Newcastle 1 Man Utd 4: Bruno Fernandes sparks late surge with stunner after first penalty miss
After the worst period of his professional life, Slab Head is back.
Harry Maguire has been carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders after that England horror show.
The easy option would have been to quietly sit this one out.
Take a week or two out of the spotlight, get your head right, go again.
But after Manchester United were humiliated 6-1 by Tottenham, the Red Devils needed their captain.
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Like talismanic Old Trafford skippers Bryan Robson and Roy Keane before him, the team comes first every time.
And in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s hour of need, Maguire – who was an injury doubt before the game – rolled his sleeves up and came out on top.
Turning the clock back to happier times when he looked like scoring from every corner in an England shirt, the centre-backs header from Juan Mata’s corner was a belter.
Given everything that has happened – arrest in Mykonos, humiliations in a Manchester United shirt and a Wembley red card – this was the perfect response.
His first-half goal cancelled out Luke Shaw’s own goal inside two minutes.
And it laid the platform for the Red Devils to win it late on via Bruno Fernandes’ exquisite goal before late strikes from Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Marcus Rashford.
The Portuguese had already missed a penalty – his first in Manchester United red – and it looked like the honours would be shared.
But in the 86th minute the midfielder finished off a wondrous move, poking into the top corner from a tight angle after a great build up with Marcus Rashford.
With everything that came his way after the humiliation against Tottenham, this was a huge win for Solskjaer.
Defeat here and the clamour for his sacking would have grown louder and louder.
But if nothing else, three points at St James’ Park keeps the wolves at bay for a while at least.
Solskjaer made five changes after their 6-1 mauling by Tottenham but could still not find room for £35million midfielder Donny van de Beek.
Paul Pogba – fresh from signing a contract extension – and Nemanja Matic were benched for Scott McTominay and Fred, while Mason Greenwood was left out completely.
Whereas Solskjaer has barely had a minute to remedy the Old Trafford horror show over the international break, the opposite was true for Steve Bruce.
The Mags boss has had the majority of his squad on Tyneside throughout, priming themselves to inflict more misery on the Red Devils.
And it did not take long – 102 seconds to be precise.
After Wilson held it up and played it to Allan Saint-Maximin, Jonjo Shelvey found himself in acres of space in the middle.
Rather than pulling the trigger he laid it off to the overlapping Emil Krafth.
The right-back looked to play it square it but it ricocheted off the Shaw’s outstretched leg before ballooning into the air and inside De Gea’s near post.
The lifeless Spaniard was rooted to the spot as if he had no chance – but if he just stuck his left mitt out he could have stopped it.
All of Solskjaer’s nightmares were coming true, and few would have been shocked if they caved in again.
A response was needed, and soon.
They thought they had it through Bruno Fernandes’ stunning striker into the top corner.
But VAR deemed Juan Mata offside in the build-up, leaving Solskjaer to wonder if things could get any worse.
And luckily for him prayers were answered by Maguire’s bullet header on 23 minutes.
Attacking Mata’s cross with real menace, the big defender towered over Federico Fernandez to guide it expertly into the far corner.
And as Newcastle slowly retreated into their shell, the visitors were emboldened.
And they could have three more before the break, with Bruce indebted to Darlow twice and a goal line clearance from Jamaal Lascelles.
But it was Newcastle and Wilson with the first big chance after the break – but his toe poke was sensationally kept out by De Gea.
Minutes later at the other end, Manchester United were awarded a penalty after a lengthy VAR check.
Having let play move on, the game was stopped and Craig Pawson adjudged Jamal Lewis to have made contact with Marcus Rashford.
Bruno Fernandes is as safe an option as there is from 12-yards, scoring all 10 spot-kicks since arriving.
But it was the first time he had come against Darlow, who flung himself to his right to beat it away.
And from the resultant corner Maguire thought he had his second, but this time Shelvey was alert to nod it clear off the line.
The Red Devils were reigning shots on the beleaguered Toon, but Darlow was not for beating.
But having superbly denied Rashford, Fernandes finally got the better of him with four minutes remaining.
Slipped down the left by Rashford, the midfielder pulled out a delicious chip over Darlow to seal the points.
And the night was made perfect at the death by Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s first ever Manchester United goal and a Rashford strike with the last kick of the game.
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