Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford were on the right track as Manchester United deepened Newcastle’s relegation fears with a 3-1 win on Sunday to move back to second in the Premier League.
The Red Devils had only won one of their previous five league games to allow Manchester City to open a 10-point lead at the top of the table and needed their star men to overcome the cracks of another unconvincing performance.
Rashford’s thunderous strike near the post to open the scoring was quickly canceled by Allan Saint-Maximin for the visitors.
However, Fernandes’s touch allowed Daniel James to put United again before the Portuguese playmaker scored a penalty for his 22nd goal of the season.
The victory brings Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men back over Leicester on goal difference as the closest challengers to runaway leaders City.
Importantly, United also opens a six-point lead over fifth-placed Chelsea in the battle for a top-four spot on a weekend when Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham all lost ground.
Solskjaer made five changes to the squad which impressively beat Real Sociedad 4-0 in the Europa League on Thursday and were lucky not to be punished for a disjointed departure from the hosts.
A two-game winning streak in 14 games left Newcastle just three points from the drop zone, but the Magpies started off brilliantly as Joelinton forced David de Gea to a mid-air save.
A poor goalie cost Steve Bruce’s men the other end of the half hour as Rashford cleared inside the box, but his shot should have been ruled out by Karl Darlow.
United’s sloppy set-piece defense was punished six minutes later, however, when Saint-Maximin swept the ball into the top corner after Harry Maguire half-cleared a cross into the box .
After a blazing start to his United career last season, James struggled to buy time but the Welshman has now scored in his last three appearances as he passed Darlow closely just ahead of the hour.
Better footwork from Rashford then drew Joe Willock into an ill-advised challenge inside the box and the loaned Arsenal midfielder conceded a penalty.
Darlow had saved the only kick Fernandes missed as a United player when the teams met earlier in the season.
But he was wrong this time around as the former Sporting Lisbon captain quietly converted to give United the two-goal cushion they craved.
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