It hinted at an undercurrent that could spell trouble for the Magpies and manager Alan Pardew.
It wasn’t the weight of defeat that spooked the Toon’s loyal fans—that is a blight they are accustomed to, and one they experienced against their neighbours as recently as April this year.
This was far more daunting than a simple loss. It was that unwanted yet familiar feeling left over from last season that the fight within Pardew’s squad is ebbing away once more.
Buoyed by a battling draw at home to Liverpool two weeks ago, the Geordies made the short trip to Wearside in a confident mood, but returned with a bad taste in their mouths.
It wasn’t that United were outplayed at the Stadium of Light—far from it. They were outfought.
Too often last term, in more fixtures than the average Newcastle supporter cares to remember, Pardew’s men suffered a similar fate. The pattern is now threatening to re-emerge.
Their next league fixture is undeniably daunting, with Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea arriving at St. James’ Park off the back of six straight victories.
Rather than win by default, as the likes of Liverpool and the two Manchester clubs did during the previous campaign, the Blues must be made to work for whatever spoils they leave with.
Commitment to the shirt and the cause—and 100 percent commitment, at that—is all United fans ask of their players. What transpires as a result can sometimes be an added bonus.
There is a falsehood that the club’s followers demand attractive, flowing football and a lofty league position to match. This exaggeration couldn’t be further from the truth.
What they crave over everything is ambitious endeavour, and that swelling of pride when such labour delivers its rewards.
Such purpose was also on display in midweek, but amounted to nothing as a largely disinterested Manchester City progressed in the League Cup at the Magpies’ expense.
In any case, it is a moral code that needs to be taken into every fixture, and one that many fans fear is missing from some of their so-called star players.
With an away trip to Tottenham Hotspur hot on the heels of the visit of Chelsea, Newcastle are facing a difficult week, but these are not insurmountable challenges.
Above all else, in order to alleviate the negativity that is washing over the terraces, they must prove there is plenty of fight left in the black and white corner.