Where to even begin? I suppose I'll start with the starting XI...
With the likes of Rafael, Anderson, Nani, Shinji Kagawa, Ashley Young, Wayne Rooney, and Danny Welbeck unavailable due to either injury or illness, and with Manchester United currently being in a stretch of five games in fourteen days during the festive season, Sir Alex Ferguson's choices were limited. Rotation is necessary. Still though, a midfield quartet of Michael Carrick, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, and the out-of-form Antonio Valencia has its obvious concerns. Chris Smalling at right-back doesn't exactly provide the usual mobility that we're accustomed to from that position either.
Perhaps quite predictably, it was a sluggish start for the Red Devils and for the 16th time this season, they conceded the opening goal. In the 4th minute, a poor pass from Michael Carrick eventually led to a Demba Ba shot on target. David de Gea made the save but he parried the attempt right into the path for James Perch's simple finish. The home side continued to be outplayed by Newcastle United after the opening goal but Jonny Evans found an equaliser in the 25th minute after he poached a rebounded goal from a Javier Hernandez (Chicharito) shot -- this was the first time United had put an attempt on goal up to this point.
Minutes later, Evans again scored -- this time, though, a controversial own goal. The goal was initially disallowed because Papiss Cisse was in an offside position when he got tangled up with the Northern Irish defender. Shockingly though, referee Mike Dean changed his mind and allowed the goal. It was one of many questionable calls from the man in the middle. The Red Devils would go into break down 1-2 after putting in arguably their worst performance of the season thus far over a half.
Just prior to the 2nd half's beginning, Fergie, who was on the pitch at this point, gave Dean and an assistant referee the hairdryer treatment. Many on Twitter, mostly non-United supporters, (perhaps rightfully) asserted that no other manager would have gotten away with that kind of assumed verbal abuse. The legendary manager would cheer up a bit in the 58th minute when Patrice Evra fired in an equaliser from about 25 yards out. The Frenchman now has four goals this season -- he had previously only scored two goals in first seven seasons at United.
The drama continued at the 'Theatre of Dreams' and in the 68th minute, the Magpies again went ahead from a Gabriel Obertan cross finding Cisse for a cool finish. Three minutes later though, United talisman Robin van Persie found, yet again, his side an equaliser. The Dutchman fired one attempt that was saved and after a bit of a scramble in the goal area, a deft touch from Carrick assisted for RvP's second chance in quick succession and this time he hammered it home. 3-3 now. The game was absolutely mad by this point and a winner from either side seemed very probable.
For the first 90 minutes, Chicharito hadn't been sharp and if I'm to be honest (and perhaps harsh), he had been extremely wasteful. The Mexican international, though, saved his best for last as he clinically slid home a 90th minute winner after a delicious ball into the box from Carrick. The Red Devils would go on to claim all three points while Manchester City would drop three points at Sunderland after an Adam Johnson winner and after horrendous goalkeeping from Joe Hart.
To be quite clear, United were rubbish and especially so in the first-half. They did, though, show fight (in the attack at least) and once again stormed back numerous times after going down again. Who knows if this continues to be sustainable in the season's second-half. Fortunately for United today, Newcastle are currently a very poor side and they proved to be an ideal side to up against on a day when England's top side* were far from their best. In a very lackluster Premier League, the Red Devils currently sit top of the table at the half-way mark of the season with a seven point over their 'noisy neighbours'.
* The state of the Premier League, in terms of quality that is, is relatively very poor. This is clearly NOT the best league in the world right. Nor the 2nd best if you ask me.