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As Emil Krafth’s cross deflected off Luke Shaw and past David de Gea in the second minute at St James’ Park, those Manchester United fans who had paid the controversial £14.95 to watch the game on PPV could have been forgiven for turning off and asking for a refund.
Butwhere United capitulated against Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham side just under two weeks ago, they bounced back with a swagger and dominance that will give them confidence heading into a crucial few weeks.
The early setback merely propelled United forward with Daniel James, playing in his preferred role down the left, linking up well with Juan Mata, Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes to terrorise the Newcastle backline.
It was a United side with five changes from the Spurs defeat but they controlled the game with ease, finding space down the channels and using their pace to cause problems.
All four of United’s attackers drew saves from Karl Darlow, who managed to keep the hosts in the tie for much longer than they deserved. Butit was Harry Maguire who popped up with United’s equaliser.
His screamed celebration into the empty St James’ Park stands provided a much needed cathartic release after what has been another stressful week for the England defender. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was never in any doubt that his captain would bounce back and he showed his mental strength with an assured display.
While many criticised Solskjaer’s team selection ahead of kick-off his tweaks to the forward line in particular paid off. James, who has been much maligned for his poor form, caused constant problems down the left, while Mata looks reinvigorated after his two man-of-the-match displays in the EFL Cup.
His link-up play with Fernandes looked to have given United the lead only for the Portuguese’s exquisite finish to be ruled out by VAR for offside.
For all of United’s attacking prowess,there were times when they looked like they may live to regret their missed chances. David de Gea pulled off two very good saves in the second half to deny Allan Saint-Maximin and Callum Wilson after United’s leaky defence were again exposed.
United travel to Paris Saint-Germainon Tuesday for their opening Champions League group fixture and Kylian Mbappe and Neymar will be licking their lips at the prospect of coming up against such a flimsy back line.
Victor Lindelof was easily turned in his own half in the build up to the hosts' opener and there should be alarm at the ease with which Saint-Maximin was able to skip past four of Solskjaer’s side.
While the defence might have looked one decent counter-attack away from a potential disaster, the attack was thriving. They finished with 28 shots and 14 on target, not a bad total for a front line missing two of their favoured three starting attackers with Anthony Martial suspended and Mason Greenwood absent.
Fernandes missing from the penalty spot, only the third missed penalty of his career, meant it took until the 86th minute for United to wrap up the three points. Donny van de Beek, who had come off the bench 10 minutes earlier, was instrumental in the build-up- strengthening his case to start in Paris - and it was a sublime, powerful finish from Fernandes to put United ahead.
Late goals from Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Marcus Rashford gave the gloss toan emphatic victory but the most important part was the reaction. United have looked down and out already this season but this time they showed they’ve got it within them to bounce back.