An impressive individual performance from Marcus Rashford steered Manchester United to a 3-1 home win over Newcastle United in the Premier League on Sunday as the England forward scored one goal and had a hand in another.
United moved back into second spot on 49 points from 25 games, 10 behind leaders Manchester City and ahead of third-placed Leicester City on goal difference. Newcastle stayed 17th on 25 points, three ahead of Fulham who occupy the last relegation spot, after an eighth league defeat in 10 games.
Rashford fired United ahead out of the blue in the 30th minute when he twice beat defender Emil Krafth with neat footwork before firing a crisp low shot past goalkeeper Karl Darlow inside the near post.
The visitors, who had looked more likely to break the deadlock, hit back six minutes later when Allan Saint-Maximin took advantage of a poor clearance by Harry Maguire and swept the ball into the roof of the net.
United still looked unconvincing in the early stages of the second half but struck from out of nowhere in the 57th minute as a Nemanja Matic pass was touched on by Bruno Fernandes to Daniel James who rifled the ball past Darlow from eight metres.
Fernandes sealed United’s win with a 74th-minute penalty awarded when Joe Willock tripped Rashford after he bedazzled the Newcastle player with sublime close control in the area.
“We had to find a way to win it in the second half. The first half wasn’t up to the standard that we wanted, maybe because of Newcastle, maybe because of what we did in the week. We asked them to go again after a high-intensity game and it took us to half time to get our legs and energy,” United manager Solskjaer said of the match.
“We’ve got to be there just in case, but every game is important. Every time we get three points we’ve done our job and that’s what we’ve got to do and see what other teams do,” he added. “The main thing is to get the ball in the net more than the opposition, and we’re doing that, but there are games where we’ll have to keep clean sheets.”
Solksjaer added that he will keep his side focused despite the double-digit gap that exists between United and City.
“Just keep going. You have to be relentless. The season is a strange one but you have to build on confidence. We have to recover well in between and I am sure they will because when you win games you get energy,” he said.
James said that he knew he needed maximise his chances and opportunities when he sees the pitch.
“Every time I play I give my all, the gaffer trusts me and a lot of things I have been working on in training are coming off,” James said. “I have been on the sidleines a lot but doing everything can to get back into the team. I am patient, you’ve got to be. What can you learn from when you are not playing? That’s what I’ve done.”
Newcastle manager Steve Bruce said he is confident his side will remain in the top-flight and there is still a lot to be decided.
“I am convinced we will be safe, there are six or seven teams looking over their shoulders. We need to win a few games. We have to get to that magical point mark — whatever it is,” Bruce said.