Manchester United players were in a celebratory but professional mood following their 3-1 win over Newcastle United on Sunday evening.
United played host to an under-pressure Newcastle who had seen Fulham – and the relegation zone – move to within three points behind.
Meanwhile, United knew that they needed to keep pace with Manchester City at the top of the table after Pep Guardiola and his players extended their winning run with a 1-0 victory over Arsenal.
United still have slim hopes of mounting a title challenge over the course of the final weeks of the season, but to do that, they must continue winning matches.
That is precisely what they did on Sunday. Marcus Rashford opened the scoring with a brilliant solo goal, matching David Beckham’s 85 goals for the club, before Daniel James and Bruno Fernandes wrapped up the victory in the second half after Allan Saint-Maximin had equalised before half-time with a tidy half-volley.
In the end, it was a comfortable win for United, who needed to put right a run of just one win in their last five league games.
And the players were clearly aware of its importance as they reacted on social media afterwards.
Rashford focused on joining Beckham on the goalscoring list, saying: “Joined some great company tonight, matching Becks record. Happy Sunday everyone,” while Daniel James very simply, succinctly, but poignantly said: “3 points,” alongside a strong arm emoji, showing that this United team are focused on squeezing out the victories as they chase down their rivals.
You can see the full player reaction here:
Afterwards, United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer expressed his happiness at the improvements his team made in the second half.
“We had to up the tempo a little bit, especially in the last third, and I felt we managed to do that,” he said when asked about the changes he wanted at half-time after a sluggish first-half display.
“It’s always difficult after an away game in Europe to get going. We’ve had enough games this season, so it took until half-time really, even though we dominated possession and we had a lot of the ball, we couldn’t create too many big opportunities.”
Solskjaer also heralded James’ impact. The Welshman has not featured regularly this season but now has two goals in the last two games after a similarly impressive performance against Real Sociedad last Thursday.
“He never disappeared, he’s been working hard behind the scenes, he’s always been available,” the United boss added.
“He’s always a player that you can use in a few different positions with his energy and pace.
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Manchester United made heavy weather of their 3-1 win over Newcastle, eventually getting the job done at Old Trafford.
Marcus Rashford, Daniel James and Bruno Fernandes were on the scoresheet as United got back to winning ways in the league. They have a Europa League second leg vs Real Sociedad on Thursday.
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“He’s learning the game and I’m very happy for him. We’ve worked with him. We try to help everyone. Of course, Dan came from the Championship up to Man United and if you hit a few goals in your first few games, it’s bound to take some energy away from you, all those headlines and media attention.
“But he’s knuckled down and he’s really worked hard to get back to full fitness and maybe more so [to build] confidence, to believe in himself.
“That’s the main thing, to come past that little doubt, and now he knows he’s a good player.”