David Moyes’s Old Trafford reign hit a new nadir as Manchester United suffered back-to-back Premier League home defeats for the first time since 2002 as Yohan Cabaye gave Newcastle United a deserved 1-0 victory.
After a defeat by the same scoreline against Everton in the week, Moyes talked of expecting a positive reaction from his players. It never came. Newcastle, who put an extra man in midfield, had little trouble in frustrating the hosts in a drab opening 45 minutes. Manchester United had their best spell of the contest early in the second half and hit the post through Patrice Evra before Newcastle escaped punishment for the ball coming off the arm of Vurnon Anita. Yet it was United's left-back who was soon culpable in allowing Moussa Sissoko to race clear and setup Cabaye for the only goal in the 61st minute.
As it turned out, it was the United of Newcastle that bounced back from the ending of their unbeaten run in the week with a display full of endeavor and with a touch of quality in the right areas. The problems for the champions, meanwhile, were, all too familiar. Moyes, who still appears to have no idea about his best team, made seven changes for the fixture. Wayne Rooney dropped out through suspension, while Robin van Persie made his first appearance in nearly a month. Yet, despite rejigging the central midfield with Phil Jones and Tom Cleverley returning, there was a desperate lack of tempo and precision in United’s use of the ball.
Manchester United remain in ninth place in the Premier League for the time being but the title holders could find themselves 15 points off the pace by the end of the weekend. With five defeats already to their name, even the most optimistic of United fans will struggle to believe that they can pull back that gap. Despite a 3-0 loss to Swansea on Wednesday, things continue to look rosy for Newcastle, who are now up to sixth place.
Adnan Januzaj looked the player most likely to make something happen for the hosts, but that is not saying a great deal in a woeful first half. Manchester United played like what they currently are: midtable fooder.
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United’s first half was summed up in first-half injury time when Loic Remy was allowed all the time he wanted on the edge of the box before picking out Mathieu Debuchy’s run behind the, not for the first or last time, dozing Patrice Evra and United were left grateful to David de Gea for pulling off a good save.
Moyes initially got the reaction he will have wanted from his players after the break. For the first time in the contest, the hosts began to put Newcastle under some kind of concerted pressure. Van Persie, forced to come deep to provide some creativity, played a fine long pass to find Javier Hernandez in the box, but his low shot was saved by Tim Krul.
Newcastle’s escape was far more fortunate minutes later when Evra’s deflected header from a corner came back off the woodwork and then struck the arm of the man defending the post, Anita. While there was little time for the Dutch midfielder to react, there appeared some intent to block the ball illegally.
Just as United were on top and looking set to take control, the champions went into self-destruct mode. Krul’s long kick upfield was headed straight against Sissoko by Evra and the Newcastle midfielder burst into the clear down the right. His cutback was perfect for Cabaye and the rumored Manchester United target’s placed low shot took a deflection off of Vidic in its way to the back of the net.
Alarmingly there was no concerted pressure on Newcastle’s goal in the remaining 30 minutes as United chased an equalizer with a desperate lack of urgency or conviction. Showing Moyes’s lack of trust in the players he has utilized so far this season, Wilfried Zaha came on for his first Premier League appearance, but his impact was limited to curling a shot wide.
Newcastle maintained their advantage with a degree of comfort that must have surprised even them, given the once daunting reputation of their surroundings. In the space of four months very little of that Old-Trafford fear factor now remains. It will take much work to get it back.