Newcastle United stun ManU, earn 3 crucial points
It shouldn't have felt like a huge surprise, of course, given the size of these two clubs. All the same, it did: Newcastle United's victory came like a shot in the dark, a bolt from the blue that lifted them clean out of the relegation zone, and in the process put one last bullet in what remained of the festering carcass some were still calling the title race.
A poacher's finish by Matt Ritchie with 25 minutes remaining sealed three vital points for Rafa Benitez's team, their first win over Manchester United since their golden season of 2011-12, when Alan Pardew could seemingly do no wrong and Sir Alex Ferguson was in the opposite dugout. St James' Park shook and heaved that day, and as the whistle blew for full-time it shook and heaved once more. The win lifts them six places in this strange, strange league, almost into the safety of mid-table, were mid-table able to provide any safety whatsoever. They were good value for it, too: for all United's late pressure, Newcastle defended brilliantly, Florian Lejeune marginally the pick of an outstanding back five. Martin Dubravka enjoyed a sparkling debut in goal after signing on loan from Sparta Prague.
At the other end, Newcastle will point to a potential penalty that Dwight Gayle might have won shortly before half-time when Chris Smalling clipped him on the very corner of the box. Having spoken of their need to manage games better, however, Benitez will take particular pleasure from the maturity his side showed late on, in the face of the United tide.
United, for their part, were not awful: certainly not as awful as they were against, say, Tottenham last week. They controlled large stretches,
had a number of shots cleared off the line, ultimately created enough chances to feel they might at least shared the points.