Newcastle United 1 Manchester United 1
- Craig Pawson
Newcastle United served up a committed, whole-hearted display to claim a valuable point against Manchester United at a charged St. James’ Park – but will be left wondering how they didn’t take all three.
The Magpies belied their position in the Premier League table to take an early lead through Allan Saint-Maximin and remained in front until the final 20 minutes, when Edinson Cavani scored a scrappy equaliser for the Red Devils.
Eddie Howe’s side had the better of the chances throughout, however, with Saint-Maximin, Jacob Murphy and Miguel Almirón all coming agonisingly close in the second half, either side of Cavani’s leveller.
While the Magpies moved a point closer to safety and put in the sort of performance that will give the Toon Army huge hope, the evening wasn’t devoid of concern, with Saint-Maximin and Callum Wilson both leaving the field with injuries.
United got after a Red Devils side containing the leakiest backline in the Premier League’s top eight practically from the outset. The visitors failed to settle, and they looked even more disjointed as Sean Longstaff – starting for Newcastle for the first time since Howe’s appointment as head coach – played a square pass for Saint-Maximin with the Magpies three on three 20 yards from goal. The Frenchman checked back inside, onto his right foot, and picked out the far corner of the net – with David de Gea flat-footed – to give the home side a dream start.
The pattern for the opening half was set pretty much there and then. Man United looked vulnerable at the back, and barely ever threatened a Newcastle defence suffering from problems of their own, as well as a number of injuries in the run-up to the game. Joelinton bent a right-footed strike wide of the near post as the Magpies continued to probe, while Jonjo Shelvey stung de Gea’s palms following a marauding run. Save for a couple of rushes from his area to punt the ball clear, Martin Dúbravka was a spectator during the first 45 minutes.
Newcastle ought to have made it two with their first attack of the second half. An uncharacteristically mazy run saw Emil Krafth make it to the right byline and put the ball on a plate for Saint-Maximin, but a proper connection evaded the wide-man and de Gea – though he knew little about it – kept it out.
With interim boss Ralf Rangnick having shuffled his pack at half time, Man United finally woke up. Seconds after Saint-Maximin’s miss, Marcus Rashford brought a flying stop out of Dúbravka with a dipping strike, before Cristiano Ronaldo – a frustrated figure for much of the evening – fired wide from 20 yards. Then, at the other end – with the game opening up – Ryan Fraser brought de Gea into action at the ‘keeper’s near post after running onto Joelinton’s through ball.
Fortunate still to be in the game, the Red Devils restored parity after 70 minutes. After a patient approach, Harry Maguire curled the ball down the right for Diogo Dalot, who picked out Cavani in the centre. The Uruguayan’s initial effort was blocked, but he was quickest to the loose ball and duly managed to squeeze the ball into the far corner.
At that point, Man United looked the likelier to go on and win the game, with the Magpies beginning to flag. Cavani could have had a second after Alex Telles’ dangerous ball across the face of the goal fell his way, but failed to strike it cleanly. Then, with time running out, Newcastle seemed to find an extra gear, and came desperately close to grabbing all three points themselves. Murphy – a second-half replacement for Saint-Maximin – cut in from the left and saw a vicious drive ricochet off the far post, before Almirón – a substitute himself, for Fraser – picked up the pieces and brought a magnificent stop out of de Gea, with the ball having looked destined for the top-left corner.