Photo: Owen Humphreys/PA
Tyneside’s snow and ice didn’t melt all day and the afternoon temperature dropped well below freezing but Newcastle United remained far too hot for Manchester United too.
Although the pair were only separated by Anthony Gordon’s second-half goal, the narrow lines did not reflect the excellence of Eddie Howe’s players or the indifference of the often less-directed visitors.
Related: Newcastle 1-0 Manchester United: The Premier League – live
Erik ten Hag’s travel plans were disrupted when freezing weather prevented the plane scheduled to deliver his team to Tyneside unable to reach Manchester after being stranded at another airport.
Although another aircraft was dispatched to Newcastle in time to fly Manchester United home on Saturday night, the visitors could have done without a long, slow, tedious cross-Pennine coach journey to St James’ Park.
Since they were in Istanbul last Wednesday, drawing 3-3 with Galatasaray it was turning into a gloomy week for a club that currently has seven senior players in the treatment room.
Perhaps that fatigue was to blame for an early cameo full of confusion, and a little funny, in which André Onana and his left back for the night, Diogo Dalot. It is clear that there was a breakdown in communication between the two, Dalot managed to intercept what was a normal clearance for his goalkeeper.
Arriving in a hurry he took the ball past a panicked Onana and looked set to register his own goal before heading to safety. At one point in that idle maneuver the ball appeared to hit the defender’s hand but Dalot escaped unpunished. Were the mistakes of their keeper in Turkey, the rear guard Ten Hag unmotivated?
Perhaps Dalot was unhappy with the relentless attacking enthusiasm of Eddie Howe’s XI. While it is hardly easy for a Newcastle side with eleven senior players through injury or suspension and still recovering from an emotionally draining 1-1 draw at Paris Saint-Germain, the They took the lead in the first half.
Admittedly, there were some odd moments when some brilliantly clever counter-attacking passes delivered by Bruno Fernandes, who were marked slowly at times, threatened to undo Howe’s team but they were rare exceptions to the general trend.
Indeed Onana, who had been thrashed horribly at the Gallowgate End in the first half, had to prove his worth by producing a smart save to deny Miguel Almirón after Joelinton had been cut back. Meanwhile Alexander Isak saw his shot deflected wide by Harry Maguire, Bruno Guimãraes went close from just outside the area and Jamaal Lascelles headed home from six yards.
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Despite Fernandes’ best efforts – and I wonder what Ten Hag would have done without his improvised vision for a midfielder – Manchester United’s season as an attacking force has been poor. Effectively sidelined Marcus Rashford certainly looked more frustrated as Howe’s brilliant left-back Tino Livramento was again second-guessed.
However, with half time fast approaching, Kieran Trippier’s free kick hitting the bar, the Newcastle manager must have started to wonder if there was some kind of magnetic force field protecting Onana’s goal.
If Ten Hag had feared that his side would not be able to ride their defensive luck much longer, Manchester United’s rather disjointed, less than coherent display may have reflected the reality that this is the first time this particular XI started together. However, the lack of a discernible strategic framework around Fernandes has prompted questions about whether the Dutchman is too reliant on individuals changing games courtesy of less-than-exciting moments.
With Newcastle pretty irrepressible it was more of a night for the visiting defenders dogged and Luke Shaw, deployed at centre-half, made some key blocks and interceptions.
Shaw and his teammates unfortunately suffered a lapse in concentration when Anthony Gordon swept home an unmarked Trippier cross at the far post after Guimarães had denied the Ten Hag back door.
The Manchester United manager shook his head but could hardly argue that the goal was uncalled for or unexpected.
He responded through Rashford and Anthony Martial replacing Antony and Rasmus Højlund but saw their side survive a handball penalty appeal after Lewis Miley’s shot was blocked by Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
Howe was delighted by another mature performance from Miley, 17, as goalkeeper Nick Pope suffered a nasty shoulder injury and was replaced by Martin Dubravka.
Almost immediately Antony went over the newcomer but the ball deflected off Harry Maguire, the effort was disallowed and Newcastle rose to fifth.