Premier League: Newcastle United 0-1 Manchester United
ManUtd: Ashley Young (89)
Manchester United landed a dramatic victory on Tyneside thanks to Ashley Young's 89th-minute winner to crucially maintain a position in the Barclays Premier League top four.
The Reds had plenty of chances to win the game at St James' Park before Young struck a minute from time, but found Newcastle United goalkeeper Tim Krul, a key member of Louis van Gaal’s Netherlands World Cup squad, in top form. His opposite number David De Gea was also forced into a handful of good saves, none more so than an injury-time block from Papiss Cisse, but the collection of three points could prove huge for United on a night when our fellow top-four rivals all won.
Van Gaal made one change to the side that defeated fellow North-east rivals Sunderland four days earlier with Marouane Fellaini replacing Radamel Falcao, who was named on the bench. Angel Di Maria kept his starting berth despite struggling to find his best form against the Black Cats, and it was the Argentinian who was presented with United’s first opening of the match, inside the first 40 seconds. The ball fell to Wayne Rooney, up front on his own, who found Di Maria on the break but he was unable to capitalise on the chance as the Newcastle defence regrouped to snuff out the danger.
The Reds breathed a sigh of relief on 10 minutes when Chris Smalling’s challenge on Emmanuel Riviere in the area went unpunished. Replays showed the United centre-back got the man rather than the ball.
United looked bright in attack, with Fellaini and Ander Herrera offering good support to Rooney. And after some good hold-up play by the captain and a lay-off by Marcos Rojo, Herrera flashed an effort just wide on 15 minutes.
Rooney had the best chance of the half 11 minutes later after Di Maria and Young combined well. The skipper was onside as he turned and shot inside the box, but he dragged his shot wide of Krul’s right-hand post.
Newcastle might have been able to boast home league wins over Chelsea and Liverpool, but the form guide highlighted them as one of the most unpredictable and inconsistent sides in the league. And some of their defending in the first period followed suit, none more so than when Fabricio Coloccini fell over his own feet to let Di Maria in. His pass found Rooney, but the striker was unable to control the ball as another chance went begging for the Reds.
A minute from the break both goalkeepers were called into action with Fellaini seeing a header punched clear by Krul and De Gea beating the ball away as Riviere sprinted into the box after being found by Moussa Sissoko during a rare Newcastle break forward.
The second half began as the first period ended with chances at both ends. Rojo flashed a long-ranger just over, Coloccini flicked on a free-kick into the path of Riviere, five yards out, but his poked effort was brilliantly clawed away by De Gea.
His opposite number made a fantastic double-save soon after when Fellaini found himself clean through. Krul blocked the Belgian’s shot before recovering to deny Young from close-range from the follow-up. The fear was van Gaal’s men might live to regret so many missed openings and just when it appeared the breakthrough had come when Rooney found the net, the offside flag put an end to any celebrations.
Van Gaal brought Adnan Januzaj on to replace Di Maria just before the hour in the hope he would have a similar effect on this game as he did against Sunderland, but Newcastle, buoyed by the return after 17 months of Jonas Gutierrez from a battle with cancer, weren’t about to sit back. Indeed, the hosts had a golden chance to take the lead on 68 minutes when Perez dispossessed Herrera and put Cisse through, but he fired wide.
Rooney had a good header saved on 75 minutes and it was down to the skipper's endeavour to not give up on a ball forward that led to United's late winner as Krul's attempted clearance fell to Young, who coolly slotted home - his first goal in 400 days since Cardiff on 28 January 2014 - much to the relief of Reds fans everywhere.
Newcastle: Krul; Janmaat, Coloccini, Williamson, R.Taylor (Gutierrez 65); Obertan, Sissoko, Abeid, Ameobi (Gouffran 81); Riviere (Perez), Cisse.
Subs not used: Woodman, Satka, Anita, Armstrong.
United: De Gea; Valencia, Smalling, Evans, Rojo (Carrick 89); Blind, Herrera; Di Maria (Januzaj 59), Fellaini (Mata 82), Young; Rooney.
Subs not used: Lindegaard, Jones, McNair, Falcao.
Booked: Rojo, Valencia