Man United gave Erik ten Hag the kind of performance that has been lacking in this wretched season in what could be his Old Trafford farewell, writes CHRIS WHEELER after 3-2 win over Newcastle

If this does indeed prove to be Erik ten Hag’s farewell to Old Trafford, at least he goes out with a win. Manchester United gave their manager the kind of performance that has so often been lacking in this most wretched of seasons. The kind that will make Ten Hag wonder what might have been.

Where has this spirit been for the past 10 months? This backbone? Who knows, Ten Hag may yet get another shot. But if his team had played like this on a more regular basis, the Dutchman wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place.

Bruno Fernandes has rarely let Ten Hag down and on Wednesday night he played like he had a point to prove in a week when his own future at United has come under scrutiny.

Casemiro, lampooned as an emergency centre-back in recent weeks, looked like a man on a mission too. Amad Diallo was excellent again, and restored United’s lead after Antony Gordon had cancelled out Kobbie Mainoo’s opener.

Rasmus Hojlund, dropped to the bench, came on and silenced his critics with what proved to be the decisive goal before Lewis Hall pulled one back. Everywhere you looked in this United team, there was improvement. It might be too little too late, both for United and Ten Hag.

Rasmus Hojlund came off the bench after being dropped to score Man United’s winner

Amad Diallo fired home a stunning goal after Newcastle failed to clear a corner to put United back in front

Amad Diallo fired home a stunning goal after Newcastle failed to clear a corner to put United back in front

It was his first goal since his dramatic late winner against Liverpool in the FA Cup

It was his first goal since his dramatic late winner against Liverpool in the FA Cup

Victory puts them level with Newcastle but still in eighth place. Goal difference means they will have to better Newcastle’s result at Brentford when they go to Brighton on Sunday to sneak into the Europa Conference.

The only other route into Europe is to beat Manchester City in the FA Cup final and qualify for the Europa League. These are only crumbs of comfort, it has to be said.

MATCH FACTS

Man United (4-2-3-1): Onana; Wan-Bissaka, Casemiro, Evans, Dalot; Amrabat, Mainoo (Rashford 83); Amad (Hojlund 83), McTominay, Garnacho (Martinez 83); Fernandes (Eriksen 90)

Goals: Mainoo, Amad, Hojlund

Booked: Casemiro, Amad, Amrabat

Manager: Erik ten Hag 

Newcastle (4-3-3): Dubravka; Trippier (Schar 63), Krafth, Burn, Hall; Guimaraes, Longstaff (Barnes 77), Anderson (Joelinton 62); Murphy (Almiron 62), Gordon, Isak 

Goals: Gordon, Hall

Booked: Anderson, Gordon, Schar

Manager: Eddie Howe 

Afterwards, Ten Hag grew impatient waiting for Fernandes to finish a post-match interview with Sky Sports and physically dragged his captain from the camera before grabbing the microphone himself.

What followed was an impassioned speech from a man who isn’t done yet. ‘As you know it wasn’t an easy season, but one thing remained constant and that was the backing of you for the team,’ he told those fans who had stayed behind to applaud their team.

‘But this season is not over yet. We go to Brighton and then we go to Wembley, and I promise you those players will give everything to win that cup and bring it to Old Trafford.’

Next week marks the second anniversary since Ten Hag first turned up at Old Trafford, all smiles and optimism in his beige suit.

He walked out of the tunnel here on Wednesday night in front of the Stretford End (or shallow end if you have been following the jokes on social media since Sunday’s deluge after the defeat to Arsenal) with no guarantees he will be back in the dugout next season as new minority owners Ineos prepare to decide on his future.

This result – and performance – won’t do his cause any harm at all. It showed that Ten Hag is still fighting, and his players are still fighting for him.

It was just enough to give United victory over a Newcastle side who are now just one goal from equalling the club’s Premier League record of 82 set by Kevin Keegan’s Entertainers, but whose touch in front of goal deserted them at a crucial stage of a breathless second half here. Alexander Isak, Sean Longstaff and Miguel Almiron will all reflect on chances missed.

But after losing all three meetings with Eddie Howe’s side since the highlight of Ten Hag’s career in England – last season’s Carabao Cup final triumph – United deserved this.

Kobbie Mainoo found the bottom corner to give United the lead in the first half

Kobbie Mainoo found the bottom corner to give United the lead in the first half

Mainoo was congratulated by his team-mates after scoring his third league goal of the season

Mainoo was congratulated by his team-mates after scoring his third league goal of the season

Newcastle started the second half strongly and Anthony Gordon found the net from close range to bring his side level

Newcastle started the second half strongly and Anthony Gordon found the net from close range to bring his side level

Gordon was a major threat all night and was delighted with his goal at Old Trafford

Gordon was a major threat all night and was delighted with his goal at Old Trafford

By the time they took the lead, Ten Hag’s side had already gone close through Casemiro, Diallo and Alejandro Garnacho. 

Then in the 31st minute, Diallo found Mainoo in front of goal and the Newcastle players stopped thinking he was offside.

But Kieran Trippier, who endured a difficult first start since the beginning of March after injury, committed the same sin as Casemiro against Arsenal as he stayed far too deep to play the teenager onside. Mainoo steadied himself before steering a shot past Martin Dubravka from 15 yards.

Newcastle rallied. Gordon had a strong shout for a penalty after Amrabat tried to rectify a mistake but VAR disagreed. Casemiro somehow headed Dan Burn’s effort off the line. Again the margins were fine, the whole of the ball not crossing the line.

The visitors were level less than four minutes into the second half, though, as Jacob Murphy delivered an excellent cross from the left and Gordon stretched to apply an even better finish.

Lewis Hall gave Newcastle late hope with a long-range strike but the damage had been done

Lewis Hall gave Newcastle late hope with a long-range strike but the damage had been done

Erik ten Hag will wonder where this kind of performance has been in a dismal season for the Red Devils

Erik ten Hag will wonder where this kind of performance has been in a dismal season for the Red Devils

So often this United team fold when games turn against them, and it almost happened again moments later when Isak was clean through but Amrabat’s last-ditch challenge sent the ball looping onto the bar. 

United regained the lead in the 57th minute when Fernandes swung a corner over from the left and Murphy’s header flew through a crowded goalmouth to Diallo who rifled it past Dubravka.

Hojlund added a third in the 84th minute when he drilled a shot inside the keeper’s right -hand post. The Dane had been criticised after scoring just once in his previous eight league games, and didn’t hesitate to hold a finger to his lips in celebration.

Hall’s excellent strike in injury-time made it a nervy finish but United never do things the easy way, even when they play well.


Source From: Football | Mail Online

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