Newcastle leapfrog Manchester United in top four race

Manchester United travelled to St. James Park today to face Eddie Howe’s tricky Newcastle side, as the Red Devils looked to widen the gap between the two clubs to six points – and obtain some leeway in the race for the Champions League football. The Magpies will have been looking to make it three on the trot and go above the Red Devils who sat in 3rd place prior to kick-off.

NEW: Pope; Burn, Botman, Schar, Trippier; Longstaff, Guimaraes, Willock; Saint-Maximin, Isak, Murphy.

MUN: De Gea; Shaw, Martinez, Varane, Dalot; Sabitzer, McTominay; Rashford, Fernandes, Antony; Weghorst

Erik Ten Hag’s inaugural campaign as Manchester United manager has seen its fair share of wacky moments and this game added to the list as the Dutchman chose to line-up his side with Scott McTominay – who headed into this game off the back of consecutive braces for Scotland – playing as the number 10 for United with Bruno Fernandes sitting deeper.

The first half was your typical training session of attack vs defence as the Geordies launched wave after wave of attacks at the Manchester United goal, resulting in the Magpies have a staggering xG of 1.19 – after just 20 minutes.

David De Gea’s brilliant double save from an Isak header and a Willock volley from inside 5 yards was the only thing keeping the score level at 0-0 headed into the break, after a half in which Newcastle were all over Manchester United and came close to scoring on multiple occasions.

Bruno Fernandes found himself playing in his regular position as the number 10 to begin the second half, but the second period started much slower and in a much more controlled fashion by both sides as opposed to the frantic speed the game was played with in the first 45.

It took 65 minutes, but Newcastle were finally rewarded for their dominant performance as they managed to break the deadlock. Bruno Guimaraes’ clipped ball found Allan Saint-Maximin at the back post. The Frenchman headed the ball back across the six-yard box to find an unmarked Willock, who steered the ball into the back of the net to send the Magpies into the lead.

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Joelinton came agonizingly close in the 74th minute to doubling the lead but was denied incredibly by De Gea from point-blank range as he somehow managed to turn the header onto the crossbar.

The Magpies, as they have done so often have this season, fought tooth and nail to protect their lead and their hard work was rewarded in the 88th minute when Luke Shaw conceded a cheap free-kick near the corner flag. Kieran Trippier stood over the resulting set-piece and delivered an inch-perfect ball that fell right on to the head of Callum Wilson, who placed his header in the bottom corner to guarantee all three points for the Toon.

Manchester United looked well off the pace in a lacklustre performance where they failed to create a single clear cut chance, and Ten Hag’s men have now failed to score in each of the last three league games – troubling signs if you are a Manchester United fan.

Meanwhile, it’s a party up north as the Magpies have now won three in a row and travel to the London Stadium on Wednesday to play West Ham, who themselves are coming off a win that takes them out of the relegation zone. Meanwhile, the Red Devils who could see themselves outside the top four depending on Tottenham’s result at Goodison Park tomorrow. Brentford travel to Old Trafford in midweek and will be looking to bounce back after their recent patch of bad form.