Manchester United defeated Newcastle in a 4-3 thriller at Old Trafford on Boxing Day. Alan Pardew and company will have been left shaking their heads in disbelief as the Magpies came ever so close to recording a famous win and then, at the very least, a well-deserved draw. A last gasp winner from Chicharito sealed all three points for the Red Devils.
Much has been made of Newcastle's many troubles in recent weeks, with Alan Pardew failing to have his team live up to high expectations while devastating injuries have left his team sparse in many areas around the pitch. This did not stop them from getting up for a big game against their near geographic rivals and they made United sweat for most of the match. In only the 4th minute of the game, United succumbed to their chronic problem that has been plaguing them all season. Midfielder James Perch was on hand to tap in a foolish save from David de Gea after the goalkeeper parried a shot right into the path of the oncoming attacker. It is nothing new for United fans to see moments of real uncertainty from the Red Devils goalkeeper who made a similar mistake in the last match against Swansea.
United was reeling from conceding another early goal and the terrible Manchester weather was doing little to raise the spirits of both players and fans alike. Despite this, United remained calm and managed to grab an equalizer in the 25th minute. Jonny Evans slid the ball home after a scramble in the box following a United corner. The United defenders are beginning to make a welcome habit of popping up with important goals this season. Three minutes later, Evans was at the heart of the most controversial moment of the match. Evans turned a Newcastle cross into his own net but the linesmen correctly ruled Demba Ba offside. Match official Mike Dean then, after a conversation with his linesman, overruled the offside call and awarded the goal to Newcastle. Most pundits agreed that the right call was made, but that did not stop Sir Alex Ferguson from exploding at Dean and the linesman, arguing his case that the goal should not have been allowed to stand. Newcastle went into the Old Trafford tunnel 2-1 leaders and on course for a famous result.
United began the second half knowing they needed a response and they began to regain control of the match. In the 58th minute, another United defender who has found his scoring touch popped up with a nice equalizer. Patrice Evra took the ball into the box and finished his drive with a well taken goal. The Old Trafford faithful must have been expecting another United second half charge but Newcastle were not finished punishing United's often lackadaisical defense. Papiss Demba Cisse arrived unmarked in the box and scored a beautiful goal in the 68th minute. Newcastle had retaken the lead and had Old Trafford in a state shock.
It was time for another famous United rally and comeback and the Red Devils did not disappoint. Robin van Persie offered a new dimension to United's attack, taking the game by the scruff of the neck and was responsible for all of United's forward charges. His hard work paid off when, in the 71st minute, the Dutchman had a nice shot saved by Tim Krul but the ball eventually fell to him again and van Persie made no mistake this time, burying the ball in the back of the net. With the match tied and the clock ticking quickly away, it looked as if Newcastle would hold out to grab a draw but Chicharito was yet to have his say in the outcome and put himself expertly on the end of a great cross to slide the ball passed Krul. It was a well deserved goal for the Mexican who played very hard and came agonizingly close on a few previous occasions. United ran out 4-3 winners in a breathless game of football and extended their lead to seven points over rivals Manchester City who lost to Sunderland.
Man of the Match: Robin van Persie. The Dutch striker has 13 goals now in the Premier League but offers the Red Devils so much more which he proved in this match. His movement is excellent and his passing superb especially in the build up to United's last two goals. With Wayne Rooney possibly missing up to two to three weeks with injury, van Persie's class will be much needed in upcoming matches.
Manchester United: David de Gea; Patrice Evra, Rio Ferdinand, Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling; Antonio Valencia, Ryan Giggs, Michael Carrick, Paul Scholes (Tom Cleverley); Chicharito (Darren Fletcher), Robin van Persie
Newcastle: Tim Krul; Fabricio Coloccini, Davide Santon, Danny Simpson, Michael Williamson; Vurnon Anita, Papiss Demba Cisse (Sammy Ameobi), James Perch, Gael Bigirimana (Gabriel Obertan), Sylvain Marveaux; Demba Ba (Shola Ameobi)
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