Manchester United 3-2 Newcastle United
“Still United with Jose,” read a banner held aloft by one fan near the dugout as the players came out for this teatime encounter at Old Trafford.
It was a sign of support from the United faithful, a feeling many home fans agree with amid a seeming media agenda against the United boss.
Jose Mourinho even playfully squirted a water bottle at the cameras as they followed him into the dugout.
The mischievous Newcastle fans then only took a minute to sing the chant of ‘you’re getting sacked in the morning’ in the Man Utd’s boss direction.
There was no doubt where the main focus of this Premier League game would be, and that was the dugout.
However, what was to follow was quite staggering and was surely something neither set of fans could have predicted.
Highlights of the game
Indeed, without taking anything away from Newcastle, this was stunning.
Before you could blink, the lowly Geordies led 2-0, effectively gifted two goals as the stunned hosts conceded two goals in the opening 10 minutes in a Premier League match at Old Trafford for the first ever time.
First, stand-in captain Ashley Young, who is not a right-back, was turned inside out by Kenedy and slotted home the opener.
Then Young was turned with ease again, and new signing Yoshinori Muto added to his sharp turn with a sharp finish.
It was the start United must have dreaded, but no us fans expected this, not even the most optimistic Newcastle supporters.
Suddenly, the biggest Premier League 2018 news story was on the cards. Could Mourinho survive another defeat? The obituaries for one of football’s most successful managers at England’s biggest club were being written.
Even Mourinho couldn’t have expected such shocking defending as his side was cut open again and again, only a David De Gea save denying Jonjo Shelvey after he was left in acres of space.
The home boss acted swiftly.
Whether the substitution of Eric Bailly was a sign Mourinho was blaming the Ivory Coast defender for the start – or reminding chief executive Ed Woodward of his failure to back the manager’s call to sign a defender in the transfer market – is unclear.
Perhaps it was just he didn’t want to embarrass a young player by hooking him off so early on.
Either way, on came Juan Mata with young midfielder Scott McTominay reverting to centre-half.
Yet it didn’t make a difference.
Marcus Rashford headed wide, but Newcastle came closest to adding to their tally with Ayoze Perez looking dangerous. De Gea denied Muto again, and anxiety seemingly seeping out of every home pore.
The Premier League 2018 odds on Mourinho surviving the weekend were slim as the teams returned to the dressing room at half-time, and Mourinho jogged back to deliver arguably the most important team talk of his career.
The boos turned to cheers as the Portuguese boss, under immense pressure immediately before kick-off, headed to the tunnel, a sign not everyone was giving up.
However, if many of the players were devoid of confidence, others should have been embarrassed.
If they had stopped playing for the manager, it meant they had stopped playing for the club and the fans; that is definitely unforgivable.
The second half started as many would have expected with United pushing Newcastle back deep in their own half.
Nemanja Matic, who had by now reverted to centre-back, blazed over the first chance from close range before Rashford headed wide.
A home goal was desperately needed but plucky Newcastle were holding firm, even though more focus was on home misery rather than a terrific away effort.
It arrived 20 minutes from time when Mata produced a trademark free-kick which was despatched beyond talented Newcastle goalkeeper Martin Dubravka.
The shot-stopper then denied substitute Marouane Fellaini and Chris Smalling but was helpless as the tireless Anthony Martial produced a fine finish to equalise.
Newcastle almost nearly caused home palpitations before a combination of Fellaini and Lukaku managed to clear the ball off the line.
Time was ticking and only a home win would suffice, and then the moment few saw coming at half-time.
Substitute Alexis Sanchez headed home to leave luckless Newcastle crestfallen as Old Trafford erupted.
“Still United with Jose” – you better believe it!
Manchester United have lost one of their last 37 home matches against Newcastle in all competitions (won 27, drew nine), with that solitary loss coming in December 2013 during David Moyes’ tenure thanks to a Yohan Cabaye goal.
The Magpies are winless in nine games (eight in the league) since beating Chelsea in May.
Only in 1898-99 (10 matches) and 2015-16 (eight games) have they waited longer for their first victory in a top-flight campaign.
It’s the international break now.
United are back in action in a fortnight’s time (October 20) when Mourinho returns to his former club with a trip to Stamford Bridge to face Chelsea.
Then it’s time for a reunion with Cristiano Ronaldo as Juventus visit the Theatre of Dreams in the Champions League.
Newcastle, who need owner Mike Ashley to invest, are next in action when they entertain Brighton at St James’ Park.
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