United looked to bounce back from their disappointing semi final defeat against City with a trip to St James’s Park to face Newcastle United, who the reds met on the opening week of the season. With only 6 games remaining in the League, United knew that victory in just 4 would guarantee a historic 19th title, surpassing Liverpool as the most successful English club. However, having only secured 5 wins on the road all season, the reds were in for a tough test against a Newcastle side who had all but secured another season in the premier league. United welcomed back Wayne Rooney after his controversial suspension, the England striker reinstated alongside his prefered strike partner Javier Hernandez in the formation which brough the reds much joy against Chelsea in the champions league.
In a must win match, United nearly got off to the dream start, as a long ball over the top set free Rooney, who brilliantly squared to Hernandez, only for stand in keeper Krul to deny the Mexican with a superb save. United failed to build on this good start, and began to carelessly give the ball away, with Anderson in particular looking very sluggish both on and off the ball. Whilst Giggs and Nani toiled without much impact, Newcastle’s wide men were enjoying plenty of the ball, as Joey Barton provided an aerial bombardment of the United penalty area. Yet for Newcastle’s territorial advantage, it was again United who created the best openings of the match, as Rooney wasted a great chance whilst through on goal, with Krul again making a decent stop with his head. The only major scare of the half for the reds came as Peter Lovenkrands found himself free in the box, only to send his header harmlessly wide ending what was an enthralling half.
After a pulsating first 45, with both sides enjoying decent spells in the game, it was United who came out in the second half with the bit between their teeth as slowly the pressure was ratcheted up on a waning Newcastle side. Chances to win the match were still relatively sparse, but the usually reliable Ryan Giggs wasted perhaps the greatest chance, as he found himself free in the box with the goal gaping, yet sent his shot agonizingly wide of the far post. Although United were ascendant, they were perhaps lucky to not have given away a penalty on the hour mark, as the disappointing Anderson clumsily clipped Peter Lovenkrands in the area, only for the referee to wave away Newcastle protestations.
With 3 crucial points on the line, United dominated the last 20 minutes, striving to find the goal which would be so precious in the race for the title. Yet, despite the intense pressure and monopoly of possession, the final ball time and time again fell short of what was required as frustration became desperation. The token introduction of Michael Owen failed to provide the spark required, as United stuttered their way to another away draw, not before having a last minute penalty shout waved away by Lee Probert after it appeared Danny Simpson had fouled Hernandez in the area. Replays however showed contact was very minimal, if non existent with United having nobody to blame but themselves for failing to capitalise on their second half dominance. With only 5 games to go in the league, United require 10 points to guarantee the title, with trips to Arsenal and the visit of Chelsea still to come, the race is now likely to go down to the wire.