Bruce ditched his tactical changes, dusted off Rafa Benitez defensive blueprint and handed 19-year-old Longstaff his Premier League debut in response to the club’s 5-0 defeat to Leicester City.
It couldn’t have gone much better against an extraordinarily ordinary Manchester United team at a rain-soaked St James’s Park.
Newcastle, deservedly, won 1-0 thanks to a second-half strike from Longstaff. Crucially, the result – and performance – will buy Bruce more time at the club.
Bruce had questioned whether he had the legs in midfield ahead of the game. Longstaff, however, can run. And the 19-year-old, playing alongside his elder brother Sean, ran himself into the ground.
Newcastle had been a shambles at the King Power Stadium. Set up with Benitez’s 5-4-1 system, they were the better team over the 90 minutes.
Allan Saint-Maximin, recalled to the starting XI, was a threat whenever he got into the final third, while Longstaff struck the crossbar with a fierce shot. Newcastle were a threat on the break, and Miguel Almiron had a shot blocked late in the half. There was a let off before the break, when Harry Maguire headed wide from an Ashley Young corner.
By the half-time break, the 51,198 crowd had seen more quality from the home side in the final third of a sodden St James’s Park pitch.
Saint-Maximin – who has been troubled with hamstring problems this season – had to be helped off at the break, but he was able to continue. Bruce soon had Andy Carroll on, and Newcastle, under more pressure from their visitors, went direct.
Carroll put a header over the bar, but Longstaff junior didn’t miss when Jetro Willems rolled the ball to him just outside the box. The midfielder squeezed a low shot between David De Gea and the left-hand post.
Newcastle saw the game out to climb out of the relegation zone – and lift the gloom on Tyneside.
NEWCASTLE UNITED: Dubravka; Yedlin, Schar, Lascelles, Clark, Willems; M Longstaff, S Longstaff; Saint-Maximin (Atsu, 82), Joelinton (Carroll, 55), Almiron (Krafth, 90). Subs: Darlow, Dummett, Shelvey, Gayle.