Newcastle United secured a crucial victory against Manchester United, moving them into pole position to seal third place in the Premier League. The Toon Army had a disappointing day out at Wembley in February, losing 2-0 to Erik Ten Hag’s side in the Carabao Cup final. However, with the bit between their teeth, Newcastle steamrolled the Red Devils to thoroughly deserve this potentially seismic three points.
Thanks to second-half goals from Joe Willock and Callum Wilson, Eddie Howe’s Mags leapfrogged Manchester United into third as they go in search of a Champions League spot for the first time since 2003 under Sir Bobby Robson. Man United might be going great guns in the cups, but their league form is stuttering. A 7-0 drubbing to Liverpool, a goalless draw at home to Southampton, and then this mauling which left Ten Hag shellshocked on the St James’ Park touchline.
After their mid-winter wobble, including that heartbreaking defeat at Wembley, Toon were back on the trail of a top-four finish following two straight wins. The locals were all revved up and ready to go, and Manchester United could have been three or four down at the break but for David de Gea and some woeful finishing.
The Spanish keeper’s double save kept out Alexander Isak and Willock early doors. Willock really should have done better with the rebound from point-blank range, and there were a good 50,000 heads in hands inside St James’ when the midfielder blazed over with the goal gaping just before half-time.
Lackluster Man United failed to muster a shot on target by the break, the first time they had done so this season. But the locals would have feared a repeat of the Carabao Cup final nightmare, where their side started like a steam train too.
It all seemed set up for attacking trio Marcus Rashford, Antony, and Bruno Fernandes to come to life and burst the Geordie bubble, but it was more of the same in the second. Livewire Allan Saint-Maximin and his box of tricks had Diogo Dalot on toast all afternoon. With the indispensable Casemiro still suspended, Brazil buddy Bruno Guimaraes bossed the midfield against Scott McTominay and Marcel Sabitzer, while Wout Weghorst offered nothing up top.
Ten Hag had seen enough with half an hour to go, hooking Antony and Weghorst. But the Dutchman was spitting feathers moments later when Newcastle took the lead via Willock after his sorry side were sliced and diced.
Isak played in Guimaraes down the right-hand side of the box, with the unmarked Samba star dinking it to the back post. Saint-Maximin nodded back across goal, Willock – making up for those earlier misses – headed home, and the Gallowgate exploded.
Toon sub Joelinton was only denied adding a second from a corner as the clock ticked on by a great De Gea save before Anthony Martial cleared Fabian Schar’s rebound on the line. But it was game over when sub Wilson got in front of Victor Lindelof to nod Kieran Trippier’s free-kick home with two minutes remaining.
Man United remains a point behind fifth-placed Tottenham with a game in hand yet, based on this evidence, they have a mammoth task on to finish inside the top four. Newcastle, on the other hand, has given themselves a great chance of securing a top-four finish and playing in Europe’s elite competition next season.