Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s dream start to life in the Manchester United hotseat continued at Newcastle as the caretaker manager emulated Sir Matt Busby’s record feat of winning his first four league matches in charge.
The encouraging post-Jose Mourinho era continued at St James’ Park, where the Norwegian’s side emerged from their toughest test to date with another three points and a clean sheet to boot.
Solskjaer’s Reds rode their luck at times as Christian Atsu proved a thorn in their side, but substitute Romelu Lukaku scored with his first touch of the game before Marcus Rashford wrapped up a 2-0 win at Rafael Benitez’s struggling Newcastle.
It was a dogged display that showed flashes of exciting attacking football at a ground where United had fallen to defeat in February, thanks in no small part to a man-of-the-match display by Martin Dubravka.
Newcastle’s goalkeeper was in the headlines for the wrong reasons this time as he spilled a stinging Rashford free-kick, allowing sub Lukaku to turn home just 38 seconds after coming on.
Rashford joined in on the act by completing a fine counter-attack as the visitors took their goal tally to 14 goals in four matches.
A first clean sheet was another shot in the arm, although poor misses from Atsu and Salomon Rondon underlined the work still required for Solskjaer at the back.
The Newcastle pair were a particularly unsettling presence in the first half.
Paul Pogba and Rashford had early attempts, before Atsu forced David De Gea into a good low stop.
The fleet-footed Ghanaian quickly got another attempt on goal as United wobbled, with Phil Jones looking most likely to falter. It took a superb recovery tackle to prevent Rondon scoring after the visiting centre-back lost his nerve under pressure when facing his own goal.
Atsu sent a shot across De Gea’s goal as Newcastle continued to threaten a surprise opener in a match that the home side were dominating most of the play.
Anthony Martial was troubling the hosts with his movement and struck over the bar shortly after Dubravka rushed out to block Rashford.
The England forward had half-hearted penalty appeals rejected and Pogba dragged wide towards the end of the half, with Rondon heading over when well placed.
Solskjaer’s Reds returned in bright form and Rashford lashed across the face of goal shortly after play resumed, but they were far from in control.
Atsu continued to prove a handful and hit across the face of goal before seeing penalty appeals rejected, with Jonjo Shelvey, on for the injured Mohamed Diame, seeing a shot safely dealt with by De Gea.
Solskjaer turned to his talent-filled bench in the 63rd minute, bringing on Alexis Sanchez and Lukaku – a move that paid immediate dividends.
Rashford stood over the ball 30 yards from goal and hit a fizzing free-kick that Dubravka inexplicably spilled, with Lukaku alert to direct home with his first touch.
It was a gut punch that Newcastle attempted to react to, with Atsu going closest with an effort that some inside the ground thought was in.
But Solskjaer’s side showed their teeth to wrap things up on the break.
Lukaku, Sanchez and Rashford were all involved during a sharp counter attack that showed smart interplay and a calm finish by the latter.
Newcastle had a few half chances as they pushed for a late consolation, although Pogba wasted the chance for a late third after rounding the goalkeeper.