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Man United Boost Hopes of European Qualification

Manchester United’s young talents excelled as the club kept their European qualification hopes alive with a hard-fought 3-2 win over Newcastle United at Old Trafford on Wednesday night.

All three of United’s goal scorers were aged 21 or under, with Kobbie Mainoo, Amad Diallo and Ramsus Højlund netting to secure a crucial three points for Erik Ten Hag’s side. Youth was also pivotal for Newcastle, with 19-year-old Lewis Hall scoring with a superb strike in stoppage time.

The result leaves Man United 8th in the table and level on points with Newcastle. With one game to spare, the highest the Reds can finish in the table is seventh, if they can better Newcastle’s result on the final day. However, there is still hope of Europa League football next season for Ten Hag’s team, as they will qualify if they can win the FA Cup on May 25.

Meanwhile, the loss for Newcastle has significantly damaged their hopes of Europa League qualification, as they sit three points behind 6th-placed Chelsea going into the final day. As well as requiring three points in their fixture, the Magpies will be relying on a Chelsea defeat to Bournemouth to secure Europa League qualification.

After starting the game strongly, the Reds took the lead courtesy of 19-year-old Mainoo. The exciting midfielder found himself in acres of space in the box after receiving a pass from Diallo, before precisely slotting the ball into the bottom left corner. Black and white shirts afforded the youngster far too much space, and a player of such talent was never going to miss from there.

Just minutes later, a vital intervention from Casemiro denied Newcastle an equaliser. Jacob Murphy’s pinpoint cross was headed back across goal by Dan Burn beyond Andre Onana, but a last-ditch headed goal-line clearance from the Brazilian kept Man United’s lead intact.

Newcastle were inches away from the equaliser, the referee glancing down at his watch to check whether the goal line technology had buzzed to tell him the ball was over the goal line but allowing play to continue.

There was also a penalty shout for Newcastle, when Casemiro appeared to trip Antony Gordon inside the box. However the referee waved play on, and VAR did not intervene.

Mainoo’s strike meant Ten Hag's side led by a mere goal at the break, following a relatively even first half.

The visitors were back on level terms just four minutes into the second half as Anthony Gordon, who had an excellent game at Old Trafford, got on the score sheet.

The Magpies capitalised on a mistake from Sofyan Amrabat who failed to get the ball under control following Andre Onana’s goal kick. Alexander Isak slotted in Jacob Murphy down the right flank, who delivered a brilliant cross to Gordon at the back post.

The winger stabbed the ball across goal into the back of the net, leaving Onana no chance in net. Gordon becomes only the fourth player to score in both matches against Man United in a single league campaign for Newcastle.

Moments later, a crucial sliding block from Amrabat kept the game level, after Gordon squared the ball across to Isak for what would have been a tap-in, but it was brilliantly marshalled by the Moroccan midfielder.

Despite Newcastle pressing for a second goal, Man United retook the lead in the 57th minute with a fantastic strike from Amad Diallo, who notched his first Premier League goal for Man United. The winger impressed on the night and is certainly making a case to Ten Hag that he should start in the FA Cup final.

A Bruno Fernandes corner was headed away by a Newcastle defender only as far as Diallo, whose perfectly executed first-time strike from just inside the box flew through Newcastle bodies before rippling the back of the net. A thunderous strike from the Ivorian.

Both sides continued to threaten going forward and had their fair share of chances. Marcus Rashford’s introduction off the bench was his 400th appearance for United, a brilliant achievement for the 26-year-old.

However, Rasmus Højlund was the substitute that made the difference for the Reds, scoring with what was virtually his first touch to give Ten Hag’s side a two-goal cushion.

The Dane received the ball from captain Bruno Fernandes, who received a well-deserved man of the match award for his intelligent play, before shifting the ball onto his right foot and rifling the ball beyond Martin Dubravka into the far left corner.

A wonder strike from Lewis Hall in added time gave Eddie Howe’s side a glimmer of hope. The young fullback picked the ball outside the box before taking a touch and beautifully curling the ball beyond Onana from 20 yards. There was nothing the Man United defence could have done to stop that strike.

Hall’s strike turned out to be nothing more than a consolation for Newcastle, as Ten Hag’s side were able to see out the victory to end their home league campaign in a positive fashion.

Post-match, Raphael Varane and Anthony Martial were clapped off the pitch as they said their goodbyes to the Old Trafford crowd, ahead of their imminent departures from the club this summer.

The Reds will now look ahead to their final game of the Premier League season away to Brighton on Sunday, before a huge FA Cup final clash against arch-rivals Manchester City on May 25.

Meanwhile, Newcastle will turn their attention to their final game of the season away to Brentford as they look to secure European football.

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