Højlund strikes late as Manchester United beat Newcastle to boost Ten Hag

<span><a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Rasmus Hojlund;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Rasmus Hojlund</a> celebrates making it 3-1, which turned out to be the decisive goal.</span><span>Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty Images</span>

Manchester United are up to 57 points, the same as Newcastle United, who headed back to the north-east pondering precisely how they lost a toe-to-toe contest played at breakneck speed. The win was sealed by a sweet finish by Rasmus Højlund, just on as a replacement, his 18-yard, right-foot shot going through Lewis Hall’s legs and in via a Martin Dubravka palm.

Despite victory, Erik ten Hag’s team remain eighth, due to a massively inferior goal difference, so may have to beat Manchester City in the FA Cup final to secure European football.

Related: Chelsea boost European hopes with win at Brighton despite Reece James’ red

On the pitch, Ten Hag’s players offered their appreciation to the crowd, a convention at the last home game of the season, and the Dutchman thanked fans for their loyalty, promising them his team would fight for a last three points, at Brighton on Sunday, before the Cup final. For this Ten Hag received a rousing reception, further evidence that the Old Trafford-going supporter, at least, remains behind him despite a troubled campaign.

Who knows, though, if Sir Jim Ratcliffe will show the same sentiment as he assesses potential replacements before deciding Ten Hag’s future after the final on Saturday week.

Clearer was the full-tilt nature of the entertainment that had gone before. In the posh seats the hosts’ newly crowned Under-18 Premier League National champions were guests of honour and, first, saw Alexander Isak shoot wildly after Kieran Trippier dispossessed Alejandro Garnacho.

Casemiro had a minor shocker in Sunday’s 1-0 loss here against ­Arsenal but turned in an impressive 45 minutes that came after initial torpor with the Brazilian spraying a simple pass to the opposition. Newcastle attacked quickly, the excellent Anthony Gordon receiving the ball in the hosts’ area, but Sofyan Amrabat poked out a leg to tackle and save his side.

Culprit, though, nearly became hero when a Bruno Fernandes free-kick was punched out by Dubravka, Amrabat headed the ball into a crowded danger area, and Casemiro’s bicycle kick went just over.

A Ten Hag tactic was for quick balls to be lifted from the back, as Casemiro did to Kobbie Mainoo, forcing a corner which Fernandes zipped directly at Diallo, whose volley was blocked. A shot count of six to four inside the opening half-hour illustrated the nature of the spectacle.

Ten Hag left Højlund on the bench, to rest him for Sunday’s trip to Brighton and the Cup final, so Fernandes, back after injury, played as a false 9. During another quick transition, United’s captain rushed towards Newcastle’s penalty box and scooped the ball to Alejandro Garnacho, who swerved and shot, Dubravka repelling again.

Gordon did the same when running down the left wing and crossing, though the corner he earned was defended easily by those in red.

Then came a strike of finesse and beauty. Amrabat, from an inside-left channel, tapped to Diallo who relayed to Fernandes, whose contact was slight, at best. The ball travelled on to a lurking, unmarked Mainoo and he beat Dubravka to the goalkeeper’s right, Ten Hag lifting both arms in salute.

There was no time to celebrate for long, though, as this was basketball on grass. Instantly, Newcastle twice launched forays, and each time Casemiro intervened. First, a precisely timed tackle in the area denied Gordon yet Newcastle had a fair shout for a penalty as Amrabat had raked a boot along the attacker’s ankle as he went to aid Casemiro; Robert Jones, the referee and, more puzzlingly, the VAR did not pick this up. Then Dan Burn’s header was cleared off the line by the makeshift centre-back.

A chip from Trippier, Newcastle’s one change from Saturday’s draw with Brighton, was headed out by the ubiquitous Casemiro, and Diallo’s slick one-two with Mainoo in Newcastle’s area closed an invigorating half.

As the second kicked off, Bruno Guimarães took aim, then Gordon and Elliot Anderson. They all missed but, now, Gordon did not as those in red imploded.

Related: Erik ten Hag 50-50 to remain in Manchester United post

André Onana, as he did for the Arsenal move that created their winner here on Sunday, misdirected a clearance to Burn who headed it forward. Amrabat miscontrolled, Isak pilfered possession, passed to Jacob Murphy and his cross was steered in by Gordon.

It was a disaster for the hosts who went close to going behind seconds later. Aaron Wan-Bissaka was to blame, passing straight to Murphy. He fed Gordon who broke fast, squared to Isak, and only Amrabat’s block tackle diverted the ball on to the bar and away.

Now, somehow, Diallo gave Ten Hag’s men the lead. Fernandes’s corner from the left was flicked on by Murphy and the 21-year-old drove in a fierce volley that sent the home crowd delirious.

After Miguel Almirón was a boot-polish coat away from turning in a Gordon drive with less than eight minutes left, Marcus Rashford and Lisandro Martínez, plus Højlund, entered. The Dane was to confirm a much-required three points despite Hall’s late consolation.