Anthony Martial scored twice as Manchester United came from behind to hammer Newcastle United 4-1 and move four points off a Champions League place in the table.
Martial cancelled out teenager Matty Longstaff’s opener for Newcastle with a near post finish before a deflected shot from outside the penalty area by 18-year-old Mason Greenwood went in off the bar.
Marcus Rashford extended Manchester United’s lead further with a header – his 11th Premier League goal of the season – before Martial added the fourth.
The France forward went close to becoming the first Manchester United player to score a Premier League hat-trick since 2013 when his low shot hit a post.
Martial’s good day
If there is one player who symbolises the erratic nature of Manchester United just now, it is Martial.
Occasional flashes of genuine brilliance and some decent overall performances are mixed with others so lacking in purpose it must make executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward wonder whether he was right to resist Jose Mourinho’s willingness to sell the Frenchman at the beginning of last season.
Even today, at half-time, one very knowledgeable and experienced United observer continued to state his belief the club would be better off without Martial, despite the fact he had scored.
After the break, Martial’s second, a fine finish over Martin Dubravka after a woeful Sean Longstaff back-pass had sent him clean though, represented only the fourth time he had scored more than once for United in the league since he was signed by Louis van Gaal in 2015.
He remains a crowd favourite and the ovation he received as he made his way to the dressing room after being replaced by Juan Mata midway through the second half was impressive.
It remains the case that until Martial’s goal output improves, he will not be delivering what United require. His tally of nine goals for the season so far is only three short of his best return since his debut campaign, when he scored 17.
Man Utd’s Boxing Day glee
If Manchester United could extend their Boxing Day home record across the entire season, they wouldn’t be experiencing the kind of drift that has affected them in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era.
Their record since a 3-0 defeat by Liverpool on 26 December 1978 now reads an impressive 16 wins and three draws from 19 fixtures.
United have not had a Boxing Day win as big as this one since they put five past Wigan on 26 December 2011 – which, ironically, was the last day Newcastle won a Boxing Day away fixture, at Burnley.
That Wigan game is the last time United scored five at home in a Premier League game.
Longstaff loves playing Man Utd
Few players can have had a start to their Premier League careers quite like Matty Longstaff.
The 19-year-old was making his debut when he scored the winner in the reverse fixture at St James’ Park in October.
Longstaff kept his place for two more games before he was dropped – and did not reappear until his team met United again. He duly scored again.
Longstaff’s shot into the bottom corner from Joelinton’s lay-off meant Newcastle had taken the lead at Old Trafford for three seasons in a row – an effort that has brought them no points.
Manager Steve Bruce remains without a win at the stadium where he enjoyed so much success as a player.
Consequently, Newcastle are yet to record a league double over United since 1931.