Manchester United huffed and puffed but were made to settle for a goalless draw in Sunday’s Premier League clash with Newcastle United. It was a game in which both sides squandered excellent goalscoring chances, and a draw was probably a fair result.
Erik ten Hag made three changes to the side that overcame Omonia Nicosia in midweek, with Raphaël Varane, Luke Shaw and Jadon Sancho returning in place of Victor Lindelöf, Tyrell Malacia and Marcus Rashford. Cristiano Ronaldo retained his starting berth up top, while Fred partnered his compatriot Casmiro in the absence of the suspended Scott McTominay.
The game began in pulsating fashion, with both sides eager to attack. Sancho teed up Fred for an early half-chance, and Varane was lucky to avoid conceding a penalty when he felled Callum Wilson minutes later. The frantic tempo resulted in some sloppy passing, and only some last-ditch defending prevented clear-cut chances opening up in the first 15 minutes.
Newcastle soon started to turn the screw, and should’ve taken the lead midway through the first half. Kieran Tripper teased a deflected free-kick back into the United box, where Joelinton twice headed the ball against the woodwork: first off the crossbar, and then, with David de Gea stranded, against the upright.
United’s best chance of the half came just over five minutes before half time, when Bruno Fernandes sent Sancho scampering free down Newcastle’s left. He slipped Antony through, though the Brazilian was denied by Nick Pope at the near post. The game remained goalless to the break, with United clearly missing the control offered by Christian Eriksen in the centre of midfield.
United started the second half in shaky fashion, with Fred caught in possession deep in his own half. Newcastle worked the ball to Wilson on the left side of the penalty area, though he screwed a shot wide of the far post.
Farcical scenes followed over the next couple of minutes. Ronaldo had a goal ruled out for offside, and quickly pounced on the ensuing free-kick. Believing Newcastle to have slyly taken the set-piece, Ronaldo nicked the ball from Pope’s feet and rolled it into an empty net, only for the referee to disallow the goal and book the United forward for his over-exuberance.
With the game still goalless into its final 20 minutes, ten Hag withdrew a visibly frustrated Ronaldo for Marcus Rashford. With just three minutes of normal time remaining, Rashford went close to winning United the game. He sprung the offside trap and rounded Pope, pulling a low pass back across goal for Fred. Under pressure from Fabian Schär, the Brazilian could only skew the ball wide of the open goal.
Rashford had his own chance to win the game in the fifth and final minute of stoppage time, when a spectacular cross from Casemiro landed square on the striker’s head at the back post. He opened his body to head back across goal, though he could only watch as his effort flashed wide of Pope’s goal. It was a huge chance, and one he should have scored.