On the one hand, it was a freak goal to concede. On the other, both Solskjaer’s defence and midfield had been cut to ribbons by a normally unproductive attack. And really, the deflection was neither here nor there. Without Shaw’s intervention, Krafth’s cross would have found Joelinton, who was unmarked in the six-yard box and would surely have converted a tap-in, even with his meagre scoring record.
As Newcastle contemplated moving second in the Premier League table, United faced the prospect of remaining three points from the relegation zone. Solskjaer’s side could have crumbled but, to their credit, they rallied. The interplay of United’s forward line grew more menacing with every attack. Juan Mata, in particular, was causing problems and it was his delivery from a corner which led to Maguire’s equaliser.
After a week in which so many questions were asked about the United captain’s state of mind, let alone his alarming form for both club and country, his goal should offer some much-needed respite. The powerful but well-placed downward header from a set-piece, dispatched comfortably out of Darlow’s reach, is exactly what Solskjaer has demanded from his aerially-dominant but strangely goal-shy centre-half. Maguire’s relief was palpable.
United continued to threaten up until the break, particularly from set-pieces, but required De Gea to maintain parity early in the second half. There are legitimate doubts as to whether the Spaniard is still Solskjaer’s best goalkeeper but he has lost nothing of his lightning reflexes. Wilson’s toe-poke from point-blank range appeared goal-bound until De Gea clawed it away and at an angle that denied the Newcastle striker a simple rebound.
It was a magnificent save but one matched by Darlow for Fernandes’ penalty not long after. The award was contentious and Craig Pawson needed a long look at the pitch-side monitors before deciding that Jamal Lewis had brushed Marcus Rashford’s shins inches inside the penalty area. Fernandes stepped up confidently, having only missed two of 32 penalties throughout his career, excluding shoot-outs. Make that three of 33.
Fernandes eschewed his trademark hop, skip and jump and instead elected for power, drilling low but not near enough to the bottom left-hand corner. Darlow guessed correctly, parrying into safety. Newcastle survived a brief check to see if their goalkeeper had strayed fractionally off his goal-line which would have spared Fernandes’ blushes. But five minutes from time, he spared them all by himself, finishing the move which set up United up for a much-needed victory.
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