Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Jose Mourinho’s future as Manchester United manager remains the subject of intense speculation, despite a stunning second-half comeback in a 3-2 victory over Newcastle at Old Trafford on Saturday.
Alexis Sanchez headed the winning goal from an Ashley Young cross in the final minute of normal time to leave United supporters chanting their manager’s name.
United had appeared doomed against lowly Newcastle after goals from Kenedy and Yoshinori Muto had handed Rafael Benitez’s side a shock 2-0 lead inside 10 minutes.
But a stirring fightback featured Anthony Martial scoring the equaliser on 76 minutes, after Juan Mata’s free-kick had given United hope of recovery.
Martial received a header from Paul Pogba, played a one-two with his French team-mate that featured a clever Pogba backheel, before scoring with a precise finish from 15 yards.
Speculation swirled around Old Trafford before kick-off about the United manager’s job security, with reports suggesting the club might dispense with his services this weekend, regardless of the result following a run of four straight games without a win.
When Newcastle, without a league victory and with just two points to their name before the match, scored twice, that outcome looked increasingly possible.
The visitors’ goals came from throw-ins and were the result of appalling defending from a United side that has looked weak in that department all season.
After seven minutes, Ayoze Perez played a routine through ball inside full-back Ashley Young and Kenedy easily beat him, for skill and pace, before finishing ruthlessly.
United’s defence was panicking, Perez immediately winning another corner and, just minutes later, Newcastle doubled their lead.
This time it was Jonjo Shelvey who collected a throw-in, his cross beating Eric Bailly’s half-hearted attempt to clear and landing at the feet of Muto who twisted right and left to throw off Young’s attentions before turning to beat David De Gea.
The United crowd, which had hardly been vociferous in its backing of their beleaguered manager to that point, responded noisily although they were quickly drowned out by the visiting support taunting Mourinho with chants of “you’re getting sacked in the morning”.
By the 19th minute, Mourinho had seen enough, throwing on Mata as a substitute for the hapless Bailly.
United looked better for the change, Young’s corner finding Nemanja Matic who could only head straight at visiting goalkeeper Martin Dubravka.
– Frustration –
And when, midway through the first half, Romelu Lukaku’s magnificent cross landed on the head of Marcus Rashford who failed to even hit the target at the far post, Mourinho’s frustration on the touchline was obvious.
Mourinho sprinted down the sideline at the half-time whistle, obviously keen to try and correct the disaster unfolding before him, with the United supporters’ boos turning to cheers as their Portuguese manager reached the tunnel.
Marouane Fellaini was thrown on in an attempt to rescue the game and it was a vastly improved performance after the restart.
Pogba’s early shot was only parried by Dubravka, the ball falling to Nemanja Matic who somehow cleared the open goal from six yards with a miss which summed up United’s woes.
Matters improved greatly, however, on 70 minutes when Mohamed Diame tripped Martial on the edge of the area and Mata strode up to plant a magnificent left-footed free-kick over the Newcastle wall and into the corner of the net.
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