Marcus Rashford played a key role in a win over struggling Newcastle as Manchester United returned to second place in the Premier League.
The England striker helped the hosts overcome a stuttering start when he lashed in an 18th goal of the season by beating Karl Darlow at the near post after 30 minutes.
Allan Saint-Maximin then scored a deserved equaliser with his first goal since coming back from a two-month absence caused by coronavirus symptoms, slamming in after Harry Maguire failed to clear.
The Newcastle winger then threatened again early in the second half, but the game turned after 57 minutes when Daniel James re-established the lead.
That led to the visitors’ confidence draining away, with Rashford then earning a penalty as he drew a foul from Joe Willock before Bruno Fernandes knocked in his 22nd goal of the season.
Defeat for Steve Bruce’s side was a seventh in 10 Premier League games, leaving them three points above the drop zone – and a relegation scrap with Fulham is now set to ensue.
For Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side, it was only a second win in six league matches, and a welcome victory after a draw at West Brom last weekend.
But they remain 10 points behind leaders Manchester City, who beat Arsenal earlier on Sunday.
On the face of it, this looked as if it would be a routine win for the hosts over a team fighting for Premier League survival.
But although Solskjaer insisted that his team had “found themselves a little bit” after the 4-0 win over Real Sociedad in the Europa League on Thursday, there were still signs here of the concerns that have plagued his team for much of the season.
Manchester United were slow to start and jittery in defence. David de Gea was called into action early on and almost gifted Newcastle a goal with a poor backpass. Fernandes, normally their talisman, was quiet for much of the game before a trademark penalty.
But in contrast to Newcastle, Solskjaer’s side have matchwinners all over the pitch. When they went ahead, it was from their first proper chance.
Rashford skipped past Emil Krafth on the touchline, before cutting inside and unleashing a fierce shot, although Darlow should have stopped his near-post effort.
The lead only lasted six minutes, however, as a short corner was played to Willock and his cross was half-headed away by Maguire, allowing Saint-Maximin to fire in.
But after the home side started the second period quietly, with Solskjaer’s concern evident on the touchline, James gave them breathing space.
The Welsh winger, who scored in midweek, was rewarded with his first Premier League start since 26 December and lashed past Darlow at his near post again. As Newcastle retreated, the hosts moved up the gears before Fernandes sealed victory.
It was not a vintage display, but it did not need to be as Solskjaer’s side finally found their rhythm, allowing them to hand a debut to 17-year-old Shola Shoretire.