Manchester United 4 Newcastle 3: Hernandez nets late winner to settle thriller after Fergie rages at officials again
17:37 GMT, 26 December 2012
In the final minute of a thrilling encounter Javier Hernandez netted his 10th goal of the season and sent Manchester United seven points clear at the top of the table.
Three times Newcastle led in the search for their first Old Trafford win since 1972 and three times they were pegged back.
Their pain at defeat, Sir Alex Ferguson's altercation with the officials and a serious looking injury to Vurnon Anita were the only sad aspects of a staggering day that showed off all that is so alluring about English football.
Decider: Javier Hernandez struck the late winner in typically clinical fashion
Seeing red: Sir Ferguson was furious with referee Mike Dean and the officials after Newcastle's second goal
Man United: De Gea, Smalling, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra, Valencia, Carrick, Scholes (Cleverley 69), Giggs, Van Persie, Hernandez (Fletcher 90).
Subs not used: Lindegaard, Vidic, Buttner, Wootton, Tunnicliffe.
Booked: Evans, Valencia, Hernandez.
Goals: Evans 25, Evra 58, Van Persie 71, Hernandez 90.
Newcastle: Krul, Simpson, Williamson, Coloccini, Santon, Anita, Perch, Bigirimana (Obertan 65), Cisse (Sammy Ameobi 79), Ba (Shola Ameobi 71), Marveaux.
Subs not used: Elliot, Ferguson, Tavernier, Campbell.
Booked: Simpson, Williamson, Cisse.
Goals: Perch 4, Evans 28 og, Cisse 68.
Ref: Mike Dean (Wirral)
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After stumbling at Swansea, the last thing Ferguson wanted was a nosedive against Newcastle.
Yet the worries began when the teams were announced.
With Wayne Rooney and Ashley Young
injured and Danny Welbeck out through illness, Ferguson was short of
attacking options beyond Hernandez and Robin van Persie.
Even more concerning was the presence
of Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes in the same starting line-up for the
first time since September.
With a combined age of 77, a sizeable
number of Red Devils followers now believe it is time one of the pair –
or both – should be pensioned off.
It is a harsh judgement given what
Giggs and Scholes have done down the years, but with Michael Carrick
also present it was clear Newcastle were not going to be over-run down
the middle of the pitch.
For all this, it was in defence where the hosts were found so badly wanting.
The conditions were against him, but
after Carrick gifted the visitors' possession to the visitors cheaply
inside his own half, David De Gea should have done much better than
meekly parry Demba Ba's skimmer straight to James Perch.
For a player who had never previously
scored for Newcastle, Perch could hardly have hoped for an easier
opportunity to break his duck.
Opener: James Perch celebrates his goal
Good Evans: The United defender scored just three minutes before putting the ball in his own net
Behind once more, United's attempts to force their way back were not convincing.
But when Van Persie drilled a free-kick into the Newcastle box, Hernandez pounced on the loose ball.
The Mexican's shot was blocked by Tim Krul, only for Jonny Evans to slide into the empty net.
It was the start of a hectic period
for the Northern Irishman, who was booked for handball after becoming
the third player this season – following Rooney and Gareth Bale – to
score at both ends.
Fury: Ferguson told Mike Dean exactly what he thought
That hardly tells the whole story
though, as the debate over what now constitutes offside erupted after
Evans turned a shot from United old-boy Danny Simpson past De Gea.
As Graham Poll quickly confirmed on Twitter
referee Mike Dean had got it right; it can only be assumed Papiss Cisse
remained 'non-active' despite pressurising Evans from an offside
Ferguson was not similarly convinced.
As Dean made his way onto the pitch
for the start of the second-half, Ferguson confronted the referee to
make his feelings known.
Fourth official Neil Swarbrick also
got it in the neck before the United manager rounded on assistant
referee Jake Collin, who had initially raised his flag, believing Cisse
had got the final touch.
Back in it: Patrice Evra made it 2-2 just before the hour mark
Three and easy: Papiss Cisse thought he'd won it for Newcastle
Thankfully, Dean had the good sense to speak to his fellow official at the time, ensuring justice was done.
For United, the spin-off was that the
hairdryer treatment sparked a marked improvement and just before the
hour Evra hauled them level for a second time when his low shot beat
Krul to the bottom corner.
Yet the cruise to victory never materialised.
Instead came more of the Kamikaze defending that has characterised United's season.
Three but not easy: Robin van Persie struck United's third equaliser of the game
Red Devils old-boy Gabriel Obertan streaked down the wing and delivered a perfect cross for Cisse to smash home.
Newcastle held this lead for three
minutes before Van Persie drove in his 16th goal of the season after
Krul had saved his initial shot.
Now Ferguson and Alan Pardew could
only stand on the touchline and watch as this breathless, chaotic game
headed for its conclusion.
United fury at a handball claim
against Fabricio Coloccini that went unheeded was replaced by anguish as
both Van Persie and Hernandez went close.
At the death: Javier Hernandez wheels away after scoring the final goal of the game
De Gea got away with a near-calamitous
misjudgement when he allowed Sammy Ameobi's shot to roll past him,
thinking it was going wide, only for it to hit a post and rebound
Hernandez was denied by Krul at the other end before Van Persie headed over as injury-time approached.
Like two heavyweights slugging it out,
swinging for all they were worth, their reliance on instinct total,
there was one punch left.
And with it Hernandez knocked Newcastle out.