|Allan Saint Maximin wheels away in celebration after firing Newcastle in front on Monday night. It ended 1-1 against Manchester United. (Photo credit: Premierleague.com)|
Manchester United went to St. James’s Park to negotiate the richest club in the land, it was their first game in sixteen days after having two games postponed due to the spike in covid numbers.
Ralph Rangnick lost Victor Lindelof to covid so Raphael Varane returned from injury to take his place beside Harry Maguire while Jonjo Shelve returned in midfield for the hosts who were without the suspended Isaac Hayden.
Newcastle were lively early on and they were rewarded duly as early as the 7th minute when a darting midfield run by Sean Longstaff landed at the feet of Allan Saint Maximin and despite being surrounded by red shirts, the Ivorien managed an effort on goal and David De Gea had no answers.
For all their effort from then on, it was Newcastle that looked the likelier to score; Shelvey was denied by the Spaniard goalkeeper and Brazilian Joelinton saw his effort just wide of the post before Alex Telles cleared one in the area before Ryan Fraser could pounce.
The second half saw Rangnick rang changes, Fred and Mason Greenwood made way for Edison Cavani and Jadon Sancho, but it was Saint Maximin who drew a brilliant save from De Gea just six minutes into the second half after a fine cut back from Emile Kraft.
United got themselves back into the game with neat press and balls into the Newcastle area, one eventually paid off in the 71st minute when Cavani needed a second chance to bundle one home to set up a nervy finish.
The visitors had won from behind on this pitch last season and Cristiano Ronaldo was looking for another Tyneside joy, his first appearance in English football was a substitute appearance away at Newcastle and the first of his 58 career hatrick was on this ground.
Newcastle kept plugging away and United struggled to deal with them, Saint Maximin limped off to join Callum Wilson who was replaced in the first half due to calf problems, Eddie Howe now have to sweat on the fitness of his highest goal scorer as well as his shining armor.
De Gea denied Miguel Almiron late on, Fraser saw his effort parried for corner and Joelinton was denied by Varane’s arm but it was outside the area and VAR didn’t intervene.
"I didn't like the performance at all," Rangnick said after the match. "Today we didn't control the game apart from a few moments. It's all about energy, physicality and who wins the second balls. In all those areas we weren't at our best.
"The good thing is we got a point but the performance needs to be better. You have to be ready and able to win those direct duels and this was not that often the case. When we were in possession we had too many giveaways and even with the goal, that doesn't make things easy."
United stay seventh and with two games in hand, their sights are still firmly on fourth but with a performance like the one turned out at St. James’s Park, they won’t have much joy.