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Ronaldo, Pogba flash Man United title hopes in defeat of Newcastle

Cristiano Ronaldo enjoyed a fairytale return to Old Trafford, bagging a brace against Newcastle to propel Manchester United to a 4-1 win.

This new guy might be good: Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice and Paul Pogba had two assists as Manchester United gelled more as the match wore on to beat Newcastle United 4-1 at Old Trafford on Saturday.

Ronaldo’s first goal was answered by a Javier Manquillo goal just after halftime, but the returning hero scored a better goal and Pogba set up Bruno Fernandes and Jesse Lingard for markers late in the win.

[ WATCH: Ronaldo brace in Old Trafford return ]

Man United goes atop the table, one point better than Man City, Brighton, and Tottenham. Chelsea, Liverpool, and Everton can also hit Man United’s 10 points by week’s end.

Newcastle still has just one point and without Callum Wilson was all about Miguel Almiron and Allan Saint-Maximin, the latter assisting Manquillo’s goal.


Manchester United vs Newcastle final score, stats, results

Score: Manchester United 4, Newcastle United 1

Goals: MUFC - Ronaldo 2 (45'+2, 62'), Fernandes (80'), Lingard (90'+2); NUFC - Manquillo (56')

Shots: Man United, 21-12

Shots on target: Man United, 7-3

Possession: Man United 65%, Newcastle 35%

Three things we learned from Manchester United vs Newcastle

1. Ronaldo takes his shot (after shot after shot after shot), delivers: If the Old Trafford faithful was hoping for anything from its returning hero, it was a goal. Freddie Woodman made sure Cristiano Ronaldo gave them two. The Portuguese man was right on the doorstep when Newcastle’s keeper failed to collect a slight deflection on a shot from 20 yards, and then raced to meet a Luke Shaw pass that was spun through Woodman’s legs. A team still waiting for Marcus Rashford to return was mostly dominant and showed what center forward play can mean to a talented team of playmakers.

2. Woodman struggles: Freddie Woodman has become Newcastle Twitter’s goalkeeper of the future with starring loan stints, oft-linked with a move away as he lingers behind Martin Dubravka and Karl Darlow on the depth chart. An injury to the former and COVID-19 for the latter has meant Premier League experience for the transfer rumor-collecting Woodman, but he’s had his share of trouble. It’s difficult to argue that Man United wouldn’t have been flummoxed by Dubravka, or that the better goalkeeping might’ve helped Newcastle take points from a softer three-game opening. That said, Woodman’s still very green and will improve over time. It just may not happen at Newcastle.

3. Seen this one before (twice last year): When the cumulative class of player is overwhelmingly tilted in favor of one side, at home, against a team lacking in a real system, it’s going to go only one way far more often than not. Credit to Allan Saint-Maximin for making sure the game stayed exciting when Newcastle countered, but he’s done that before in games that stayed in the balance a bit before the better team won out. Heck, just look at these two teams at St. James’ Park last season. And at Old Trafford in February. At some point, Steve Bruce’s everyman appeal will wear on his employers as it has more ambitious Newcastle fans.

Man of the Match: Paul Pogba

Yes, really. Ronaldo scored twice and was very busy, while Bruno Fernandes and Raphael Varane were also very good, but Pogba’s leading the Premier League in assists and grabbed two more Saturday. Three key passes, 125 touches, and proof that surrounding class with class is a good idea.

Manchester United vs Newcastle recap

Man United, if anything, was too busy in a dominant first half-hour. The passes were just off, touches a little long, and it seemed everyone including Ronaldo was a bit too excited to try and deliver a Ronaldo goal.

That, of course, arrived when a long shot was spilled by Woodman after a slight deflection, arriving with Ronaldo inside the six for 1-0.

[ MORE: Palace stun 10-man Spurs 3-0 ]

The goal before halftime did not kill Newcastle’s hopes, and lively Miguel Almiron -- able to play despite FIFA threats -- found danger man Saint-Maximin atop the 18, a counterattack break leaving Raphael Varane to deal with both “Saint-Max” and Manquillo. The veteran fullback got his first Newcastle goal and it was 1-1.

Ronaldo was there again, and Woodman wasn’t, as Shaw spotted the Portuguese’s explosive run for a shot between the legs.

Pogba would then cue up a terrific Bruno Fernandes goal, both men deserving of the spotlight, before Pogba set up Lingard for a goal that will only increase the value of a veteran who reportedly turned down a new contract this week.

Follow @NicholasMendola