Old Trafford is officially in crisis mode. After suffering a shocking home loss to Everton in midweek, Manchester United were expected to bounce back against Newcastle. Despite the return of Robin van Persie, they did no such thing, flattering to deceive for the first hour before going behind to a fine strike by Yohan Cabaye, a blow from which they simply could not recover.
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The first half was mostly quiet. The hosts had trouble moving the ball through the middle -- Phil Jones and Tom Cleverley were outnumbered by Newcastle's trio of Yohan Cabaye, Cheik Tiote and Vernon Anita -- and as a result their centre forwards were distinctly uninvolved. Nani and Adnan Januzaj were brighter sparks, but neither did enough to trouble Tim Krul in goal.
In the dying minutes, Chicharito attempted to get things going by either being fouled in the box or falling over near Fabricio Coloccini, depending on whether or not one is a Manchester United fan, but the half's only chances actually came at the other end. Cabaye caught Patrice Evra napping to slip in Mathieu Debuchy, who forced a save from David de Gea with a stinging drive from an acute angle, and the right back then called de Gea into action again when he met Davide Santon's cross with a speculative header.
The hosts came a little closer at the start of the second half, with Debuchy and Mike Williamson combining to just about prevent Rafael's pass reaching Robin van Persie, and both Chicharito and Januzaj brought sprawling saves from Krul as Manchester United began to find their feet. Then Evra got his head to a free kick, hitting the post and then Anita's arm (which was mostly behind his back). Again, Andre Marriner was unmoved by the penalty shouts.
But Newcastle were hoping for Manchester United to open up and attack them properly, because that meant that they would have space for the counterattack. Alan Pardew brought on Hatem ben Arfa just before the hour mark as the Magpies looked to exploit said space, and within four minutes the visitors would have the lead. Moussa Sissoko rode his luck to get past Evra on the right, and with the hosts' centre backs tracking Loic Remy, there was plenty of room for Sissoko to find Cabaye's trailing run. The midfielder made no mistake, planting a superb shot into the bottom corner to give Newcastle the lead.
Robin van Persie looked to have replied ten minutes later, powering a header in at the far post after the ball cannoned off Jones from a set piece, but the jubilant crowd had their celebrations cut short by the linesman's flag -- van Persie was offside, and the goal was ruled out. Substitute Wilfried Zaha then came close with a curling effort that fizzed past Krul but went inches wide.
Newcastle were under pressure, but they never really looked like breaking. Instead, Manchester United looked desperate, lumping the ball forward rather than building any sustained attacks, and the Magpies saw out their lead comfortably. David Moyes looked on mournfully from the sidelines. His side is in real trouble now.
Manchester United starting lineup (4-4-2): David de Gea; Patrice Evra, Nemanja Vidic, Jonny Evans, Rafael da Silva (Antonio Valencia 77'); Adnan Januzaj, Tom Cleverley , Phil Jones, Nani (Wilfried Zaha 68'); Javier Hernandez, Robin van Persie.
Newcastle United starting lineup (4-3-3): Tim Krul; Davide Santon, Fabricio Coloccini, Michael Williamson, Mathieu Debuchy ; Vurnon Anita, Cheik Tiote, Yohan Cabaye; Yoan Gouffran , Loic Remy, Moussa Sissoko.
Goals: Cabaye 61'.