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Thursday , January 28 2021

United fightback spares Mourinho

Dier fires Spurs to victory over 10-man Cardiff

Newcastle United’s Slovakian goalkeeper Martin Dubravka saves a chance from Manchester United’s French striker Anthony Martial (right), during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Newcastle at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England on Oct 6. (AFP)

MANCHESTER, Oct 6, (AFP): Jose Mourinho was given a stay of execution as Manchester United staged a stirring fightback to beat Newcastle 3-2 thanks to Alexis Sanchez’s last-gasp winner on Saturday. Mourinho had presided over United’s worst seven-game start to a season for 29 years amid the breakdown of his relationship with star midfielder Paul Pogba and several other key players.

A report on Friday evening claimed United’s hierarchy had lost patience with the toxic atmosphere and would sack Mourinho regardless of the Newcastle result. But senior United sources strongly denied the suggestion Mourinho would be dismissed this weekend, insisting he retains the board’s support following a series of abysmal results.

Despite that vote of confidence, it was looking increasingly bleak for Mourinho when winless Newcastle raced into a two-goal in the first 10 minutes at Old Trafford. But United clicked into gear and Chile forward Sanchez, who had been dropped by Mourinho, came off the bench to bag the winner after goals from Juan Mata and Anthony Martial dragged the hosts level. United’s first win in five games in all competitions could buy Mourinho some much-needed breathing space heading into the international break.

Mourinho was in typically combative mood when he walked to the bench before kick-off, squirting a television camera with a water bottle, and within seven minutes the mood turned even more fractious. United fell behind when Kenedy parted Mourinho’s defense with alarming ease, running onto Ayoze Perez’s pass and turning away from Ashley Young before firing home as Mourinho gestured furiously on the touchline.

There was worse to come for Mourinho three minutes later as Newcastle punished more shambolic defending, Young and his team-mates failing to get in a challenge as Japanese forward Yoshinori Muto scored on his first Premier League start. Rafael Benitez’s side were the first visiting team ever to score two goals in the first 10 minutes of a Premier League game at Old Trafford.

Mourinho responded by making a bizarre 19th minute substitution as he hauled off defender Eric Bailly – one of the group said to be unhappy with the manager – and sent on Mata, once again moving young midfielder Scott McTominay to play at centre-back.

Jeers rang around Old Trafford at half-time and Mourinho, looking increasingly desperate, made more changes at the interval with Marouane Fellaini sent on for McTominay. United finally responded to Mourinho in the second half, playing with far more passion as Mata reduced the deficit with a fine 70th minute free-kick before Martial fired the equalizer six minutes later. That set the stage for Sanchez to apply the finishing touch in the 90th minute as Mourinho celebrated while his name was sung by relieved United fans at full-time. Meanwhile, Cardiff manager Neil Warnock slammed England captain Harry Kane’s role in a red card shown to Joe Ralls as Tottenham moved just a point off the top of the Premier League table with a bad-tempered 1-0 win at Wembley.

Ralls saw red for a cynical lunge on Lucas Moura on the hour mark. Kane also saw a yellow card for his reaction to Ralls, but Warnock was scathing of how the Spurs players surrounded referee Mike Dean, who initially seemed set to show just a yellow card. Outclassed by the brilliance of Barcelona’s Lionel Messi in the Champions League in midweek, Spurs were grateful for Cardiff’s lack of firepower to ensure a lacklustre performance after Eric Dier’s early opener went unpunished. Toby Alderweireld cleared off the line from Josh Murphy and Hugo Lloris was forced into a fine save from Sean Morrison as Spurs failed to add to their advantage despite Ralls’s dismissal. Despite a World Cup hangover with a spate of muscle injuries and the uncertainty over when the club’s new stadium will be completed, a return of six wins from their opening eight Premier League games matches Spurs’ best ever start to a campaign under Pochettino.

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