Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer praised Harry Maguire after he put a difficult spell behind him with a commanding display in victory at Newcastle.
The England defender, who played in the chaotic 6-1 Premier League defeat by Tottenham last time out before being sent off for England against Denmark on Wednesday evening, went some of the way towards answering his critics, capping a fine individual performance with a goal in a 4-1 win at St James’ Park.
Solskjaer said: “It’s the way to respond to a couple of disappointing performances.
“We lost 6-1, but he was part of the team that beat the world ranked number one, Belgium, then he gets sent off and now he’s up again with that win with a very, very good performance, a good goal, could have had one or two more, led the team by example.
“He was inspirational as well the build-up to the game and of course, I’m very pleased for him.”
United had got off to the worst possible start when Luke Shaw turned Emil Krafth’s second-minute cross into his own net, but they levelled through Maguire’s 23rd-minute header.
They left it late to clinch victory, scoring three times after the 86th minute with Bruno Fernandes, who had seen a 58th-minute penalty saved by Karl Darlow, putting them ahead with a cultured finish from Marcus Rashford’s clever back-heeled pass before Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Rashford himself both struck in stoppage time.
Asked about his team’s response to the early setback, Solskjaer said: “Of course it made it a lot harder. It was hard enough with the build-up to this game.
“The result from last time of course and 1-0 down after a minute-and-a-half doesn’t make it easier, so I thought the boys responded fantastically.
“They were patient, resilient, they trusted what the plan was and in the end, we created enough chances to grind out the win.”
Fernandes’ goal was a picture-book affair launched by substitute Donny Van De Beek inside his own half, and Solskjaer was delighted with the fluency on display.
He said: “It was great timing, very good interchange of passing and the timing of Bruno’s run and Marcus’ lay-off were perfect and he found that top corner.
“He’s a determined boy and after missing the penalty, he wanted to make up for it.”
Newcastle head coach Steve Bruce admitted his side had been “naive” at the death after sensing a chance to win the game with David De Gea having pulled off a superb save to prevent Callum Wilson from giving them a second-half lead.
Bruce said: “We had a big chance – Callum had a great chance and De Gea pulls off a wonder-save.
“I know Karl (Darlow) made some terrific saves, but De Gea has come up with a really, really top save, and it might have been a bit different.
“The disappointment was to be beaten by four at the end. We were a bit naive towards the end. We left wide-open spaces behind us and we know with Rashford in particular, if you do that against top, top players like him, then it becomes very difficult.”