Manchester United kicked off the New Year in style, as they beat Newcastle United 2-0 at St. James’ Park on Wednesday night.
Manchester United continued their perfect start under interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, when they defeated Newcastle United 2-0 to pick up their fourth win in a row under the Norwegian.
Coming on the back of three rampant performances against Cardiff City, Huddersfield Town and Bournemouth, the Red Devils found it tough against Rafa Benitez’s men initially, with chances coming few and far between, while the home team caused a few problems through Christian Atsu.
However, Manchester United stepped it up in the second half and managed to break the deadlock minutes past the hour-mark, when substitute Romelu Lukaku reacted quickest to prod home a rebound, after Newcastle goalkeeper Martin Dubravka had spilled Marcus Rashford’s free-kick.
The England international showed excellent composure to make it 2-0 and kill the game off ten minutes from full-time, after being played in by substitute Alexis Sanchez. The result meant Manchester United cut down the gap to fourth-placed Chelsea to six points after the Blues were held to a goalless draw by Southampton on the same night.
1⃣ clean sheet
4⃣ wins in a row
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) January 2, 2019
In the process, Solskjaer became just the second Manchester United manager to win his first four games in-charge, alongside the legendary Sir Matt Busby. Here’s how the Red Devils’ stars fared against the Tynesiders on Wednesday.
David de Gea: 6/10
The Spaniard had a fairly straightforward outing at St. James’ Park on Wednesday. De Gea made two solid saves from Atsu in the first period. Not called into action much thereafter, but was alert to situations when needed to be. Will be buoyed by the clean sheet – just his third of the 2018-19 Premier League campaign.
Antonio Valencia: 6/10
The Manchester United captain returned to the starting XI after a considerable amount of time, in place of Ashley Young. Valencia failed to offer the same attacking outlet as the man he had replaced, but was fairly steady at the back, keeping Matt Ritchie in check.
Victor Lindelof: 7/10
The Swede had a couple of iffy moments early on, but dealt fairly well with the physical threat of Salomon Rondon on the night. Wasn’t afforded a lot of opportunities to carry the ball out, but on one occasion when he did, he managed to set Rashford up for a chance with a fine pass. Growing in confidence with every passing game.
Phil Jones: 6/10
Back into the team in place of the suspended Eric Bailly, Jones almost shot himself in the foot early in the game, gifting Rondon with a great chance, but redeemed himself by pulling off a brilliant recovery tackle on the Venezuelan. Not the most assured display, but got the job done.
Luke Shaw: 7/10
The former Southampton man wasn’t as adventurous going forward as he has been in recent matches as he was wary of the threat posed by DeAndre Yedlin. But, Shaw did make a few positive romps down the left. Defensively, he was very solid, with his tackle on Ayoze Perez with the scoreline at 0-0 being a standout moment in particular.
Ander Herrera: 7/10
Caught out by the long ball early on, leading to Atsu’s chance, but did not put a foot wrong from thereon. Showed great industry and work-rate in the middle of the park to close down opponents and was strong in his tackles. Did not venture forward as much as he had done in the past few games, but, nevertheless a disciplined performance.
Nemanja Matic: 6.5/10
The Serbian midfielder did not start on the best note, conceding possession on a few occasions, but grew into the game with time. Stifled the opposition in the middle of the park, with some good defensive work. But, Matic could have been more forward-thinking and aggressive in his distribution.
Paul Pogba: 6.5/10
The World Cup winner has been in belligerent form since Solskjaer took over and keeping that in mind, Newcastle made sure that he was shackled and kept as far away from goal as possible. Opened up a bit after half-time and won the free-kick leading to the opening goal.
Showed great heart and desire to run over 60 yards in the dying moments to join a counter, but failed to apply the finishing touches, after he had successfully rounded Dubravka.
Juan Mata: 6/10
Given the nod ahead of Jesse Lingard, the Spaniard was involved in a couple of good moments in the first period and in general linked up well with the rest of his teammates. However, he was unable to unlock the Newcastle defence and was whisked off soon after the hour mark.
Marcus Rashford: 8/10
The Manchester United academy graduate is enjoying a rich vein of form at the moment. Rashford was the Red Devils’ most potent threat in the final third, as he caused all sorts of problems to the Newcastle backline with his pace and directness.
His free-kick resulted in the opening goal for United, before he killed the game off with a calm and composed finish. Rashford has now been directly involved in 10 goals in his last nine matches in all competitions (5 goals, 5 assists).
Anthony Martial: 6/10
The Frenchman endured a rather dull outing at St. James’ Park. Fired an effort into the side netting from a promising position in the first half and lifted another over the bar. Made one of two darting runs here and there, without really exerting much influence. Taken off for Alexis Sanchez in the second period.
Romelu Lukaku: 7.5/10
Replaced Mata in the 63rd minute. Lukaku showed great reaction and awareness to open the scoring within 40 seconds of coming on, with his first touch of the game. Involved in the buildup for the second goal. Impact substitution.
Alexis Sanchez: 7/10
Sanchez came on for Martial in the 63rd minute and looked bright from the get go. Set Rashford up with a precise pass and started the late counter that Pogba failed to convert.
Jesse Lingard: N/A
Thrown in for Rashford with less than five minutes left.