High fliers Newcastle United were the visitors to Old Trafford as United returned to Premier League action following the dissapointment of the mid week draw against Benfica. With Alan Pardew’s side defying pre season predictions that they might struggle by sitting in the dizzy heights of fourth, United knew they were in for a tough afternoon against one of the in form defences in the league. United were relying on the returning trio of Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez and Ashley Young to provide the goals which had been lacking of late, despite a good run of form for the reds.
United made a bright start to the game, with Hernandez in particular bolting out of the traps, testing Tim Krul early on with a left footed snap shot from the edge of the box. With Rooney pulling the strings in the final 3rd, Newcastle seemed under siege as United produced a quick tempo as well as some lovely individual moments of quality. Giggs nearly gave the reds a deserved lead, as Nani’s cross found the Welshman in space in the box, only for his flick to be magnificently saved by Krul, sprawling away to his right. As the half progressed, Newcastle displayed greater adventure, with the in form Demba Ba producing the best of De Gea with a low volley, which required a diving intervention from the Spanish keeper. 0-0 failed to reflect what had been an intense and exciting first half, and it appeared a matter of time until the deadlock was broken upon resumption after the break.
Whilst United had huffed and puffed in the first half without much joy, they were immediately rewarded in the second with a slice of good fortune on 49 minutes. Rooney’s rebounded free kick was driven into the box by the England striker, and the so far excellent Steven Taylor’s clearance struck Hernandez in the midrift, agononisingly rolling across the line giving United the lead and seemingly the key to the match. However, symptomatic of United recent fortunes, the game was swung sickeningly on the hour mark, as Rio Ferdinand’s superbly timed tackle on Hatem Ben Arfa was adjudged a foul by the referee’s assistant, handing the visitors a penalty to the bewilderment of all in attendance including referee Mike Jones. Ba stepped up and slotted home the spot kick, leaving United with it all to do once again if they were to reduce the defeceit on league leaders Manchester City.
Seemingly contented with a point, Newcastle battened down the hatches for the forthcoming United assault in the closing stages. The reds task was made easier by the kamikaze dismissal of Jonas Gutiérrez for a second yellow in a short space of time, yet, a frustrating finale ensued courtesy of some inspired Newcastle rear guard action. Firstly, Vidic’s header was saved at point blank range from the seemingly inpenetrable Krul, closely followed by a last gasp clearance off the line by ex red Danny Simpson, with Hernandez’s header destined for the back of the net. It was simply a case of not to be for United, as with injury time approaching, Ashley Young’s shot struck the inside of the post having fnally got the better of Krul, and with time running out, Hernandez had appeared to snatch the points by tapping in at the far post, only to see the assistant’s flag raised for offside, giving Newcastle a priceless away point.
De Gea – 7 Some smart saves.
Fabio – 7 Added extra competition for right back slot.
Vidic – 7 Solid throughout.
Ferdinand – 6 Very unfortunate to concede penalty.
Evra – 6 Provided good base for attacks in the second half.
Nani – 6 Constant threat although final ball wasteful.
Carrick – 8 MOTM Kept the ball well, used it effectively and shielded back 4.
Giggs – 7 Some great runs and passes, unlucky not to score.
Young – 6 Wasteful finishing despite decent performance.
Rooney – 6 Returned to some form, still lacking goals.
Hernandez – 6 Threatened constantly but all round contribution needs to improve.
Macheda – 5 Brief ineffective cameo.
Smalling – 5 Less attacking force than Fabio.