Talking points from St James' Park

Sunday 02 April 2023 19:44

Manchester United were beaten 2-0 by Newcastle United at St James' Park on our return to Premier League action on Sunday afternoon.

The Reds faced a tough test from the Magpies, who drew a couple of fine saves from David De Gea in the first half, while Antony volleyed just over at the other end.

We looked to be upping the intensity in the second half, with Jadon Sancho and Anthony Martial introduced just after the hour-mark as United sought the opening goal, but no sooner had they arrived before Newcastle opened the scoring.

Joe Willock headed in Allan Saint-Maximin’s knockdown on 65 minutes and Callum Wilson nodded home in the dying minutes to make sure of the win. Here are the talking points from our trip to the north-east...

Report: Newcastle 2 United 0


Erik ten Hag's men fall to a disappointing defeat on Tyneside.


United drop to fourth in the Premier League standings following this defeat, with Eddie Howe’s side overtaking us to go third. We remain level on 50 points with the Magpies, but now trail to Newcastle’s superior goal difference.

Erik ten Hag’s side remain in the Champions League places, sitting a point ahead of Tottenham in fifth, who have played a game more, but our defeat is a reminder that there is a battle on to qualify for next season’s top-tier European competition.

With 11 Premier League games still to be played this term, United will still hope to reclaim third spot and potentially set our sights higher before the campaign concludes.


Before arriving at St James’ Park, we had played four domestic games since our last meeting with Newcastle, in February’s Carabao Cup Final at Wembley.

We’ve conceded the first goal in three of those four games, but twice recovered to win – in FA Cup victories over West Ham and Fulham at Old Trafford. United fought to get back in the game yet again against Newcastle, but this time could not overturn the deficit, with Wilson netting late on to land a sucker-punch.

The Reds have now failed to find the net in our last three Premier League games, but Ten Hag’s side have continued to be free-scoring in other competitions, which should be sufficient evidence to show that league goals will soon be on the horizon again for United.

Ten Hag reacts to Tyneside defeat


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De Gea is now ninth outright in the club’s all-time appearance rankings, turning out for the Reds for the 530th time on Tyneside and overtaking another great, Denis Irwin, on 529 in the process.

Our long-serving goalkeeper will have in mind a spot in the top seven of that list before the season is out, as another 10 appearances will see him leapfrog Tony Dunne and Alex Stepney in the rankings too.

De Gea produced a couple of magnificent stops at St James’ Park, most notably a double save after 16 minutes. The Spaniard clawed out Alexander Isak’s bullet header was on hand to prevent Willock’s follow-up from bulging the back of the net too. Unfortunately, there was nothing even David could do to keep out the second-half headers from Willock and Wilson.


Scott McTominay’s name was rightly in the spotlight during the international break as his goalscoring exploits for Scotland helped his nation to win back-to-back Euro 2024 qualifiers against Cyprus and Spain – with Scott netting braces in both games.

It was perhaps to be expected then that we might have seen Scott in a more advanced role for United’s first game back following the international break, and that proved to be the case in the opening stages against Newcastle with Bruno Fernandes dropping deeper.

Wan-Bissaka absence explained


Aaron was not in the matchday squad to take on Newcastle at St James' Park.


Martial was back on the pitch at St James’ Park, coming off the bench in the 63rd minute for United. It was a long-awaited return for the Frenchman, who hadbeen out of action for just over two months – last appearing, and scoring, in our Carabao Cup semi-final second leg tie against Nottingham Forest in early February.

Martial showed some neat touches and combined well when drifting to the left-hand side with fellow substitute Sancho, but couldn’t inspire the Reds to get back in the game.

His impact was felt at the other end as well, as he headed a Fabian Schar effort off the line and skilfully brought the ball out to set us away on a counter, when Luke Shaw had a cross cleared.

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Ten Hag made a triple change late on as we did everything we could to seek what would have been an equaliser at that stage of the game.

Both centre backs, Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez, made way as we finished with a back three and a wealth of attackers on the pitch – Rashford, Sancho, Martial, Pellistri and Fernandes were all out there come the end of the 90 minutes.

The reworking of our formation was a demonstration of Erik’s willingness to try something different in search of a goal and utilise the players at his disposal. It might not have paid off on this occasion, but his tactical tweaks often have this term, providing confidence that it will once again before the campaign is over.