Newcastle’s Anthony Gordon punishes weary Manchester United

<span>Photograph: Owen Humphreys/PA</span>
Photograph: Owen Humphreys/PA

The snow and ice blanketing Tyneside never melted all day while the evening temperature dipped well below freezing point but Newcastle remained far too hot for Manchester United to handle.

Although ultimately only Anthony Gordon’s second half goal separated the pair, the narrow scoreline fails to reflect either the superiority of Eddie Howe’s players or the indifference of their often directionless guests.

Erik ten Hag’s travel plans were disrupted when the freezing weather dictated that the plane scheduled to deliver his team to Tyneside could not reach Manchester after becoming stranded at an another airport. Although a different aircraft was dispatched to Newcastle in time to fly Manchester United home on Saturday night, the visitors could have done without a long, slow, tedious trans-Pennine coach journey.

Related: ‘Underdog football’ the latest Ten Hag plan to fall flat after Newcastle defeat | Andy Brassell

Given that his charges were in Istanbul last Wednesday, drawing 3-3 with Galatasaray and seven senior players are currently in the treatment room, Ten Hag could at least cite a litany of excuses for what represents a considerable setback to his currently seventh placed side’s ambitions.

To be charitable, fatigue was possibly to blame for an early confusion-filled and slightly comedic cameo involving André Onana and Diogo Dalot. With communication evidently having broken down between the pair, the left-back rushed to intercept what looked to be a routine clearance for his goalkeeper. Arriving in haste he lifted the ball over an alarmed-looking Onana and seemed set to register an own goal before somehow hooking to safety. At one point in that ungainly manoeuvre the ball appeared to strike the defender’s arm but Dalot escaped unpunished. Had their keeper’s mistakes in Turkey unnerved Ten Hag’s rearguard?

Maybe Dalot was simply discomfited by the ferociously relentless attacking zeal of Howe’s XI. Although a Newcastle side deprived of 11 first-teamers through injury or suspension and still recovering from Tuesday’s emotionally draining 1-1 draw at Paris Saint-Germain hardly have things entirely easy at present themselves, they dominated throughout.

Admittedly there were odd moments when some wonderfully intelligent counterattacking passes delivered by the sometimes slackly marked Bruno Fernandes threatened to undo Howe’s team but they represented rare exceptions to the general trend.

Anthony Gordon roars with delight following his 55th-minute goal against Manchester United
Anthony Gordon roars with delight following his 55th-minute goal against Manchester United. Photograph: Owen Humphreys/PA

Onana, goaded horribly by the Gallowgate End, proved his worth by saving smartly to deny Miguel Almirón following Joelinton’s adroit cutback. Meanwhile Alexander Isak saw a shot deflected wide by Harry Maguire, Bruno Guimarães went close from just outside the area, Jamaal Lascelles headed wide from six yards and Kieran Trippier’s wickedly swerving free-kick hit the bar.

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Despite Fernandes’s best efforts – and you wonder what Ten Hag would do without his talismanic midfielder’s improvisational vision – precious little was seen of Manchester United as an attacking force. An effectively sidelined Marcus Rashford certainly looked increasingly frustrated at being persistently second‑guessed by Howe’s once-again immensely impressive left-back, Tino Livramento.

This was the first time Ten Hag’s starting XI had begun a match together and their rather disjointed, less than cohesive, display did nothing to camouflage the resultant lack of familiarity.

Even so, the lack of a discernible strategic framework around Fernandes prompted questions as to whether the former Ajax manager remains overly reliant on individuals changing games courtesy of moments of off-the-cuff brilliance.

Related: Nick Pope may need shoulder surgery as Newcastle injury problems grow

With Newcastle pretty irrepressible this was more a night for indefatigable defending and Luke Shaw, deployed at centre-half, made some important blocks and interceptions.

Unfortunately Shaw and co suffered a concentration outage as the unmarked Gordon swept Trippier’s cross home at the far post after Guimarães unhinged Ten Hag’s back door.

Manchester United’s manager shook his head but he could hardly argue that the goal was either unmerited or unexpected.

He responded by replacing Rashford and Anthony Martial with Antony and Rasmus Højlund. They swiftly saw their side survive a handball penalty appeal after Lewis Miley’s shot was blocked by Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

Howe’s joy at another mature performance from 17-year-old Miley was tempered when his goalkeeper Nick Pope sustained a nasty looking shoulder injury and was replaced by Martin Dubravka.

Almost immediately Antony volleyed beyond the newcomer but the ball took a deflection off an offside Maguire, the “equaliser” was disallowed and, thanks to a third successive win against Manchester United, Newcastle rose to fifth.