Bruno Fernandes insists Manchester United will defend themselves from fierce criticism with goals and victories.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insisted “the season starts here” as he left St James’ Park late on Saturday night.
Their campaign will still take some reviving after the horrors of losing 6-1 to Spurs…. and faces a bigger test than a trip to “tame” Newcastle when they travel to PSG in the Champions League on Tuesday.
But this was, indeed, a start. It was a return to dominance on the pitch to snuff out, for now, uncertainty surrounding Solskjaer’s future, transfer talk disruption from Paul Pogba and scrutiny of Harry Maguire.
There was a masterclass from 32-year-old Juan Mata who left the pitch to chants of Mago – Magician – from United’s noisy bench whose vocal support during the game demonstrated a team spirit.
Mata’s cerebral probing saw him complete 59 out of 63 passes, 32 of them forward.
Marcus Rashford, playing as a central No9, was full of pacy running that ran the Geordies ragged.
Harry Maguire held his head high and emerged from his England red card nightmare with a morale-boosting goal.
The chaotic, sloppy creaking line up which collapsed to Spurs last time out was ruthlessly reorganised by Solskjaer – Pogba and Nemanja Matic benched – and he was rewarded for a brave rejig.
The Reds had 28 shots, the most in the Premier League this season, 14 on target, and only the excellence of Karl Darlow, until injured, kept them at bay.
Portuguese star Fernandes said: “The team has big characters and big players. The moment against Tottenham can’t happen again because we are a big team. This club is better than that. Everyone, not just a, b and c, but everyone, starting with myself.
“This was perfect, after that defeat we did well.
“Everyone is talking that we need a defender, a midfielder, a winger, a striker but it is easy form the outside talking and saying we need everything.
“We need to look out of each other, help each other and be positive as a team. We can defend ourselves on the pitch.”
PSG on Tuesday won’t crumble like Steve Bruce’s side. A three goal spurt from the 86th minute changed Solskjaer’s mood.
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One down after 102 seconds to Luke Shaw’s unlucky own goal United clawed back and exploited tiredness in the home defence.
Harry Maguire glanced home with his head for a first half equaliser. Fernandes added: “Harry is a big player and with one of the biggest teams in the world captain, plays for England. He has been under fire, but he has a great mentality and he has to keep doing what he is doing.”
Bruce’s side banked up and played for a draw in an unadventurous performance apart from Allan Saint-Maximin hitting the post and Callum Wilson’s header. The inevitable was delayed when Fernandes missed his first penalty for United having scored his first ten. “I am human,” he could afford to joke.
He made amends in the 86th minute curling into the top corner after Mata sent Marcus Rashford clear down the left.
Rashford then set up Aaron Wan-Bissaka who crashed in his first goal for United and then added his own flourish with a crisp finish deep in injury time, Fernandes with the assist.
Fernandes added: “We didn’t know Aaron could shoot! It is difficult to believe he can score! We’ve been talking about it in the dressing room. We thought he wanted to cross. We tell him to be in the box because he has such quality.
“Rashford deserved to be named because he did what we train, overlap, touch to me. He did the same. Rashy did well. He can do really well in that position but it is not his position.”
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