Newcastle and McClaren manage dogged draw at Man Utd
Visiting Newcastle United held hosts Manchester United to a spirited stalemate at Old Trafford, but both teams had late chances to snatch a vital winner.
Wayne Rooney, much-criticised of late, had rippled the net within four minutes, though his easy finish was somewhat harshly ruled offside. Yet, Man Utd continued to find plenty of space to exploit between Newcastle’s backline and initially sloppy shielding midfield bank of two, in a promising opening display.
The Red Devils dominated possession early on, in a way that could only have pleased precise Louis van Gaal, illustrating intricate link-up play and probing relentlessly.
Steve McClaren’s side, to their credit, held strong despite the barrage, repelling a bombardment of crosses. The Mancunians did almost find a way through in the 14th minute, but Tim Krul was impressively equal to a tightly angled Juan Mata strike.
All-action Massadio Haidara was a nuisance in both boxes, almost opening the game up as he burst through the hosts’ rearguard, only for a clumsy clash with Daley Blind to result in a cautionary yellow card.
Summer Magpies signing Aleksandar Mitrovic then almost made Man Utd pay, as the Serb’s superb bullet header crashed off the cross-bar, giving Newcastle a fresh wave of confidence.
Memphis Depay, menacing in flashes, was soon causing havoc again, however, rounding a rash on-rushing Krul, only for Chancel Mbemba to recover heroically and crucially block the Dutchman’s strike.
Just before the break, a slip from Chris Smalling allowed Ayoze Perez, playing on the wing, a sight on goal, though the Spaniard’s shot raked wide after a vital touch from stand-in stopper Lucas Romero.
Increasingly comfortable and daring, the visiting Tyneside team finished the first half relatively unruffled by a Red Devils side which had failed to gobble up their opening chances, and looked familiarly toothless up top.
Man Utd were made to wait until the 63rd minute mark for their next best chance, when Smalling, seemingly surprised to have the opportunity, failed to connect with a looping corner, adding to the palpable sense sense of frustration around Old Trafford.
Van Gaal responded by replacing Adnan Januzaj, unable to build on his winner at Aston Villa, with Mexico marksman Javier Hernandez, with just over 20 minutes of normal time on the clock.
Newcastle’s new boy Florian Thauvin also emerged to make his debut, resulting in Luke Shaw hauling the Frenchman down, but it was the Red Devils who finally created a little late excitement.
Mata skied a volley laid on a platter following great work from Rooney on the counter, with the Spaniard and Memphis both then failing to convert a loose ball in the Magpies’ box.
Hitman Hernandez also had the chance to pounce on another Mata deflected strike, but Krul was again imperious with a fantastic reaction save just before the 80th minute.
Man Utd’s increased attacking impetus stirred the home crowd as Newcastle clung on doggedly, with captain Fabricio Coloccini blocking the path of substitute Antonio Valencia’s stinging close-range strike, before Smalling was incredibly denied by the post.
The resulting counter by Papiss Cisse was then agonisingly close to claiming a winner in the closing stages, but was wasted by the striker and went wide, though the Magpies should be more than pleased with their point.
While McClaren, although still yet to notch a victory, can be heartened by his team’s tenacity, the Old Trafford hierarchy clearly have much to chew over after missing out on Pedro midweek only served to highlight their lack of potency.