Structure, spirit, signs of positivity at St James'

Last updated : 27 December 2021 By C. Morris

Toon pick up a point against Red Devils

Newcastle United showed signs of why there is a belief that they can avoid Premier League relegation this season as they were unlucky only to take a point from an enthralling clash with Manchester United at St James’ Park on Monday evening.

The Magpies took the lead on 7 minutes when Allan Saint Maximin jinked into the penalty area and beat David De Gea with a curling strike into the side netting. A packed home crowd erupted and the backing that the Magpies received spurred them on to one of their best performances of the season.

Joelinton fired wide and Shelvey forced De Gea into a save from distance as Newcastle continued to thrive while the visitors struggled to get a foothold in the game and became increasingly frustrated as the half wore on.

With seven minutes of the first half remaining Wilson thought he had doubled Newcastle’s lead, sweeping in from close range after a good run from Saint Maximin but the striker had strayed just offside. The hosts were dealt a blow in first half injury time as Wilson was forced off with an injury, replaced by Murphy, but it did not detract too much from a really positive 45 minutes for the magpies.

The pattern of play in the first half was perhaps reflected by the fact that Manchester made two changes at the break, Cavani and Sancho coming on for Greenwood and Fred.

Just two minutes into the second half came a pivotal moment in the game. Longstaff broke down the Manchester United left and produced a fine low cross into the path of Saint Maximin but the Frenchman didn’t get the contact he would have liked on his first time finish, allowing de Gea to make a crucial save.

Manchester United’s play continued to be sporadic at best but a moment of brilliance from Rashford forced Dubravka to tip his dipping long-range strike over the bar. Ronaldo and Cavani hot shots wide as the visitors imposed themselves more but bookings for Ronaldo and Maguire showed their continuing frustration.

De Gea saved from Fraser as Newcastle offered a threat on the break but with twenty minutes to go the visitors found a leveller. A low cross from the right found Cavani, his first effort was blocked but when the ball came back to him he poked it home. The same player almost put his side in front moments later when a cross to the back post found him after Lascelles and Dubravka hesitated but Lascelles was able to recover to clear near the goal line.

Newcastle lost Saint Maximin to injury in the final ten minutes but almost won it in the closing stages. A low curling shot from Murphy had De Gea beaten but came back out off the post to Almiron. His strike looked destined for the top corner only for De Gea to tip it over the bar at full stretch.

Having been well beaten by Manchester City last time out this was a totally different story and the fact that the Magpies were disappointed not to have taken three points is a reflection of how the game went. The draw sees Newcastle moved level on points with Burnley and two behind Watford, though they have played more matches than their rivals.

Next up for Newcastle is a trip to face former manager Rafa Benitez at Everton on 30th December.