Højlund strikes late as Manchester United beat Newcastle to boost Ten Hag

højlund strikes late as manchester united beat newcastle to boost ten hag

Rasmus Hojlund celebrates making it 3-1, which turned out to be the decisive goal. Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty Images

Manchester United are up to 57 points, the same as Newcastle United, who headed back to the north-east pondering precisely how they lost a toe-to-toe contest played out at breakneck speed. The win was sealed by a sweet finish by Rasmus Højlund, just on as a replacement, his 18-yard, right-foot shot going through Lewis Hall’s legs and in via a Martin Dubravka palm.

Despite victory, Erik ten Hag’s team remain eighth, due to a vastly inferior goal difference, so may have to beat Manchester City in the FA Cup final to secure European football.

Afterwards, Ten Hag’s players proceeded on a lap of appreciation, a convention at the last home game of the season, and one the Dutchman insisted, pre-match, did not “feel” would mark a goodbye as the manager. Who, though, knows, as Sir Jim Ratcliffe assesses potential replacements before deciding his future after the Cup final on Saturday week

In the posh seats the hosts’ newly crowned Under-18 Premier League National champions were guests of honour and saw Alexander Isak shoot wildly after Kieran Trippier dispossessed Alejandro Garnacho.

Casemiro had a minor shocker in Sunday’s 1-0 loss here against Arsenal but turned in an impressive 45 minutes that came after some initial torpor with the Brazilian spraying a simple pass to the opposition.

Newcastle attacked quickly, Anthony Gordon receiving the ball in the hosts’ area, but Sofyan Amrabat poked out a leg to tackle and save his side.

Culprit, though, nearly became hero when a Bruno Fernandes free-kick was punched out by Martin Dubravka, Amrabat headed the ball into a crowded danger area, and Casemiro’s bicycle kick went just over. The contest was open and fast, Ten Hag’s men asserting themselves. Garnacho ghosted in along the left and crossed but Newcastle cleared. Scott McTominay rose but Dubravka held on to his header. Amad Diallo let go a left-foot shot that Dubravka steered to his left.

A Ten Hag tactic was for quick balls to be lifted from the back, as Casemiro did to Kobbie Mainoo, forcing a corner which Fernandes zipped directly at Diallo, whose volley was blocked. A shot count of six-four inside the opening half-hour illustrated the entertainment from teams showing only one change from their previous games. Ten Hag left Højlund on the bench, to rest him for Sunday’s trip to Brighton and the FA Cup final a week on Saturday.

So Fernandes, back after injury, played as a false nine in Højlund’s absence, and during another quick transition from his area, he rushed towards Newcastle’s penalty box, scooped the ball to Garnacho, who swerved in behind and shot, Dubravka saving again.

Gordon proved he could do the same when running along his left-wing and crossing, though the corner he claimed was defended easily by those in red.

Then came a strike of finesse and beauty. Amrabat, from an inside-left channel, tapped to Diallo who relayed to Fernandes, whose contact was slight, at best. The ball travelled on to a lurking, unmarked Mainoo and he beat Dubravka to the goalkeeper’s right, Ten Hag lifting both arms in salute.

There was no time to celebrate long, though, as this was basketball on grass. Instantly, Newcastle twice launched forays, and each time Casemiro intervened. First, a superbly timed tackle in the area denied Gordon yet Newcastle had a fair shout for a penalty as Amrabat raked a boot along the attacker’s ankle as he went to aid Casemiro, but Robert Jones, the referee and, more puzzlingly, the Var did not pick this up. Then, Dan Burn’s header was cleared off the line by the makeshift centre-back.

A chip from Kieran Trippier, Newcastle’s one change from Saturday’s draw with Brighton, was headed out by the ubiquitous Casemiro, and Diallo’s slick one-two with Mainoo in Newcastle’s area ended an invigorating half. As the second half kicked off, Bruno Guimarães took aim, then Gordon and Elliot Anderson. They all missed but, now, Gordon did not as those in red imploded.

André Onana, as he did for the Arsenal move that created their winner here on Sunday, misdirected a clearance to Burn who headed it forward. Amrabat miscontrolled, Isak pilfered possession, passed to Jacob Murphy and his cross was steered in by Gordon.

That was a disaster for the hosts who went close to going behind seconds later. This time Aaron Wan-Bissaka was to blame, passing straight to Murphy. He fed Gordon who broke fast, squared to Isak, and only Amrabat’s block tackle diverted the ball on to the bar and away. Somehow Diallo then gave Ten Hag’s men the lead. Fernandes’s corner from the left was flicked on by Murphy and the 21-year-old drove home a fierce volley that sent the home crowd delirious.

After Miguel Almirón was a boot-polish coat away from turning in a Gordon drive, with less than eight minutes left, Marcus Rashford and Lisandro Martínez, plus Højlund, entered. The latter was to confirm a much required three points despite Hall’s late consolation.

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