Hernandez claims spoils in thriller
Manchester United 4 Newcastle United 3:Bonkers. Brilliant. If anyone wants to know why the Premier League is one of the most exciting in the world, this is it. Subtlety? Forget it. Technique? Lacking. Defences? Woeful. Excitement? Off the scale. Twenty-four hours after Santa did his rounds, Manchester United and Newcastle served up a present few would have equalled from under their trees.Seven goals. Controversy. The Ferguson hairdryer switched onto full blast And in the final minute, Javier Hernandez netted his 10th goal of the season to send 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. Three times they were pegged back. Their pain at defeat and a serious looking injury to Vurnon Anita the only sad aspects of a staggering day that showed off all that is so alluring about English football.
After stumbling at Swansea, the last thing Alex 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. 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.