Sports Desk, Dec 27 (EFE).- An exhibition of key interventions by David de Gea and the opportunism of Edinson Cavani upon his return to the pitch on Monday saved Manchester United from defeat at St. James Park as it battled to a 1-1 draw against a snappy-looking Newcastle under Eddie Howe that exhibited considerable pride at a time of great difficulty, losing its two best strikers – Callum Wilson and Allan Saint-Maximin – to injury.
The duel put the brakes on Man United’s surge since the arrival of Germany’s Ralf Rangnick as manager, but the team looked pretty awful all the way through, a victim of defensive insecurity, albeit sustained throughout by De Gea against a driving Newcastle that knew how to take a toll on its rival.
Only Cavani’s entry into the fray changed the dynamic of a match in which Cristiano Ronaldo didn’t look good at all and could have been expelled for a hard foul that, fortuitously, was only deemed by the referee to merit a yellow card.
The match wasn’t going Newcastle’s way at the start, when at the 7-minute mark Raphael Varane committed an error, losing the ball, reacting slowly and being out of position.
But the situation caused defensive disorder among the Reds, who were punished by Saint-Maximin with two feints and a blast that De Gea couldn’t stop, the only Newcastle shot of the night that got by him.
Then the home squad seemed to exhibit new life, exerting great rhythm, high pressure, attacking speedily and playing above their level. Next-to-last Newcastle – with just one win in 20 contests this season – put its own problems to the side and got Man United on the ropes.
Joelinton multiplied the defensive work, attacking and creating danger, brushing the post with a shot while Rangnick’s team was discombobulated, unable to do much of anything with the ball and creating no difficulties for the team that has had the most goals scored against it so far this season.
Newcastle’s second tally was nullified and things began to get dicey with Wilson’s injury, a muscle pull in his thigh.
After the break, Rangnick put Cavani back onto the pitch after he was sidelined for two months, thus changing the tempo of the match and upping Man U’s offensive capabilities.
Bruno Fernandes proved to be key at this point in the contest, as he began to direct the action for Man U at midfield.
However, it was De Gea who was the big star of the night with his stops, avoiding another of Saint-Maximin’s pointblank tries, making a great low stop of Fraser’s shot-on-goal after a counterattack and diving to grab the ball on a Newcastle sally by Miguel Almiron just three minutes before time.
Man United evened things up at the 71-minute mark, with Cavani appearing where he could do the most damage for the tying tally, but the visiting squad really didn’t even deserve to take home one point on the night and simply must fix its difficulties to have any shot at moving up on the Premier League table.