Manchester United were held to a goalless stalemate at home by Newcastle in the Premier League on Sunday afternoon.
The ambitious approach of both teams threatened to concoct an intriguing affair. From the opening whistle, Newcastle pressed aggressively. The hosts tried – with mixed success – to weave their way around the hassling white shirts.
However, an ultimately scrappy and staccato affair was riddled with controversial refereeing decisions – or, more accurately, non-decisions.
Callum Wilson gave the officials something to think about ten minutes into proceedings when he tumbled over Raphael Varane’s outstretched, errant leg. Wilson’s mild protests were waved away.
Erik ten Hag’s side were uncertain and unsettled when defending each dead ball delivered into their box. Joelinton reacted sharpest to Kieran Trippier’s first-half set piece, diverting a header off the crossbar. The Brazilian was also first to his own rebound but nodded that effort onto the post. No Premier League team has been denied by the woodwork more often than the Magpies this term.
Latter-day Cristiano Ronaldo is never far from an exasperated flap of his arms and the veteran forward was left appalled by a pair of decisions from the referee after the interval.
Fabian Schar put the ball down for a free kick which he prodded half-heartedly. Ronaldo raced ahead of a confused and static Nick Pope to tap the ball into an empty net. Despite the protestations of ten red shirts, the referee deemed that Schar didn’t deliberately take the set piece.
Moments later, Trippier connected with Ronaldo’s standing leg inside the penalty box, missing the ball entirely but escaping the scrutiny of the officials.
An hour into the contest, Sean Longstaff wasn’t penalised for hanging out a lazy leg which Jadon Sancho gratefully stumbled over within the confines of Newcastle’s penalty box.
Newcastle’s front-foot style offered space behind the visiting backline. The hosts struggled to take advantage – often getting caught offside – for the first 88 minutes. However, Marcus Rashford came off the bench to perfectly time his run, rounding a stranded Pope before squaring for Fred to spoon wide.
The final chance of the match fell to Rashford himself. The substitute snuck into space inside the box to meet Casemiro’s outside of the boot ball but planted his close range header agonisingly wide at the death.
GK: David de Gea – 5/10 – On his 500th appearance for Manchester United, De Gea watched on helplessly as Joelinton chipped away at the paintwork of his goal.
RB: Diogo Dalot – 6/10 – Comfortable floating centrally when his side had the ball.
CB: Raphael Varane – 4/10 – Fortunate to get away with a couple of risky tugs and tackles in his own box.
CB: Lisandro Martinez – 7/10 – The personification of scrappiness, relishing any contact he could initiate with the opposition.
LB: Luke Shaw – 5/10 – Aside from a sporadic surge, Shaw didn’t offer much support for Sancho going forward.
CM: Casemiro – 6/10 – Erratic with his passing but launched himself into a raft of forceful tackles.
CM: Fred – 5/10 – Bursting ahead of his compatriot behind him in the middle, Fred was full of energy if not end product.
AM: Bruno Fernandes – 5/10 – Equipped with his customary scowl, Fernandes slipped into his familiar habit of trying to be everywhere at once.
RW: Antony – 6/10 – Buzzed around the right flank, offering a jinking outlet and threat.
ST: Cristiano Ronaldo – 5/10 – Couldn’t quite time his runs behind Newcastle’s adventurous backline, perhaps all too aware of his diminishing pace.
LW: Jadon Sancho – 6/10 – Drove at Trippier each time he got the ball, playing proactively. Unfortunate to not earn a penalty.
SUB: Marcus Rashford (72′ for Ronaldo) – 6/10 – Injected some urgency and precision with his runs in behind.
Manager: Erik ten Hag – 5/10 – The Dutchman’s team constructed a number of promising moves between both boxes but lacked that cutting edge at the sharp end of the pitch – and weren’t aided by the officials either.
GK: Nick Pope – 5/10 – Almost had his good work undone with a rash surge off his line at the end.
RB: Kieran Trippier – 6/10 – Once again, underlined his potent set-piece threat but was unsettled by Sancho going the other way.
CB: Fabian Schar – 7/10 – Recovered from an early tumble down a slope off the side of the pitch to marshal the backline.
CB: Sven Botman – 6/10 – Trudged off the pitch with a raft of new bumps and bruises, throwing his body around for the team’s cause.
LB: Dan Burn – 5/10 – Tried to get touch-tight to Antony to prevent the Brazilian from turning towards goal. An ambitious approach which produced mixed results.
CM: Sean Longstaff – 5/10 – Very fortunate to evade the all-seeing eye of VAR despite making contact with Sancho.
CM: Bruno Guimaraes – 7/10 – Constantly demanding the ball, orchestrating each forward thrust for Newcastle from the base of midfield.
CM: Joelinton – 6/10 – Few players seem more suited to hitting the frame of the goal with consecutive headers.
RW: Miguel Almiron – 5/10 – Eagerly scurried after loose balls, pestering more than penetrating.
ST: Callum Wilson – 6/10 – Ruffled the feathers of Manchester United’s centre-backs with a dogged and diligent display.
LW: Jacob Murphy – 6/10 – Showed impressive strength when running with the ball, holding off the red shirts that were snapping at his heels.
SUB: Ryan Fraser (59′ for Murphy) – 5/10
SUB: Chris Wood (78′ for Wilson) – N/A
SUB: Matt Targett (78′ for Burn) – N/A
SUB: Joe Willock (78′ for Guimaraes) – N/A
SUB: Jamaal Lascelles (90+1′ for Schar) – N/A
Manager: Eddie Howe – 6/10 – Imposed Newcastle’s style on Manchester United and devised a raft of devilish set-piece routines which didn’t quite come off.