Jose Mourinho was given a stay of execution as Manchester United staged a stirring fightback to beat Newcastle 3-2 thanks to Alexis Sanchez’s last-gasp winner, while Tottenham recovered from their European misery with a narrow victory over Cardiff on Saturday.
Mourinho had presided over United’s worst seven-game start to a season for 29 years amid the breakdown of his relationship with star midfielder Paul Pogba and several other key players.
A report on Friday evening claimed United’s hierarchy had lost patience with the toxic atmosphere and would sack Mourinho regardless of the Newcastle result.
But senior United sources strongly denied the suggestion Mourinho would be dismissed this weekend, insisting he retains the board’s support following a series of abysmal results.
Despite that vote of confidence, it was looking increasingly bleak for Mourinho when winless Newcastle raced into a two-goal in the first 10 minutes at Old Trafford.
But United clicked into gear and Chile forward Sanchez, who had been dropped by Mourinho, came off the bench to bag the winner after goals from Juan Mata and Anthony Martial dragged the hosts level.
United’s first win in five games in all competitions could buy Mourinho some much-needed breathing space heading into the international break.
“I am 55 years old. It is the first time I see man-hunting. There is too much wickedness in something that should be beautiful,” Mourinho said of his critics.
“I can cope with it. Some of the boys, in spite of them not being the man that is hunted, they are not coping well with it.
“Every ball around our box was almost a goal or some mistake, a bad decision, panic.
“At half-time we spoke and the team faced the second half with a different spirit, a different belief, giving everything for the victory.”
Asked if the speculation would stop, Mourinho added: “No. I go to London now and if it rains tomorrow in London then it is my fault.”
United fell behind in the seventh minute when Kenedy parted Mourinho’s defence with alarming ease, running onto Ayoze Perez’s pass and turning away from Ashley Young before firing home as the Portuguese gestured furiously on the touchline.
There was worse to come for Mourinho three minutes later as Newcastle punished more shambolic defending, Young and his team-mates failing to get in a challenge as Japanese forward Yoshinori Muto scored on his first Premier League start.
Jeers rang around Old Trafford at half-time and Mourinho, looking increasingly desperate, made his second change at the interval with Marouane Fellaini sent on for Scott McTominay.
United finally responded to Mourinho in the second half, playing with far more passion as Mata reduced the deficit with a fine 70th-minute free-kick before Martial fired the equaliser six minutes later.
That set the stage for Sanchez to apply the finishing touch in the 90th minute as Mourinho celebrated while his name was sung by relieved United fans at full-time.
Spurs move third
At Wembley, Tottenham recovered from Wednesday’s damaging 4-2 Champions League loss to Barcelona.
Lionel Messi had tormented Tottenham with a mesmerising display, capped by two goals, that left the north Londoners in danger of missing the knockout stage.
But Mauricio Pochettino’s side made amends with a 1-0 win against Cardiff to move into third place in the table.
Cardiff boss Neil Warnock joked he would play 10 defenders in a bid to stifle Tottenham and he might have regretted not doing exactly that as the hosts went in front after eight minutes.
Davinson Sanchez saw his header blocked by Joe Bennett and the ball span into the path of Eric Dier, who swept home from close-range for his first club goal since April 2017.
Cardiff were reduced to 10 men when Joe Ralls was sent off for chopping down Lucas Moura in the 58th minute, with Warnock incensed after Tottenham’s players, including England captain Harry Kane, surrounded the referee to demand a red card.
“I don’t think it helped being surrounded by 15 white shirts. I don’t think he (Kane) needs to do that,” Warnock moaned.
“After Barcelona on Wednesday, the most important thing was to win,” Pochettino said.
“It was a clear red card from my point of view. Neil Warnock can complain but it is not my business.”
Elsewhere, Wolves won 1-0 at Crystal Palace, Everton beat Leicester 2-1, Bournemouth routed Watford 4-0 and Burnley drew 1-1 with Huddersfield.