Manchester United’s quality was on full display as they eased past Newcastle with a 3-1 victory at Old Trafford.
Bruce’s side looked to be in a good position after 45 minutes with the match level, but they were not able to push on as the hosts piled the pressure onto Darlow’s goal before James made the Magpies pay with a well-taken strike.
Manchester United face a tough game next Sunday when they travel to London to face Chelsea in the Premier League. Newcastle are in action again on the 27th, when they host Wolves.
From there, the visitors were not able to get themselves back in the game before a late Fernandes penalty won by Rashford wrapped up the result for Solskjaer.
Strangely, Newcastle didn’t play at all badly for an hour here. During that time they were the better team. They were more energetic and played with more purpose. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team were just docile.
But Newcastle lost the game 3-1 and by the end, it could have been more. They fell apart a little late on, a review of disappearing confidence. Another bad sign.
United’s stats will look good in the morning. Late on they created chances. But that should fool nobody.
Newcastle helped them to each of the three goals they scored and they remain aside with about three different identities, none of them very convincing.
Some other confiding moments came to nothing on the back of a poor decision in possession or a failure to push enough bodies into the right wings. And then, out of nothing, United scored a good goal.
Marcus Rashford was wideout on the left touchline when he received possession but Newcastle right-back Emil Krafth got himself far too close to him. This meant that when the United player pushed the ball through his marker’s legs, he was gone.
Still, Rashford had much to do as he cut back on to his right foot inside the area but his low shot was powerfully struck and too much for goalkeeper Karl Darlow at his post. It was a fine, ambitious finish.
Ahead unexpectedly, United did not instantly capitalise. A corner from the right was played short by Newcastle – a ploy that the home team seemed rather baffled by – and when the cross was half-cleared Allan Saint-Maximin hit the ball down into the ground and up over De Gea into the roof of the net.
Solskjaer’s side had again delivered absolutely nothing early in the second period. Saint-Maximin’s low volley from 18 yards – saved by De Gea – had been the only incident of note.
But Newcastle has a penchant for self-harm that could yet ruin them and when young Jamal Lewis let a certain Nemanja Matic pass deflect through his legs off the toe of Bruno Fernandes in the 57th minute, Daniel James was left free to blast the ball past Darlow from an angle.
That was one defensive mess too many for Newcastle and pretty soon their race – game as it had been – was run.
Joe Willock may only be on loan from Arsenal but he has snagged the disaster bug and an absolutely unnecessary and rather stupid foul on Rashford enabled Fernandes to score from the penalty spot with 15 minutes left.
After that United played nicely and missed a stepping surplus of chances. But that meant very little. They will be lucky to finish second. Newcastle may yet be lucky to stay up.