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Jose Mourinho’s side had chances to equalise but could not find a way past a committed Newcastle team who have given their survival hopes a big boost by claiming all three points.
Rafael Benitez handed new loan singing Martin Dubravka a first start in goal, but their other January signing Islam Slimani did not make the squad. United made four changes with Phil Jones, Ashley Young, Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial all back in. Samuel Luckhurst at the Manchester Evening News shared the two teams:
Samuel Luckhurst @samuelluckhurst
Same United XI as the one at Spurs. Surely not the same result #mufc https://t.co/M7E4TqGTF2
The hosts made the better start and forced visiting goalkeeper David De Gea into a wonderful save after just five minutes. An Ayoze Perez free-kick was deflected into the path of Jonjo Shelvey inside the box, and he let fly with a fierce shot that a diving De Gea managed to parry clear.
Dubravka also made a vital stop in the opening 45 minutes after United hit Newcastle on the break when Nemanja Matic sent Martial clean through on goal. The Frenchman, who is usually clinical in such situations, tried to slide it past the goalkeeper, but he managed to block the shot and preserve his clean sheet.
Chris Waugh at the Chronicle gave an illustration of what Dubravka brings to the team:
Chris Waugh @ChrisDHWaugh
Dubravka is constantly shouting at his defence, organising them & telling them where to be. Rafa wants someone vocal between the sticks, Dubravka is certainly trying to offer that so far. #nufc
Newcastle also thought they should have had a penalty just five minutes before half-time. Dwight Gayle beat Chris Smalling, who then lunged in on the striker and sent him sprawling just inside the box. It looked a clear penalty, but referee Craig Pawson waved the appeals away.
Henry Winter at The Times neatly summed up the first half:
Henry Winter @henrywinter
#nufc 0 #mufc 0 h-t. Newcastle should have had a pen, Smalling on Gayle. Dubravka commanding, great save from Martial. Newcastle bright and hungry. #NEWMUN
Manchester United did manage to get the ball in the back of the net early on in the second half through Romelu Lukaku, but it was correctly ruled out for a foul in the buildup.
Alexis Sanchez then twice went close for the visitors, wriggling free inside the box before firing wide. He was then sent into the box by Lukaku and rounded the goalkeeper, but he delayed his shot and that allowed Florian Lejeune to get back and block.
Newcastle then made the visitors pay for their profligacy as a Shelvey free-kick was pumped into the box and flicked back to a completely unmarked Matt Ritchie who drove the ball past a diving De Gea.
Football writer Tom Williams said it was a soft goal for the visitors to concede:
Tom Williams @tomwfootball
Free header from a floaty cross, goalscorer completely unmarked, and it all starts with a free-kick awarded for a Chris Smalling dive. What a soft goal to concede that is.
Jose Mourinho responded immediately by sending on Michael Carrick and Juan Mata for Pogba and Jesse Lingard. ESPN FC’s Rob Dawson felt Pogba may have been carrying an injury:
Rob Dawson @RobDawsonESPN
Will have to wait until afterwards to find out if Pogba was carrying something he picked up in the warm up but he didn’t look right all game.
The Red Devils came close to an equaliser on 76 minutes as Martial had two shots blocked on the line as Newcastle struggled to clear a corner. They continued to ramp up the pressure in the closing minutes with Dubravka saving brilliantly from Carrick in stoppage time to secure the win.
It’s Newcastle’s most impressive win of the season and moves them two points clear of the relegation zone. Manchester United, meanwhile, remain in second place but looked poor defensively and could not match their opponents’ desire and commitment, which will surely concern Mourinho.