A freak Luke Shaw own goal seemed destined to condemn Manchester United to further heartache. The pre-match reaction to the starting line-up was, as always, insatiably pessimistic and negative.

But Ole Gunnar Solskjaer got it right, although it took his team some time to sail into a 4-1 lead against Newcastle, partly thanks to Donny van de Beek.

Juan Mata performed. Marcus Rashford played well up top. Dan James looked sharp and direct. Fred helped speed up transitions in midfield. Were it not for Shaw’s own goal, United’s first half performance would have seemed competent.

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 17: Daniel James of Man Utd in action during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Manchester United at St. James Park on October 17, 2020 in Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. Van de Beek.
James looked sharp (Photo by Mark Leech/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)

Solskjaer’s team selection proved correct

And when, with 20 minutes remaining, United still trailed, Solskjaer’s substitutions changed the game. The caveat – of course – is that the Newcastle United team which United eventually dispatched of was poor. They led through no brilliance of their own and were uninspiring for the rest of the game.

However, it was 1-1 when Donny van de Beek entered the fray. Solskjaer brought him on at the right time, and for the right player – taking Dan James off when he had begun to fade from the match.

 

It’s not all Solskjaer’s doing. Van de Beek himself must be surprised at the fact he did not start against Newcastle. His short appearance was further demonstration of his qualities and he looks sure to force himself into the starting line-up soon.

Efficient Van de Beek offers United something else

In 14 minutes, van de Beek completed 100% of his 12 attempted passes and created a chance. That’s the efficiency that he offers. Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba are the other type of attacking midfielder – those who create a bucketload of chances but lose the ball 15 times while doing it. Van de Beek appears to create without losing possession. It’s a great attribute for him to have and it offers United something different. That efficiency helped United to ruthlessly finish Newcastle off.

Solskjaer gives United fresh legs for PSG with rotated line-up

United play Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday. The freshness in the legs of Paul Pogba (benched), Nemanja Matic (benched), Mason Greenwood (not in the squad) and Anthony Martial (suspended) will help United get through a really tough challenge.

Solskjaer had a good day at the office on Saturday after a poor start to the season. It was exactly the result United needed after the Spurs humiliation.

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