The impact of Paul Pogba in today’s win against New Castle underlined his importance to the Red Devils. Since he got injured, the club has been struggling to discover the form they once displayed at the beginning of the season.
Though the match ended 4-1 in favour of Manchester United, it didn’t come easy as the end result showed. The visitor scared the home fans after hitting the back of the net first.
For the equalizer, the Frenchman teed up compatriot Anthony Martial before tapping in a third, helping Jose Mourinho’s side overcome Dwight Gayle’s 14th-minute opener to stretch their unbeaten run at home to 38 games.
Chris Smalling had nodded the hosts ahead in first-half stoppage time, while Romelu Lukaku ended his personal drought after the break, the Belgian striker smashing in his first club goal since September 30.
Mourinho gave Ibrahimovic a late cameo from the bench, which made the Swede make his first appearance in 216 days since suffering a serious knee injury in April.
The result sees United reclaim second place from Chelsea and remain the closest to Manchester City, who won 2-0 at Leicester City earlier on Saturday.
With Eric Bailly and Phil Jones both ruled out through injury, Victor Lindelof was handed a starting spot in a team that reverted to a flat back four after lining up with three centre-backs in the defeat at Chelsea on November 5.
Once again Mourinho’s side profited from a pinpoint cross, Lukaku’s ball in from the right appearing to tee up Marcus Rashford. However, rather than go for goal, the England international unselfishly cushioned a header inside to allow the advancing Pogba to mark his comeback from a hamstring problem with the easiest of finishes from inside the six-yard box.
Lukaku put two first-half misses to the back of his mind to round out the scoring, exchanging passes with Juan Mata before lashing a shot beyond Rob Elliot as United inflicted Newcastle’s heaviest defeat under Rafael Benitez.
The loudest cheer of the night, however, was reserved for Ibrahimovic’s introduction in the 77th minute. His every touch was hailed by the crowd and he so nearly marked the occasion with a goal, Elliot keeping out an acrobatic volley that demonstrated how the Swede has lost none of his flair for the dramatic during his lengthy absence.