As one problem recedes, another appears. Manchester United scored three goals in a game for the first time since mid-October, including two in the first half, yet split six goals with Newcastle thanks to some poor finishing and chaotic defending.
Remarkably, United scored two goals in the first half. The first was another Wayne Rooney penalty, awarded after Newcastle's Chancel Mbemba threw some ill-advised shapes in the box. The second was a genuinely thrilling counterattack: Rooney trotted into space, squared up Fabricio Coloccini, and then tapped the ball to the overlapping Jesse Lingard. He slotted home confidently, and United, finally given the chance to attack a team with rock-bottom confidence and almost no defensive organisation, actually looked pretty good.
At least, they did until the absent Chris Smalling and the witless Marouane Fellaini combined to present Georginio Wijnaldum with the chance to pull one back. By this point the Belgian midfielder was lucky not to have sent been off; having picked up a yellow card with four fouls in his first four tackles, he decided to haul back a passing Magpie a few minutes later. Fortunately for him, Mike Dean was looking at Jesse Lingard fouling Darryl Janmaat in the box; fortunately for United, he he didn't see anything amiss.
Sadly, that luck didn't last into the second half. United had their chances to nick a third, most notably when an entirely unmarked Lingard chipped over from inside the box. But Newcastle's penalty came after 65 minutes, after the referee took the striker's part in a penalty box tussle between Smalling and Alexander Mitrovic. The Serbian rolled home the spot kick, and it was 2-2.
On came Memphis Depay and Juan Mata — replacing Ander Herrera and Lingard, arguably United's two best players — but it was Newcastle who took the immediate momentum. Daley Blind and Matteo Darmian both rode out skittish moments, and the linesman's flag denied Newcastle their third. Then, just when it seemed as though United might fall flat on their faces, Rooney stepped up and actually did that great-player-and-captain thing we've all been waiting for. Memphis drove in from the left, his blocked shot fell to Rooney on the edge of the box, and he slapped it into the net like he was sixteen again.
There was still time for Fellaini to embarrass himself again: after great work from Memphis, he planted a free header straight at Rob Elliott. And once again, United's profligacy was punished: Paul Dummett crashed a volley into Chris Smalling's body, and the deflection took it past De Gea. Three goals and a point each, then, and more notice that United's defence might not be all it's been cracked up to be. But hey! At least it wasn't boring.