The return of Robin van Persie could not prevent Manchester United losing a second successive home game for the first time in nearly 12 years, as Yohan Cabaye’s second-half strike gave Newcastle a slender 1-0 win.
In similar circumstances to Wednesday’s loss to Everton, United were edged out in an attritional battle in front of their own fans, Moyes left to reflect on where things are going wrong as Newcastle celebrated their first win against United at Old Trafford for 41 years.
The goal, decisive as it was, was also somewhat fortuitous—Cabaye slotted home after Sissoko had been gifted the ball down the right-hand side.
Around that United saw two great chances slip through their grasp as first Anita cleared Patrice Evra’s header off the line before van Persie saw his strike chalked off (correctly) for offside, although clear-cut chances were at premium for both sides.
"Disappointed with the result," Moyes told BT Sport. "We needed a bit of luck to go for us, and to take a few opportunities a bit better, but that didn’t happen.
"We’ve lacked a bit of creativity at the right times. We lost both games 1-0, and they’ve probably both been slightly against the run of play—but it has happened and we have to address that."
"One of the top [performances]," Pardew had said moments before. "It was a magnificent performance. I know we probably won’t get the headlines because it was a tough result for United, but I think we deserve them.
"I asked them to play very differently today, to keep the ball and control the game. And we really did that. A great game for us, and a great victory."
The team news was greeted with something of a surprise—the return to the starting line-up of Van Persie, despite Moyes saying on Thursday that he was not exactly sure when the striker would be able to return to action.
Nevertheless, with Javier Hernandez partnering him in attack in place of the suspended Wayne Rooney, the Dutchman was unable to have the desired impact.
Newcastle, emboldened both by their recent run of form and United’s midweek defeat to Everton, made one change to their line-up—the technically adept Vurnon Anita replaced Shola Amoebi as Pardew looked to shore up his midfield at the expense of real presence in attack.
If the intent was to stifle the home side and rob them of possession as much as possible, then it was a tactic that worked, as the two sides combined to produce an uninspiring and uneventful first half.
United had their chances—Phil Jones testing Tim Krul’s reflexes with a low drive—but so too did Newcastle, who were keeping the ball well in midfield. Cabaye snatched at one decent opening on the edge of the box, moments after Loic Remy had narrowly failed to direct his header on target after beating Nemanja Vidic to the ball.
Underwhelmed by what he had just seen, Moyes no doubt left his side in little doubt about his thoughts on their performance at half-time. Initially he seemed to get the response he wanted, as both Adnan Januzaj and Hernandez tested Krul with efforts on target.
Then came the closest chance of the match, with United scarcely able to believe they had not scored. Patrice Evra met a van Persie corner and sent it towards goal where Anita was waiting on the line.
The ball seemed to hit the diminutive midfielder on the shoulder, ricochet off the post and then back out of danger off the player’s arm—a stroke of remarkable fortune that could have gone another way or ended up a penalty on a different day.
If that was an indication that luck was not going to go United’s way on the day, then Newcastle’s breakthrough was further evidence.
A deep ball out towards Sissoko was met by Evra, but the ball rebounded off Sissoko’s head and perfectly into his path as he tore down the sideline.
Easing into the box, the Frenchman steadied himself and cut the ball back to the edge of the box where Cabaye was waiting, the captain turning the shot into the far corner with the help of the faintest of deflections off Vidic.
Moyes responded with a rash of substitutions—Wilfried Zaha on for Nani for his Premier League debut, Anderson for Tom Cleverley and Antonio Valencia for Rafael—but it was van Persie who nearly grabbed the equaliser.
The striker thought he had sparked the comeback when he headed home from close range, but replays subsequently showed he had been offside when the ball rebounded to him off Jonny Evans’ head—a spot-on decision from lineswoman Sian Massey.
Newcastle, pressing diligently when without the ball, continued to frustrate and restrict their opponents, with Zaha curling wide one of the few reasonable openings United had.
As the game entered injury time, Newcastle continued to pass the ball around nicely and waste time as much as possible, eventually winning a corner that they sauntered over to take—allowing the clock to wind down and the celebrations to begin.
Moyes walked off to the encouraging claps of some United fans—but the faint boos of a few dissenters could also be heard.
When asked about the club's current problems, Moyes promised: We’ll work, we’ll try and improve, and we’ll try and get better."
Pardew added: "He’s a great manager and a great person, the best thing this club can do is stick by him in these difficult days and support him."
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Manchester United face a third successive home game on Tuesday as they welcome Shakhtar Donetsk as they complete their group stage obligations in the Champions League. They then visit Aston Villa next Sunday.
After successive away games, Newcastle return to home comforts against Southampton in a week's time.
(GIFs via B/R UK, all quotes from BT Sport's post-match television broadcast)