Marcus Rashford, Dan James and Bruno Fernandes were on the scoresheet as Man United saw off Newcastle 3-1 despite a sub-par performance at Old Trafford.
United move 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 stay 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 Fernandes to 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 bamboozled the Newcastle player with sublime close control in the area.
Dan James: I kind of lost my way a bit… I’ve got there now
James told BT Sport: “It was a very important win. After Thursday we just wanted to capitalise on that and I think we did well.
“I haven’t played so much recently but I’m just working as hard as I can when I do play.
“I’ve just been working on the training ground as hard as I can. I kind of lost my way a bit. I have been working with the coaches to get me back to myself and I’d like to think I’ve got there now.”
Full-time | Man Utd 3-1 Newcastle
That’s it at Old Trafford. United won confortably in the end, but were second-best for much of the game and turned in one of the worst first-half performances of their season.
Still, the mark of a top-four team this season will be to pick up wins when not playing well, and they’ve done that here.
Newcastle break down the right and Shelvey is free, but the ball across is too high for him. Newcastle have been much improved today, but have let themselves down at the back and with that final ball.
Three minutes of injury time.
89 mins: It’s a sign of how highly rated Shoretire is that at just 17 years old, he’s on for his Premier League debut – he’s a young 17 as well, having only just signed his first pro deal on his birthday earlier this month.
A great moment for Manchester United fans as 17-year-old academy graduate Shola Shoretire makes his debut!
He’s coming on with Juan Mata, who gives him a nice rap around the cheeks – those two are on for James and Rashford.
85 mins: Good work on the left releases Shaw, but there’s nobody on hand to turn home his low cross.
83 mins: Maguire has an assist today – two if you count his poor clearance for Newcastle’s equaliser – and almost has a goal, but his deflected header is tipped over well by Darlow.
Gayle is on for Almiron, who can feel hard done by if Newcastle lose this – he’s arguably been the best player on the pitch.
GOAL! Man Utd 3-1 Newcastle | Bruno Fernandes penalty, 74 mins
Bruno finds the net! The midfielder stutters slightly in his run and plants the ball low to Darlow’s right.