Jose Mourinho said in the run-up to this match that there was a Manchester United before Paul Pogba’s injury and a Manchester United after.
That was not so apparent here because seconds after being replaced by Marouane Fellaini, Pogba watched from the entrance of the Old Trafford tunnel as Romelu Lukaku ended his own seven-game goal drought to put United 4-1 up. Business as usual – even with Pogba off the field – and a well-earned hot bath for the Frenchman on his return from a hamstring injury.
Pogba is by a distance United’s best player and they simply cannot get by without him. That’s why his return against Newcastle felt so crucial.
His presence on the starting team sheet here created a buzz among United fans before the kick-off, while Zlatan Ibrahimovic being named on the bench also taught Newcastle that whatever way this one was going, there would always be the threat of firepower in reserve. The Swede earned a rapturous ovation when he came on for Anthony Martial late on.
Mourinho has not enjoyed the best of records following international breaks throughout his time in charge at United. This was his first win in such fixtures – and he will have been further displeased with the nature of the treatment Phil Jones received while on England duty.
Pogba, however, demonstrated the expertise and leadership needed to see United through an awkward date with Rafael Benitez’s team.