Man United vs Newcastle: Electric Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood secure win - 5 things we learned
Manchester United 4-1 Newcastle: Matty Longstaff had given the visitors the lead before the hosts stormed back
Matty Longstaff put the visitors ahead early on, combining neatly with Joelinton before sidestepping a challenge and driving low into the bottom left corner. United responded well though, but Martial can thank Martin Dubravka for his equaliser despite connecting well, with the goalkeeper fumbling the shot at the near post.
Mason Greenwood, with the help of a deflection, then smashed in the second from range, with Marcus Rashford’s towering header from a delightful Aaron Wan-Bissaka cross making it three before the break.
Martial got his second shortly after the restart, racing through on goal and toe poking the ball over Dubravka to end the contest. Martial almost grabbed his first senior hat-trick when his shot from distance bounced back off the inside of the post, with United subsequently easing off in a rare comfortably victory.
Here are five things we learned from Old Trafford on Boxing Day.
History repeats itself
Manchester United entered Boxing Day with more wins (20) on this date than any other team in the Premier League and an 80 per cent win rate. While Newcastle have lost more Boxing Day matches (13) than any other side.
That form continued at Old Trafford despite a sloppy start from the hosts, as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side stormed back through Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford.
It was also a miserable, familiar feeling for Steve Bruce, who has now suffered 10 defeats from 11 visits as an opposing manager at Old Trafford.
McTominay treads fine line
Scott McTominay set the tone for Manchester United immediately when he collided with Sean Longstaff within 30 seconds of kick-off. It was a full-blooded challenge and it earned him a yellow card.
This approach is admirable to an extent, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer may need to refine the youngster, as just a moment later he then collided with Matty Longstaff, leaving him limping with a knock.
He was then fortunate to stay on the pitch, pulling the shirt of Miguel Almiron after being beaten for skill by the Paraguayan, with Solskjaer seemingly coming to the same conclusion after substituting him at half time. Judging when to use that aggression will be key to how far McTominay goes.
Solskjaer must address defensive woes
While Manchester United’s attack appears to be close to firing on all cylinders, it would be easy to ignore their faltering defence once again. Exposed by Newcastle in a sluggish start to the match, their run without a clean sheet in the Premier League was extended to 14 games – the longest in the club’s history.
Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof appear unable to consistently judge distance when sides move the ball in the final third, with Joelinton able to capitalise on the gaps that emerged when Steve Bruce’s side moved the ball.
Maguire allowed the Brazilian to turn inside the box too easily and the collective inability to track runs is something that should be addressed as a priority in the days ahead.
Greenwood now demanding starting role with performances
Mason Greenwood struck his fourth goal in as many games for Manchester United and simply cannot be ignored any longer.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer must find a way to carve out at starting role for the 18-year-old, who is not only a cold-blooded killer in front of goal, particularly inside the box, but he is now a live wire able to break games open from outside the area.
There was admirable confidence displayed after Greenwood capitalised on Fabian Schar’s sloppy ball out from the back, unleashing a rasping shot that flew past the helpless Martin Dubravka with the help of a slight deflection. While there are aforementioned issues at the back, Solskjaer has now stumbled on a formula in attack that has seen him group together three fast, exciting forwards, which should become his first choice trio moving forward.
Joelinton thriving as reference to Newcastle attack
While it may have been forgotten after their subsequent collapse, it does not change the fact that Steve Bruce has brought the best out of his Newcastle squad this season and that is in large part due to the role handed to Joelinton and how the Brazilian brings other parts of this side into play.
The way he is using his frame to fend off challenges and allow runners to join him in support has transformed Newcastle into a dangerous counter-attacking side.
There was even great vision on display too after a great dribble in from the left when he slipped in Dwight Gayle for a glorious chance, which was agonisingly spurned from Bruce’s point of view. But Joelinton then linked superbly with Matty Longstaff: collecting a looped through ball and then shielding the ball to resist Harry Maguire’s challenge before returning the ball for his teammate to land the opening blow of the contest.