United refuse to give up title chase

Manchester United's Marcus Rashford opening the scoring against Newcastle on Sunday. It was the England forward's ninth league goal of the season. The 3-1 win moved the Red Devils back to second in the table.
Manchester United's Marcus Rashford opening the scoring against Newcastle on Sunday. It was the England forward's ninth league goal of the season. The 3-1 win moved the Red Devils back to second in the table.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Ole Gunnar Solskjaer refused to give up hope that Manchester United can challenge Manchester City for the Premier League title, despite the scintillating form of the league leaders.

City have soared 10 points clear of their local rivals thanks to a 13-game winning streak in the top-flight. United's own inconsistent form has helped open up the gap, but the Red Devils beat Newcastle 3-1 on Sunday to win for just the second time in six league games.

"I'm never going to say it's done until it's done," said Solskjaer after United moved back into second spot. "We've got to be there just in case. Every time we get three points we've done our job and that's what we've got to do and see what other teams do."

His remarks are in stark contrast to a fortnight ago, when he claimed after their 3-3 home draw to Everton: "We should not even be considered as title chasers. That is more talk that you (the media) are saying."

Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford were again on target on a night United needed their star men to paper over the cracks of another unconvincing performance.

Solskjaer made five changes to the side that impressively thrashed Real Sociedad 4-0 in the Europa League on Thursday and was lucky not to be punished for a disjointed start from the hosts.

"We had to find a way to win it in the second-half. The first-half wasn't up to the standard that we wanted," added the Norwegian.

United were fortunate not to fall behind before Rashford fired them ahead out of the blue in the 30th minute.

Newcastle hit back through Allan Saint-Maximin six minutes later. But a 57th-minute strike by Daniel James and a Bruno Fernandes penalty gave United a two-goal cushion, allowing Solskjaer to hand a debut to 17-year-old midfielder Shola Shoretire - named after the former Newcastle United striker, Shola Ameobi.

The result left Newcastle three points ahead of Fulham, who occupy the last relegation spot, but Steve Bruce remains confident his side will survive.

The Newcastle manager said: "Fulham have had a good week and won a couple of games, which at the bottom end of the table is big, but there are a few of us: Brighton, Burnley and maybe Crystal Palace looking over their shoulders.

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    Goals scored by Manchester United in 25 Premier League games this term - their most at this stage since the 2012-13 season (60).

"My message to the supporters is that I'm convinced we'll be okay."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 23, 2021, with the headline 'United refuse to give up title chase'. Subscribe