Anthony Martial’s double and a Mason Greenwood rocket fired Manchester United to a 4-1 win against Newcastle that lifted the mood at Old Trafford after their recent struggles.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side slumped to an embarrassing 2-0 defeat at lowly Watford last weekend to raise fresh questions about the United manager’s ability to inspire his players.
When Matty Longstaff put Newcastle ahead in the first half on Thursday, Solskjaer’s critics were sharpening their knives again.
But Martial rode to Solskjaer’s rescue with the equaliser and Greenwood’s thunderbolt put United ahead before Marcus Rashford rounded off a first half blitz.
Martial netted again after the interval as United ended a two-match winless run in the Premier League and moved into seventh place, just four points behind fourth placed Chelsea in the race to qualify for the Champions League.
United’s failure to match the levels they showed in their recent win at champions Manchester City during lacklustre efforts against Watford and Everton had put Solskjaer’s future in the spotlight again.
The Norwegian insisted he retains the support of United owners the Glazer family, but he could hardly afford another setback against mid-table opponents like Newcastle.
Scott McTominay tried too hard to set the tone for United when he crunched into a studs-high tackle on Sean Longstaff that earned him the fastest Premier League booking of the season after just 40 seconds.
That was part of a spluttering start from United and Dwight Gayle should have put Newcastle ahead from Joelinton’s pass, but the striker blazed high into the Stretford End.
It was a warning that Solskjaer’s men failed to heed as Newcastle took the lead in the 17th minute.
Matty Longstaff had scored the winner against United on his Premier League debut in October.
The 19-year-old midfielder was making just his third appearance since that dream debut at St James’ Park and this was his first goal since.
– Greenwood sparkles –
Stepping past Luke Shaw, he produced a fine low finish after Joelinton showed impressive composure to tee up Longstaff inside the penalty area.
Now without a clean-sheet in 14 league games, United needed a quick response to lift the gloom and Martial got a helping hand as he delivered the equaliser in the 24th minute.
Andreas Pereira’s neat lay-off from Shaw’s pass gave Martial a sight of goal and French striker’s low shot squirmed under a weak attempted save from Martin Dubravka at his near post.
Newcastle had contributed to their own downfall on that occasion and Greenwood punished more sloppy defending to put United in front in the 36th minute.
Greenwood, making just his third Premier League start, has been one of the few bright spots in a frustrating season.
The 18-year-old showcased his vast potential when he seized on Fabian Schar’s wayward pass and crashed a sublime strike past Dubravka from 20 yards for his eighth goal of the season.
United had all the momentum and increased their lead in the 41st minute, with Rashford climbing highest to power a header into the roof of the net from Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s pin-point cross despite Newcastle appeals for a foul in the build-up.
Following Rashford’s 15th club goal this season, Solskjaer sent on Pogba at half-time for his second appearance since returning from a lengthy ankle injury.
It was Pogba’s compatriot Martial who put the result beyond doubt in the 51st minute.
Sean Longstaff’s woeful attempted back-pass from near the halfway line was intercepted by Martial and he raced into the area before clipping his shot over Dubravka.
Martial was inches away from a hat-trick when his long-range blast hit the post.
RECORDS ROLL IN AS SPURS BEAT BRIGHTON
Tottenham and Jose Mourinho maintained their impressive Boxing Day records with a 2-1 victory over Brighton in the Premier League after a brilliant winning goal from Dele Alli.
The three points boost Spurs’ top-four prospects and continue an enviable record on December 26 for both the club and Mourinho while manager at different Premier League teams. Tottenham is unbeaten in 14 games on this date and Mourinho has not lost in eight encounters.Alli produced a first-time finish into the top corner on Thursday after Harry Kane had earlier canceled out Adam Webster’s opener.
It was Alli’s fifth goal in eight games under Mourinho and it will have provided some comfort to the Portuguese, who revealed before the match that his Christmas Day had been ruined by his dog dying.
Lucas Moura and Kane linked up with Christian Eriksen, the Dane’s inspired diagonal ball finding Serge Aurier for him to tee up Alli. Kane’s equalizer continued a Boxing Day record of his own.
He has now scored on this day in each of the last six years apart from 2016, when he did not play.
Brighton, which won the reverse fixture 3-0 in October, was the better side in the first half but has now gone three games without a win and must prepare for another lunchtime kickoff against Bournemouth in 48 hours.
SAINTS SHOCK CHELSEA
Michael Obafemi’s superb goal helped Southampton win at Chelsea 2-0 to hand Frank Lampard’s side a second straight home defeat in the English Premier League on Thursday.
By contrast, it was a second consecutive away win for coach Ralph Hasenhuttl’s Southampton, and his selection of Obafemi ahead of striker Danny Ings paid off in spectacular style in the 31st minute.
Collecting a pass from Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg some 30 meters out with his back to goal toward the right of the penalty area, Obafemi turned in one smooth motion, dropped his shoulder as he shifted onto his left foot, and curled the ball into the top left corner.
Midfielder Nathan Redmond finished off a fine team move in the 73rd as Southampton climbed up to 13th place.
Hasenhuttl jumped off the bench and clenched his fist at the final whistle, before turning to quickly hug Lampard.
ARSENAL FRUSTRATED BY CHERRIES
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored an equalizer for Arsenal as Mikel Arteta’s first match in charge ended 1-1 at Bournemouth in the English Premier League on Thursday.
Aubameyang’s 63rd-minute goal was his 12th in the league – putting him second overall to Leicester’s Jamie Vardy.
Dan Gosling opened the scoring for Bournemouth in the 35th.
After Alexandre Lacazette was off target for Arsenal in the first half, Gosling punished slack defending when he turned in Jack Stacey’s cross from the right. The Gunners could have been 2-0 down at the break against Eddie Howe’s spirited Bournemouth side.
Joshua King embarked on a strong solo run down the left and, after using his strength to hold off the last defender, almost managed to poke the ball through goalkeeper Bernd Leno’s legs from a narrow angle.
Arsenal improved after the interval and the Gagon striker Aubameyang finished first time after Reiss Nelson’s effort from the edge of the penalty area deflected into his path.
Substitute Joe Willock, who came on for the recalled Mesut Ozil, had a chance to win the game right at the end, but his injury-time shot was too close to the goalkeeper.
FOSTER SAVES HORNETS
Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster produced one of the saves of the season as his team’s revival continued with a 1-1 draw against Sheffield United in the English Premier League on Thursday.
Foster kept his team in the match with a superb stop from point-blank range to deny John Fleck just after the hour at Bramall Lane.
Lys Mousset traded passes with David McGoldrick before delivering a pinpoint cross into the area for Fleck, who connected with the ball sweetly. It seemed a certain goal, but Foster somehow clawed the shot away from on his line to keep the score at 1-1.
It remained that way and the points were shared after Oliver Norwood’s penalty cancelled out Gerard Deulofeu’s opener for Watford, which climbed off the bottom of the table with the point in South Yorkshire.
CARLO’S WINNING START
Dominic Calvert-Lewin gave Carlo Ancelotti’s managerial reign at Everton a winning start as his diving header secured a 1-0 victory over Burnley in the English Premier League on Thursday. The Toffees striker stretched Everton’s unbeaten run to four league games but Ancelotti will be aware that this was not a vintage performance from his new side at Goodison Park.
Everton once again struggled to make the most of dominant possession – highlighting the need for Ancelotti to bring in reinforcements up front – but prevailed from one predatory piece of finishing from Calvert-Lewin in the 80th minute.
Caretaker boss Duncan Ferguson claimed five points from his three league matches against Chelsea, Manchester United, and Arsenal to lift Everton into midtable.
AYEW DOWNS HAMMERS
Jordan Ayew produced a wonder goal in the 90th minute to earn Crystal Palace a 2-1 win over West Ham in the English Premier League on Thursday and pile the pressure back on visiting manager Manuel Pellegrini. After Robert Snodgrass’ opener for Palace, Cheikhou Kouyate leveled against his old club in the 68th minute.
The game was heading to a draw until Ayew spun away from two defenders and chipped goalkeeper Roberto.
While Palace climbed to ninth place, West Ham is only a point above the relegation zone.
For Pellegrini, it compounded another day to forget with his captain Mark Noble and teammate Angelo Ogbonna almost coming to blows in the 53rd to highlight the problems at the east London club.
VILLA SEE OFF NORWICH
Conor Hourihane helped Aston Villa’s English Premier League survival hopes by sealing a 1-0 victory over Norwich on Thursday. The substitute swept the winner into the top corner in the 82nd minute after being picked out by Jack Grealish.
Having lost seven of its previous nine league games, Villa climbed out of the relegation zone with the victory.
But Norwich slumped to the bottom of the standings after a 10th defeat in 14 games.