Manchester United taunt Newcastle as shocking photograph highlights VAR farce – 5 things

Newcastle United’s hopes of qualifying for Europe will go to the wire after the Magpies suffered a 3-2 defeat against Manchester United at Old Trafford.

Kobbie Mainoo gave the hosts the lead after the half-hour mark, but Anthony Gordon equalised after the break with a well-taken volley. Amad Diallo restored Manchester United’s lead with a first-time effort of his own in the 57th minute and substitute Rasmus Hojlund’s drilled shot made it 3-1 late on. Lewis Hall pulled one back in stoppage time, but there was to be no grandstand finish.

Here are five things we learned from the game.

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Soft defending punished

After making an aggressive start, a poor final ball repeatedly let Newcastle down and the visitors soon allowed a Manchester United side who started without a natural striker into the game. Amad fired an early warning shot after a quarter of an hour, which Martin Dubravka pushed away, and the Newcastle goalkeeper had to be alert to rush out and to deny Alejandro Garnacho in the 29th minute.

Manchester United were soon ahead, though. Amad, who was on loan at Sunderland last season, was allowed to carry the ball unopposed and the forward cut inside Elliot Anderson far too easily to the edge of the area. Amad was able to thread a ball through, which was flicked on by Bruno Fernandes into the path of Kobbie Mainoo.

Mainoo was in acres of space inside the box, played onside by a rusty Kieran Trippier, and statuesque Newcastle were far too slow to react. Mainoo had all the time he needed to take a touch and sweep the ball into the net. Even the midfielder looked surprised as he ran off to celebrate.

If that was a poor goal to concede, well, Manchester United’s second was not much better. A poor corner kick from Bruno Fernandes failed to even beat the first man, but Jacob Murphy could only head the ball as far as the unmarked Amad Diallo, who volleyed the ball through a sea of black and white shirts and into the net.

Amad Diallo celebrates after scoring for Manchester United against Newcastle
Amad Diallo celebrates after scoring for Manchester United against Newcastle

Just when you thought it could not get any worse, Newcastle were taken apart for Manchester United’s third goal late on as the visitors committed some familiar sins. Bruno Fernandes was not closed down as he jogged towards goal and the Portugal international picked out substitute Rasmus Hojlund, who had so much space to look up and skip past Dan Burn and Lewis Hall to create the angle and drill the ball past Martin Dubravka. The Newcastle ‘keeper could not even get a hand to it.

Wasteful Newcastle only have themselves to blame

Newcastle were coming up against a makeshift defensive partnership in Casemiro and Jonny Evans with a combined age of 68. This Manchester United defence were as leaky as the Old Trafford roof having conceded a whopping 84 goals in all competitions this season. How Newcastle’s forwards must have been licking their lips at a time when only Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool have scored more goals in the Premier League.

However, when Newcastle needed their clinical edge most, they wasted a host of openings. At 0-0, Alexander Isak failed to hit the target with the Magpies’ first chance of the game; Anthony Gordon saw a shot blocked by Sofyan Amrabat inside the area; and Sean Longstaff was unable to pick out a team-mate during a 12th-minute breakaway.

When Newcastle went behind, Longstaff’s ball across goal was crying out for someone to tap it into the net, after the half-hour mark, but Isak and Gordon were nowhere near it; Dan Burn had a header cleared off the line; and Bruno Guimaraes, somehow, failed to find the target with his own header. Following Gordon’s equaliser, Isak had a huge chance to give his side the lead but the club’s top scorer saw an effort deflected onto the crossbar after Amrabat was able to get back to make a sliding challenge.

Dan Burn sees a header cleared off the line by Casemiro in Newcastle United's defeat against Manchester United
Dan Burn sees a header cleared off the line by Casemiro in Newcastle United’s defeat against Manchester United

At 2-1 down, Sean Longstaff hit the ball straight at Andre Onana when played through one-on-one; Joelinton saw a header punched over the bar; substitute Miguel Almiron came agonisingly close to connecting with Gordon’s effort; and Emil Krafth could only find the side netting after getting on the end of Harvey Barnes’ cross.

A missed opportunity as Manchester United fans taunt

Newcastle had previously won just once at Old Trafford in the Premier League in little more than five decades, but 3,000 Geordies travelled to the creaking Theatre of Dreams with quiet optimism. For good reason. This was the worst Manchester United side in Premier League history. No wonder Dan Burn said Newcastle had ‘nothing to fear’.

However, despite losing 19 games in all competitions this season, and winning just one of their previous eight in the top-flight, Erik ten Hag’s team were still only three points behind Newcastle in the table before kick-off. You can see why Eddie Howe not only warned that Manchester United were a ‘very dangerous opponent’ but, also, that it would be ‘foolish’ for the Magpies to ‘underestimate’ the FA Cup finalists in what ten Hag called a ‘must-win game’. “Just trust that I’ll get the message to the players that we need to,” Howe said.

This proved a frustrating game for the visitors, who passed up a real opportunity to make a statement, and it was ultimately Manchester United fans who were crowing: “You’ve seen United – now f— off home” when Geordies had done so in the closing stages of the reverse fixture. On a night Newcastle had 55% possession, 21 shots and nine corners, the Magpies failed to get even a point. Chelsea, in contrast, showed their mettle on the road to win at Brighton to leapfrog Newcastle into sixth place going into the final day.

Newcastle are still in the hunt for Europe but next up is a trip to Brentford, which is by no means a gimme given Newcastle’s poor away form. Only Fulham, Nottingham Forest and the Premier League’s bottom three have picked up fewer points on the road this season.

VAR farce

Premier League clubs are to vote on scrapping VAR next season. However, it was not the actual technology that was the issue on Wednesday night. It was the application.

Anthony Gordon is brought down during Manchester United vs Newcastle
Anthony Gordon is brought down during Manchester United vs Newcastle

After Newcastle went behind, Anthony Gordon pounced on the casual Sofyan Amrabat’s loose touch 30 yards from Manchester United’s goal and the rapid forward raced into the box. Amrabat caught Gordon on his heel, sending the Newcastle star tumbling inside the area, before Casemiro got across to make a last-ditch sliding challenge.

Yet referee Robert Jones gave nothing. VAR took a look but, somehow, decided against sending Jones to his monitor to watch it back in the 35th minute and the decision was not overturned. Gordon was left with a graze on his heel and a hole in his sock as the striking screengrab in the main image showed. “I don’t understand what the point of VAR is,” he said.

But Anthony Gordon has perfect response

However aggrieved Anthony Gordon and Newcastle felt, the Magpies came back and it was the club’s player of the season who drew the visitors level just after half-time. Sofyan Amrabat failed to deal with Dan Burn’s towering header and Alexander Isak pounced, calmly slipping the ball down the right channel for Jacob Murphy to run onto. Murphy’s teasing cross was volleyed home by Gordon.

Gordon put his finger to his lips and as Manchester United fans hissed about the Scouser’s roots, the smiling 23-year-old merely waved his hands and encouraged them.

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