Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United made it four wins out of four in the Premier League on Wednesday, beating Newcastle to close the gap on fourth-placed Chelsea, who were held at home by Southampton.
United have been transformed since their former striker replaced Jose Mourinho, scoring 12 goals in his first three games in temporary charge but were forced to dig deep to emerge with a 2-0 win against a disciplined Newcastle side at St James’s Park.
The victory leaves them in sixth spot in the table with 38 points, just three behind Arsenal and six adrift of Chelsea.
Substitute Romelu Lukaku broke the deadlock just 38 seconds after coming on midway through the second half, pouncing after Newcastle goalkeeper Martin Dubravka had spilled a fierce Marcus Rashford free kick and Rashford himself made sure of the points in the 80th minute.
Manchester United bossed possession but a resolute Newcastle defence kept clear-cut chances to a minimum, prompting Solskjaer to throw on Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez shortly after the hour mark.
The changes bore fruit immediately and the interim boss will be equally pleased that United managed just their third clean sheet of the season in the Premier League.
“Finally we kept a clean sheet,” Solskjaer told Sky Sports. “A very professional performance. We didn’t hit the heights that we can do but we were in control, kept plugging away and got the goals.
“A good first touch from a sub. When you see big Romelu Lukaku running towards you, as a keeper you might take your hands away. We were sluggish in the first half, it was like a testimonial, too many square passes.”
Solskjaer is only the second manager in Manchester United history to win his first four league games in charge of the club, after Matt Busby in 1946.