Manchester United denied Manchester City the chance to go 11 points clear with a 4-1 victory over Newcastle United at Old Trafford on Saturday evening, as Jose Mourinho got one over old foe Rafa Benitez.
The big news prior to kick-off was the inclusion of Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the Manchester United squad as they returned from long-term injuries, with the French midfielder playing from the kick off – whilst Marcos Rojo returned to the bench in place of the injured Eric Bailly.
Rafa Benitez went for a bold team selection with a partnership of Joselu and Dwight Gayle upfront. However, the Newcastle manager was without captain Jamaal Lascelles, winger Christian Atsu and midfielder Mikel Merino who all missed out through injury.
Newcastle started solidly, proving they weren’t just here to make up the numbers, but it was the Manchester United number nine Romelu Lukaku who had the first chance of the game in the 7th minute as he turned Antonio Valencia’s low driven cross over the bar.
But it was the Toon Army that were celebrating six minutes later as Gayle calmly stroked DeAndre Yedlin’s cut-back in off the post after Victor Lindelof’s untimely slip to make it 1-0 – that was Manchester United’s first goal conceded at home from open play in 2017.
Jacob Murphy then almost doubled the away side’s lead in the 19th minute as he ran onto a beautiful Jonjo Shelvey through ball but the winger’s shot rolled just past David De Gea’s far post.
The return of Pogba eventually paid dividends in the 36th minute when he bamboozled Isaac Hayden far too easily and dinked a delightful chip to the back post for the onrushing Anthony Martial to head home.
The equaliser came after Newcastle had managed to somewhat weather a Red storm for the previous ten minutes, but they were denied what seemed a stone-wall penalty before half-time when Ciaran Clark almost pulled Lukaku’s shirt back to front.
The floodgates then proceeded to open on the 45th minute mark as Chris Smalling rose highest at the back post to head Ashley Young’s deep cross into the back of the net.
Newcastle almost had an instant reply but Hayden’s poor shot was straight at De Gea when 1v1 and Matt Ritchie’s follow up ricocheted off Gayle around the wrong side of the post.
Manchester United made it 3-1 in the 54th minute with a fantastic counter attacking goal – Lukaku crossed the ball deep to Marcus Rashford who’s deft header teed up Pogba to tap in and mark his return with a goal.
Newcastle seemed to fall apart after the third goal as they knew the game was over, seemingly unable to keep hold of possession and maintain any discipline in their shape.
Lukaku finally buried his chance in the 71st minute, rocketing his shot into the roof of Rob Elliot’s net to make it 4-1 and finally end his ongoing goal drought.
With the game slowing upon it’s conclusion, it proved the perfect time for cult hero Ibrahimovic to make his entrance, with the return of Zlatan met with cheers every time he touched the ball and he could have been met with even more had his scissor kick found the back of the net in the 90th minute.
Manchester United keep up the title chase remaining in second, whereas the defeat was Newcastle’s third in a row, leaving the Magpies in eleventh.