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Ashley Young pounces to score a late winner for Manchester United against Newcastle last night

Ashley Young pounces to score a late winner for Manchester United against Newcastle last night

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Newcastle goalkeeper Tim Krul is challenged by Wayne Rooney off the ball as Ashley Young scores the only goal of the game

Newcastle goalkeeper Tim Krul is challenged by Wayne Rooney off the ball as Ashley Young scores the only goal of the game

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Ashley Young celebrates after scoring the only goal of the game at St James’ Park

Ashley Young celebrates after scoring the only goal of the game at St James’ Park

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Manchester United's Marcos Rojo and goalkeeper David De Gea combine to deny Emmanuel Riviere of Newcastle

Manchester United's Marcos Rojo and goalkeeper David De Gea combine to deny Emmanuel Riviere of Newcastle

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Jonas Gutierrez makes his return to St James' Park

Jonas Gutierrez makes his return to St James' Park

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Newcastle’s top scorer Papiss Cisse and his marker Jonny Evans had to be separated, both players seeming to accuse the other of spitting at the other, although referee Taylor took no action

Newcastle’s top scorer Papiss Cisse and his marker Jonny Evans had to be separated, both players seeming to accuse the other of spitting at the other, although referee Taylor took no action

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Ashley Young pounces to score a late winner for Manchester United against Newcastle last night

It was perhaps fitting that a game so distinctly lacking in quality should be decided by an error and provide two major controversies - a refereeing blunder and a spitting competition.

Newcastle committed two mistakes in the space of a minute as injury-time approached to hand victory to Manchester United just as the game looked to be petering out into a stalemate.

That was until a reckless back-pass by Mehdi Abeid put Newcastle goalkeeper Tim Krul under unnecessary pressure. The Dutchman's hurried clearance went straight to Ashley Young, who gratefully accepted the gift from a dozen yards, and with it the three points.

The clubs have experienced vastly differing fortunes in the 19 years - to the day - since Eric Cantona's winner here sparked Newcastle's infamous collapse under Kevin Keegan as they surrendered a 12-point lead to hand the title to Old Trafford. The aims of both side are rather more modest this season.

Less than 10 minutes were on the clock when the latest in a recent string of Premier League refereeing controversies saw Newcastle denied a clear penalty.

Moussa Sissoko's ball found the run of Emmanuel Riviere, who toed the ball past Chris Smalling inside the area before he was caught by the backtracking United defender, who made contact with only his opponent. It seemed a formality for Anthony Taylor to point to the spot, but the official, who was well-placed and had a clear view of the incident, was unmoved.

It wasn't the only moment of controversy, as later in the half, Newcastle's top scorer Papiss Cisse and his marker Jonny Evans had to be separated, both players seeming to accuse the other of spitting at the other, although Taylor again took no action.

Despite their bright opening Newcastle were nevertheless fortunate not to fall behind in the 25th minute. Ryan Taylor gave away possession to Angel Di Maria, whose cross from the right was met by Young on the edge of the area to chest the ball down for Wayne Rooney.

The United skipper did not make the cleanest of connections from 15 yards, and although his scuffed effort beat Krul, it drifted wide of the upright.

Di Maria then found Rooney in the area, but his efforts to engineer space to shoot were denied by a combination of Mike Williamson and Krul.

By this stage, Newcastle forays into enemy territory were becoming more sporadic, as they were pushed back through a combination of their own woeful passing, and their opponents' increasing comfort on the ball.

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Louis van Gaal's side continued to profit down Newcastle's left flank, and it took a full-stretch save from Krul to keep out a header from Marouane Fellaini as the midfielder met Antonio Valencia's cross at the far post.

There remained time before the interval for Newcastle to fashion their clearest chance, a swift counter attack initiated by Sissoko saw the Frenchman release Riviere into the area, only for the Dutchman to slip as he prepared to shoot, allowing De Gea smother the ball.

Newcastle came close to taking the lead at the outset of the second half, Riviere again finding space to force De Gea into a close range save after Coloccini knocked down Taylor's free kick. Krul, however, remained the busier of the keepers.

The Dutchman pulled off a thrilling double-save before the hour. Fellaini had time to control and fire in a Di Maria cross which Krul did well to block, before denying Young with an even more impressive stop.

The contest distinctly failed to live up to so many of these great rivals' past encounters. That will matter little to Louis van Gall's side, however, who made it just two defeats in 22 games in all competitions.(Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk