Sometimes football can prove to be a game of two halves. Is there a more cliché line than that? Well, this game was a game full of clichés. Manchester United may be going through some really tough times at the moment but it is still the most romantic club in the world. Unlike the days of Sir Alex Ferguson, there was some shoddy defending in the first half. But just like the days of Sir Alex Ferguson, United, against all odds, came back from the brink to snatch a win from the jaws of defeat. Those final 20 minutes at Old Trafford seemed like Jose Mourinho’s men had rolled back the years and had the fans scratching their heads, thinking that why can’t United play like that more often.
Manchester United Starting XI
De Gea, Young, Smalling, Bailly, Shaw, Matic, McTominay, Pogba, Martial, Rashford, Lukaku
David De Gea (GK) : 9/10
Some shoddy defending from the players in front of him meant that De Gea couldn’t do anything about either of the two goals that United conceded. But soon after, De Gea showed why he is the best goalkeeper in the league. He made 6 saves in the game but the one he made from a Muto header, from point blank range, was the sensational one that kept United in the game. Even in the second half, he was good as most of his long passes found a United shirt.
Ashley Young (RB): 4/10
In the absence of Dalot and Valencia, Young was the captain for the night but his performance was the exact opposite of what you would expect from a United skipper. His positioning was horrible in the first half and was at fault for both the goals. He failed to put any decent crosses into the box for most of the match and as a result, there was hardly any threat from the right wing for United. However, in the end, he finally found his crossing radar and his delivery found the head of Alexis Sanchez who in turn, found the back of the net.
Chris Smalling (CB): 5/10
Smalling was at fault for Newcastle’s second goal. He failed to close down Muto who turned and took a quick shot. But in the second half, he played as the only natural center back in the side. He was a bit nervous with the ball at his feet but forced Dubravka into a great save from a United corner.
Eric Bailly (CB): 2/10
Bailly was caught out of position for both the goals Newcastle conceded and was sacrificed in the 16th minute when he subbed off for Juan Mata.
Luke Shaw (LB): 7/10
United’s player of the month for past two months had yet another strong performance in a United shirt. He was solid at the back and going forward, he helped out Martial by making smart overlapping runs.
Nemanja Matic (CDM): 3/10
Matic has had a poor start to the season and this continued against Newcastle. He failed to intercept the ball from a Newcastle throw-in, allowing Kenedy to score from the loose ball. In the second half, he was forced to play a deeper role alongside Smalling while United chased the game. The Serb was shaky in both the boxes and even missed a glorious chance from close range.
Scott McTominay (RCM): 1/10
McTominay was not at fault for any of the goals but his inclusion against a side that was not supposed to even cross the halfway line was questionable on Mourinho’s part. When Bailly was hooked off early, McTominay dropped deep to play as a CB. But this decision by Mourinho was a dubious one and soon the Scotsman was found out by the Magpies. He looked skittish with the ball at his feet and was taken off at halftime.
Paul Pogba (LCM): 8/10
Like most of the United players in the first half, Pogba was poor too but the Frenchman came into his own in the second half, where he controlled the tempo of the game. He even played in a deeper role but still managed to be involved in all the chances United created in the second half. He capped off the night by a brilliant backheel assist to Martial for the equalizing goal.
Anthony Martial (LW): 8/10
Martial was anonymous in the first half and failed to convert any of his dribbles. But, a different Martial emerged from the tunnel for the second half. It was Anthony Martial who wasn’t scared of taking on defenders and looked for a cross or a shot. Firstly, he drew a foul from Diaby which led to Mata’s equalizer and then went on to combine with Paul Pogba and score the equalizing goal. This was Martial’s first Premier League goal of the season and he would look to continue the good form.
Marcus Rashford (RW): 5/10
Rashford tried all night but the end product was missing from him. He missed a simplest of headers from three yards out in the first half and had a similar miss in the second half as well. Rashford was replaced on the hour mark by Alexis Sanchez.
Romelu Lukaku (ST): 7/10
Lukaku might not be on the score sheet for United, but he was as instrumental in this victory as the ones who scored. It was a selfless performance from the Belgian, who even played on the right wing at times to give the team some width. He put in a peach of a cross for Rashford in the first half and continued doing so even in the second period. But the thing is, United fans want the big Belgian at the end of these crosses, not the one putting them for the others.
Juan Mata (CAM): 8/10
Mata was sent by Mourinho on the 16th minute to bring some creativity into the mix. The Spaniard was effective from the word go and linked very well with the front three. His moment of brilliance came on the 70th minute when he curled a beautiful free-kick into the Newcastle goal. It was his goal which started this captivating comeback and hopefully he starts more games for the Devils in the coming months.
Marouane Fellaini (CM): 7/10
Fellaini was sent on for McTominay in the second half and did what he is always great at, creating chaos. Fellaini unsettled the Newcastle backline and almost scored a goal from a sweetly struck volley, to be denied only by an alert Dubravka. Unsurprisingly, he was the one who controlled the aerial balls and brought the quick players around him into the mix.
Alexis Sanchez (RW): 7/10
To score a late winner, that too of a 3-2 comeback win, at the Stretford End is a stuff of dreams for any United player. And if some player needed that right now, it was Alexis Sanchez. The Chilean has faced some tough times at this great club but this goal can surely help him kickstart his career at United. Coming on for Rashford, Alexis was involved in some charming passing patterns on the left-hand channel. But it was a header, right on the 90th minute, that was enough to give United all three points from the match. As a United fan, I hope that we see more of this from the little magician who we all know is a world-class player.