Goals from Joe Willock and Callum Wilson recorded a huge victory for Newcastle United in the race for the Premier League top four as they defeated Manchester United 2-0 at St James’ Park on Sunday. The Magpies have not only climbed back into the top four, they have leapfrogged their opponents into third in the Premier League with 11 games to go.
It was only five weeks ago that Newcastle had their hearts broken by Manchester United in the Carabao Cup final at Wembley Stadium. The Magpies were defeated 2-0 as they were outclassed by Manchester United in the capital. Ahead of this crunch meeting in the Premier League, this fixture was seen as a huge opportunity for both teams in the final weeks of the campaign. The two teams are fighting to make sure that they finish in the top four come the end of term and for the hosts, Sunday’s game was full of great promise.
The Magpies flipped the script from the one at Wembley over a month ago. They dominated Manchester United at St James’ Park and the scoreline could’ve easily been higher for Eddie Howe’s side. Heading into this fixture, it was judged that a victory over United today would’ve been far greater for Newcastle’s progress than had they lifted the League Cup at the end of February.
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The club is already way ahead of schedule in its evolution and by finishing in the top four, they will take another great step towards reaching their goals. Not only were they going to be hungry for this match after their last meeting, but news from elsewhere in the Premier League has provided Newcastle with a huge boost in the final stages of the campaign.
With top four rivals Tottenham Hotspur having sacked Antonio Conte and their managing director of football Fabio Paratici has seen his football ban expanded across Europe, their season is at risk of unravelling. They occupied fourth before Newcastle got underway against United but the Magpies had two games in hand on them, adding further motivation to snatch the three points against United.
The hosts started the game brilliantly as they put the Red Devils under a lot of pressure as they created a lot of openings. United goalkeeper David de Gea was called into action on a few occasions in the opening 20 minutes and was able to pull off a great double stop to deny Alexander Isak and Willock, with the latter having should’ve scored.
Newcastle were all over the visitors and were showing that they will fight until the end to make sure they end the season inside the top four. Willock was provided with another great opportunity to put the Magpies ahead late in the first half but he blazed over the crossbar. United were very fortunate to head into the break level but there was no doubt that Newcastle would have headed into the dressing room frustrated that were not at least one or two goals ahead.
It was surprising that Erik ten Hag didn’t make a single change at the break as United were not in the contest. It wasn’t until the 57th minute that Newcastle shot-stopper Nick Pope was called into action as he dealt with a tame effort from Antony. It was concerning how little creativity there was from the visitors as Newcastle were in complete control of proceedings - they just needed to find that clinical edge to get them ahead.
Newcastle finally found their breakthrough just after the hour mark when Willock found the back of the net at the third time of asking. The midfielder was brilliantly positioned to head home from close range to send St James’ Park into pandemonium.
United tried to find a way into the match but just couldn’t get going as Newcastle dealt with them comfortably. This match was just another reminder of how important Casemiro is to this United team and his latest suspension has cost them hugely in this top four battle.
The game was wrapped up late on through substitute Wilson who nodded home from a corner to seal a huge victory for Newcastle and they have certainly boosted their hopes for qualifying for the Champions League next year.