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ERIK TEN HAG keeps telling everyone the future is bright for Manchester United.

It is just the present that continues to be a problem.

But on a night when Kobbie Mainoo, 19, and Amad Diallo, 21, gave the Red Devils a chance of European football next season you can at least see glimmers of hope.

Who knows, if Rasmus Hojlund, 21, who came on to grab their third, can regularly find his shooting boots and Alejandro Garnacho, 19, continues his progression the dark clouds could be shifted away come next season.

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Ten Hag certainly believes they represent a core group that could take United forward if they can collectively find the right gear.

It was Mainoo who opened the scoring last night after being found by Diallo on 31 minutes.

Then after Anthony Gordon grabbed an equaliser four minutes after the break it was Diallo who thumped home to restore the lead.

He will not hit a sweeter volley in his career.

Ten Hag looked on with pride, maybe this pair could even carry them to an unlikely FA Cup final triumph over title winners-to-be and neighbours Manchester City a week on Saturday.

Whether the Dutchman will be in place to see their development after that is another matter.

Ten Hag had made just one change to his starting line-up from the team that lost to Arsenal.

He decided to play with no striker at all in a bid to ‘confuse’ the opposition.

Given that everybody else has been confused as to what Ten Hag has been trying to do with his team for most of the season, this was hardly a change from the norm.

While the manager tried to also explain it as a chance to give Hojlund a rest it must have been a major vote of no confidence for the 21-year-old Danish.

He has struggled since returning from injury scoring just one in ten, but it is not as if the service has been there.

Indeed it looks like his team-mates don’t trust him to do anything with the ball despite that burst of eight goals in as many games from Boxing Day to mid-February.

So were the Magpies wings clipped by this tactic?

Well, they were a goal adrift by the break.

Sofyan Amrabat, playing his last game at Old Trafford of his loan spell, found Diallo and he was able to roll it into Mainoo in the centre of the area unchallenged.

The young United midfielder could barely believe the time and space he had around the penalty spot as he was allowed to control the ball, turn and pick his spot.

But what was Newcastle’s returning captain Kieran Trippier doing?

This was not the first clanger he has dropped this season as he hung behind the rest of the Toon’s back four to play Mainoo onside and give him that space.

Even VAR did not need a second look, and they tend to have a second look at everything to try and find some fault.

Mind you they didn’t see it in a very valid Newcastle penalty claim soon afterwards and replays do show Amrabat’s foot going down Anthony Gordon’s Achilles.

But no pen.

Undaunted Newcastle thought they had got an equaliser on 36 minutes when the towering Dan Burn rose high at the far post to meet Jacob Murphy’s cross.

He did everything right beating goalkeeper Andre Onana but Casemiro had read the situation and was back to nod the ball off the line.

Another chance quickly followed for Eddie Howe’s men when a deep Trippier corner found Bruno Guimaraes at the far side of the box but his returning header was too high.

Newcastle did not have to wait long after the break to get the goal they craved.

Manchester United goalkeeper Onana was bought for his distribution skills but for the second game running his long punt resulted in a quick return and goal.

Amrabat was at fault for not being able to control a loose ball and when Alexander Isak played it wide to Murphy his low cross was perfection for Gordon to steer home with the outside of his right boot.

If Amrabat was at fault for that he quickly redeemed himself to stop the visitors from taking the lead.

It began with a Red Devils corner which saw Fernandes have a near post shot saved.

When the ball sprung free Gordon would gather it and race forward.

It was two-on-one.

Gordon did the right thing squaring to Isak but Ambrabat had raced back to slide in and deflect the Newcastle striker’s shot over the bar.

A big moment that seemed even bigger when five minutes later the Red Devils took the lead.

Fernandes near post corner was only headed clear as far as Diallo 16 yards out and he absolutely middled his shot on the volley past Martin Dubravka.

Hojlund would make things safe when on 84 minutes.

He used his strength as he received a ball from Fernandes to force his way wide of two Newcastle players and shoot back across the goalkeeper.

And it proved to be the winner as Lewis Hall struck a sweet hit in the 92nd minute to spark a nervy finale.

At least the final game here has given everyone of a red persuasion a bit of belief that an FA Cup may yet sit on the mantelpiece at Old Trafford come the end of the season.

 

 

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