The Reds were rarely at their best against a brave Newcastle side, who exploited the hosts’ uncertain defending in rain-sodden conditions before succumbing to United’s improved second half display.
After James Perch's fourth-minute opener, Jonny Evans levelled from close-range, but quickly scored an own-goal. Patrice Evra hammered home a second equaliser, Papiss Cisse thrashed Newcastle back into the lead and Robin van Persie almost immediately put United back on terms before Chicharito slid in Michael Carrick’s pass to send Old Trafford wild.
Incredibly, Manchester City’s defeat at Sunderland allowed the Reds to build a seven-point lead at the head of the Barclays Premier League table, on an afternoon when Sir Alex Ferguson’s side looked set for a desperate setback.
The tone for an eventful encounter was set when, in the first minute, Chris Smalling’s header fell for Demba Ba, who slashed wildly at his finish and completely missed the ball. The Senegalese striker’s next effort, however, led to the game’s opening goal.
Pouncing on Michael Carrick’s mis-control in the middle of the field, Ba advanced on goal and chanced his arm from 25 yards. De Gea parried away the low effort, but the ball fell perfectly into the path of the onrushing Perch for a simple tap-in.