On what was a hugely exciting night at St. James’ Park on Monday, Manchester United just about managed to scrape a point as they played out a 1-1 draw against Newcastle.
While the Reds might have been smelling a golden chance after making their return from an extended break due to a COVID-19 outbreak in their camp, Ralf Ragnick’s side will know they were lucky to leave with a point intact.
Failing to make up some ground in the top-four chase, there is no doubt that Newcastle deserve all of the plaudits on what could turn out to be a night that kickstarts their campaign.
In a battle between two sides who find themselves scrapping it out at opposite ends of the Premier League table, we have taken a look at the main talking points.
Proudness & frustration for Newcastle
Seen prior to Monday’s showdown at St. James’ Park getting hit with a 4-0 drumming against Manchester City on December 19th, some might have been expecting a similar outcome given United’s extended break.
However, after suffering three straight defeats and once again showing some real issues at the back, Newcastle really came flying out the traps here and set a bar for what will be expected for the remainder of this season’s campaign.
Not giving Monday’s guests a chance to settle, it took Alan Saint-Maximin just seven minutes to send the sellout home support into overdrive as he produced a sublime effort past David de Gea.
Putting in what many around St. James’ will bill as their best performance so far this year, Eddie Howe will still be feeling that his side rightfully deserved more here.
With Saint-Maximin somehow missing a tap in moments after the half-time break, the former Bournemouth boss also saw second-half subs Jacob Murphy and Miguel Almiron go within inches of grabbing a late winner.
Although Newcastle might regard Monday as a chance missed in hindsight, they should take a string of positives away from a stellar display in the north east.
United dodge a real bullet
Given an extended break due to a COVD-19 outbreak and not seen since picking up a 1-0 win against Norwich on December 11th, many thought that Manchester United would be raring to get back on the pitch here.
However, while Ralf Ragnick might have been able to partner Harry Maguire with a returning Raphaël Varane, Ragnick’s star-studded squad put in a hugely flat display at St. James’ Park.
Failing to lay much of a glove on a Newcastle side who have picked up just a single Premier League victory so far this season, the former RB Leipzig boss once again saw his side cut a frustrated figure.
Coming under real scrutiny from the likes of Gary Neville following a dreadful first-half display, United’s new boss will know that his squad were very lucky to have left the north east with a point on the board.
Making a pair of half-time changes as Ragnick brought on both Jadon Sancho and goalscorer Edinson Cavani, fans around Old Trafford will have a real headache over their side’s recent problems in the final third.
Once again saved by De Gea who produced a string of world-class stops, United still find themselves sat down in sixth and in an uphill battle.
Worry over Wilson & ASM
Although Howe might have finished Monday’s showdown feeling hugely optimistic that his new side can maintain their Premier League status this season, there will be real concerns over two potential injury blows.
In what could turn out to be a massive hit for the relegation scrappers, the St. James’ crowd were left worried as Callum Wilson pulled up out of the blue in first-half injury-time.
Appearing to have suffered a calf injury and replaced by Murphy seconds before the interval, Howe has made it no secret how important Wilson is for Newcastle’s survival hopes.
Sadly for the Magpies, matters only got worse for Howe as his other attacking talisman was also forced off in real discomfort with just seven minutes left on the clock.
Limping down the tunnel after bagging his fourth Premier League of the season, it will be a nervy wait for Howe as he waits to see the extent of Saint-Maximin’s latest issue.
While Newcastle’s new boss will take plenty of positives from Monday’s stalemate, the potential of losing both Wilson and Saint-Maximin for an extended period will be a huge concern.
Newcastle: Dubravka, Krafth, Schar, Lascelles, Manquillo, Fraser, Longstaff, Shelvey, Joelinton, Saint-Maximin, Wilson
Subs: Almiron, Gayle, Murphy
Manchester United: De Gea, Dalot, Varane, Maguire, Telles, Fred, McTominay, Fernandes, Rashford, Greenwood, Ronaldo
Subs: Cavani, Sancho, Matic
Goals: Newcastle: Saint-Maximin 7′ – Manchester United: Cavani 71′
Yellow Cards: Krafth, Joelinton – Manchester United: Ronaldo, Maguire, Fernandes
Red Cards: N/A
Referee: Craig Pawson