Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is not giving up hope that Manchester United can challenge Manchester City for the Premier League title, despite the scintillating form of the league leaders. City climbed 10 points ahead of local rivals thanks to an 18-game winning streak in all competitions. United’s inconsistent form helped open the gap, but the Red Devils beat Newcastle 3-1 on Sunday to win for the second time in six league appearances. “We have to be there just in case,” Solskjaer said. “Every time we get three points we’ve done our job and that’s what we have to do and see what the other teams are doing.”
Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford were back on track again on a night when United needed their star men to overcome the cracks of another unconvincing performance.
Solskjaer made five changes to the squad which impressively beat Real Sociedad 4-0 in the Europa League on Thursday and were lucky not to be punished for a disjointed departure from the hosts.
“We had to find a way to win in the second half. The first half was not up to our expectations,” Solskjaer added.
“Maybe because of Newcastle, maybe because of what we did this week. We asked them to come back after a high intensity game and it took us half time to recover our legs and our energy.”
A two-game winning streak in 14 games has left Newcastle just three points from the drop zone, but Steve Bruce remains confident his side will survive.
“Fulham has had a good week and won a few games which is big at the bottom of the table but there are a few of us: Brighton, Burnley and maybe Crystal Palace looking over their shoulders,” Bruce said. .
“My message to the supporters is that I am convinced that everything will be fine.”
A poor goalie cost Bruce’s men the first half-hourly goal as Rashford broke free inside the box, but his shot should have been ruled out by Karl Darlow.
United’s sloppy set-piece defense was punished six minutes later, however, when Saint-Maximin swept the ball into the top corner after Harry Maguire only cleared a half a cross into the box. .
Dan James has struggled to gain time after a blazing start to his United career last season, but the Welshman has now scored in his last three appearances as he passed Darlow closely just ahead of the hour.
Better footwork from Rashford then drew Joe Willock into an ill-advised challenge inside the box and the loaned Arsenal midfielder conceded a penalty.
Darlow had saved the only kick Fernandes missed as a United player when the teams met earlier in the season.
But he was wrong this time around as the Portuguese playmaker quietly converted to give United the two-goal cushion they craved.
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