2019 started the right way for Manchester United, who managed to beat Newcastle United 2-0 at St James’ Park.
The scoreline had to wait till the second half to see a change, as super-substitute Romelu Lukaku netted the opener with his first touch on the field, after which he linked well with fellow substitute Alexis Sanchez to aid Marcus Rashford’s winner.
Here are the biggest takeaways from the night:
1. Good Run So Far For Solskjaer
That’s four wins in four for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, a refreshing run of games for Manchester United. Of course, the Norwegian will have to concede that a relatively merciful lineup of fixtures fueled this brilliant stretch so far.
Now, the big challenge of Tottenham at Wembley will be the true test of his tenure as a gaffer, with an FA Cup encounter in the middle to test the squad’s rotation.
All in all, even the Newcastle game was a bit challenging for the Red Devils who, for a decent chunk of the fixture, seemed to return to the style of football that fans clearly loathe. Will it continue to be easy for them?
2. Newcastle’s Record Spoiled
The home side would have certainly been confident after the half-time whistle. They headed into the break brandishing the smart record of the team to have conceded the least amount of goals in the second-half in the Premier League this season.
However, Manchester United’s new brand of attacking football was quick to break that record, with their two goals taking their tally to six conceded in the second-half.
With this defeat, the Magpies are back in danger to end the season in the relegation zone. While a slender buffer currently keeps them safe, the performances of other bottom-of-the-table sides on the night will certainly cause some frowns for Rafa Benítez.
3. Romelu Lukaku – Super Sub In The Making?
Solskjaer’s affinity for substitutions is clearly still strong, with both of his substitutes causing the key difference in the game.
Lukaku, in particular, will be happy with his impact, scoring off the first touch and making numerous other tries before the full-time whistle. This is the second time the Belgian has found the net after coming on under the Norwegian gaffer, and a precedent could be set for him.
With 8 goals to his name in the Premier League, he is currently tied with Martial for the top spot, and fans will now be hoping that his clinical touch will continue to find more before the end of the season.
4. The Buildup To Rashford’s Goal
Under Jose Mourinho, United often felt incapable of stringing passes that would lead to simple goals. But on Wednesday night, Rashford’s winner showed precisely how one engineers that.
A passionate run culminated in Lukaku deftly passing the ball to Alexis Sanchez, who was superb in his linkup with Rashford, with the Englishman making no mistake in burying the ball at the back of the net.
There may be a strong argument now as to why this trio may be the preferred attacking trident for United once they have a few more minutes under their belt as a unit.
Interestingly, even though much has been said about Paul Pogba under the new management, despite the Frenchman being unable to continue his brilliant goalscoring run here, praise may sit elsewhere.
With his winner, Rashford has now scored thrice under Solskjaer, and that no. 10 on his back is beginning to look increasingly more permanent.
WATCH: Pogba’s Role Under Solskjaer – Tactical Analysis
5. De Gea Finally Gets His Clean Sheet
A continued lament under the new tenure was United’s inability to get a clean sheet. In nearly all three of their fixtures under Solskjaer so far, silly mistakes have led them to concede goals, their season-long total taking on a worrying stance.
However, against Newcastle, De Gea was finally able to keep the scoreline safe, only notching his 3rd cleansheet of the season so far. With the winter window presently active, there is hope that the higher-ups at Old Trafford will invest in the club’s backline in a bid to take that number further.