United’s endeavours to get back into the game were met not only by the emboldened visitors, but the teeming rain and increasingly slickened playing surface. The conditions made hard work for both sides, but the visitors forged the game’s next chance as Rio Ferdinand headed away Cisse’s goal-bound effort.
There were signs of encouragement as the visitors were gradually penned back from the 20-minute mark. Chicharito almost reached Ryan Giggs’ tempting cross, while Mike Williamson was fortunate to escape a penalty claim after clambering over the Mexican. As soon as United located the target, however, parity was restored.
Van Persie’s in-swinging free-kick was flicked on by Giggs and the ball became stuck among a ruck of players. Chicharito was the first to react, quickly firing off a shot which Tim Krul brilliantly saved, only for Evans to reach the rebound ahead of Simpson and slide home the leveller.
Yet, just three minutes later, the Northern Irishman had inadvertently restored the visitors’ lead amid scenes of confusion. The ball was worked wide to Simpson, who advanced into space and smashed in a cross-shot which Evans, in his attempts to intercept, could only divert inside De Gea’s post.
There appeared to be an unlikely reprieve for the Reds as the goal was quickly apparently chalked off for offside, but referee Mike Dean consulted his assistant and duly concluded that Evans had applied the finish, rather than the lurking Papiss Cisse.
Having so quickly surrendered a position of promise once again, United’s game retook an uneasy air, while Newcastle were seemingly first to every ball. Matters almost worsened for the league leaders when