IT’S NOW THE race to be the best of the rest and Manchester United are determined to win it.
Their recent blip which saw them drop nine points in five league games has allowed their neighbours Man City to gallop over the horizon.
Bruno Fernandes scored a goal and registered an assist in Manchester United’s win over struggling NewcastleCredit: Reuters
The Portuguese got his revenge on Karl Darlow from the penalty spotCredit: Getty Images – Getty
Daniel James restored United’s lead following another Fernandes assistCredit: Eddie Keogh Telegraph Media Group
The Welshman continued his recent run of goalscoring form with his second in a weekCredit: Reuters
Now the question is can Ole Solskjaer back up his boasts that this is a team on the up by bettering last year’s third place with second.
They moved back into that spot on goal difference from Leicester who had beaten Aston Villa earlier in the day with this 3-1 win over Newcastle.
After Allan Saint Maximin had cancelled out Marcus Rashford’s opener Newcastle had hope at half-time.
It was extinguished with a close range blast from Daniel James on 57 minutes and yet another Bruno Fernandes penalty on 75.
Newcastle now sit perilously close to the relegation zone after Fulham had beaten Sheffield United on Saturday.
Their manager Steve Bruce stands perilously close to the exit door with his fate set to be sealed if the Magpies fail to beat Wolves at home next Saturday.
They actually played quite well, Manchester United were just better.
Not for the first time this season the home side were dozing in the opening minutes.
You think they might have learned after conceding inside the opening two minutes at The Hawthorns last Sunday. But no.
David de Gea had also once again forgotten what it was that made him the best goalkeeper in the world.
Allan Saint-Maximin had sent Newcastle into the break on level termsCredit: Eddie Keogh Telegraph Media Group
The French winger hit the roof of the net to equalise before half-timeCredit: Eddie Keogh Telegraph Media Group
Certainly not one of those odd punches he executed after just four minutes that ballooned up in the air to Joelinton who returned a powerful shot that the Spanish keeper had to tip over the bar.
Bruno Fernandes gestured at him as if to say ‘what were you doing there?’
Worse followed when he scuffed a clearance straight to Joelinton, he squared to Jonjo Shelvey who fired over.
Miguel Almiron was next up for the Magpies with a scorching shot from 30 yards that De Gea tipped over.
Despite this early pressure it was the home side who took the lead through some brilliance from Marcus Rashford on the half hour.
His best position is definitely wide left of a three behind a number nine from where his piercing runs into the box have defenders unable to cope.
If anything this season Rashford has got faster and stronger.
Harry Maguire brought the ball into the Newcastle half and found the Three Lions forward who superbly nutmegged Emil Krafth and raced away.
As Rashford weighed up his options in the box Krath got back but only to be undone again. This time Rashford swiftly moving the ball to the right of him and shooting back into the near bottom corner.
It was a mystery how Karl Darlow did not save it as he had that area covered and dived but somehow managed to avoid the ball.
Marcus Rashford’s impressive solo effort had given United the leadCredit: Times Newspapers Ltd
The England star nutmegged Emil Krafth before firing in at the near postCredit: Reuters
For a team in such a perilous position, Newcastle heads could easily have gone down. They didn’t and in the 36th minute, they were level.
Once against Manchester United’s inability to defend set pieces was on show. A short corner routine finished with Joe Willock hooking the ball into the box.
Maguire performed a strange backward header that went straight into the path of Saint-Maximin who caught it on the full as he blasted a shot into the roof of the net.
It was Saint-Maximin’s first goal since returning to action after two months out with Covid-19 and how they had missed him in that time.
He is one of the few Newcastle players who truly has star quality and he wanted a second goal with a shot from the edge of the area early in the second-half that De Gea got down well too.
But it would be the Red Devils’ superior quality that began to show and they regained their lead when Nemanja Matic’s clever ball along the floor across the box found James at the far post and he almost burst the net with his shot.
Solskjaer’s men got their customary penalty when Rashford’s quick feet drew the foul from Willock and Fernandes did the rest for his 22nd goal of the season.
United seized the chance to return to second in the table ahead of LeicesterCredit: Reuters