals of the season.
McTominay had been struggling for much of the first half after taking an early knock on his ankle, and the Scotland international was replaced by Pogba at the break. United’s record second wasted no time getting into the game, curling a shot just wide of Dubravka’s right-hand post before the home side added a fourth in the 51st minute.
Manchester United midfielder Fred tackles Newcastle’s Miguel Almiron at Old Trafford on Thursday evening
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer issues instructions from the touchline during the first half on Thursday
Newcastle’s Matty Longstaff (left) and Manchester United’s Luke Shaw battle for the ball during a tight first 45 minutes
It came from another Newcastle error as Sean Longstaff – who had been strongly linked with a move to Old Trafford in the summer – got the ball close to halfway and inexplicably decided to pass it back to his keeper.
It was horribly under-hit and Martial was away. It looked like the Frenchman might have overrun it as Dubrakva closed him down, but Martial still had enough time to dink it over the advancing keeper.
United’s No 9 was denied a hat-trick moments later when he hit the post with a low effort, and that was Martial’s last chance before he was replaced by Juan Mata.
Three points were already in the bag, though, and Solskjaer will hope this formula sees United right for the rest of the season.